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Allegations of abuse are often ignored in custody disputes

27421952_s.jpgFamily law judges in Illinois and around the country tend to prefer joint child custody arrangements whenever possible because children tend to adjust to the realities of divorce better when they spend time with both their fathers and their mothers. Exceptions are made to prevent children being placed in dangerous situations, but the results of a study of 2,000 cases reveals that fathers are often favored in custody disputes even when there are credible allegations of abuse, parental alienation or domestic violence.

The National Institute of Justice study reveals that judges are often swayed when fathers accuse mothers of turning their children against them. The George Washington University professor behind the study found that mothers are about twice as likely to be denied physical custody when fathers accuse them of parental alienation. Judges also tend to pay scant attention to allegations of domestic abuse unless social workers uncover evidence that supports them.

Parental alienation is a controversial theory first proposed in the 1980s by a psychiatrist, but his views are not shared by the American Psychiatric Association or the American Medical Association. However, this lack of academic or professional support does not appear to influence judges. The results of the study suggest that children are often placed in the homes of alleged abusers when uncorroborated claims of parental alienation are made.

Prolonged custody and visitation disputes can have a profound impact on the children involved, which is why experienced family law attorneys may seek to resolve these matters amicably if possible. Traditional negotiations are adversarial in nature and are often unproductive when the parties involved have a significant emotional investment in the outcome, and litigation makes a cordial resolution even less likely. When divorcing parents are unable to see eye to eye on visitation and custody, attorneys might recommend that they consider cooperative alternatives to court such as mediation.

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