What happens to children when they see violence between their parents? Is there any impact on children when they see their mother or father with bruises inflicted by a partner? Discussions of family violence frequently distinguish between neglect or violence directed at children and violence directed at adults while children are present. Violence against children is legally considered either child abuse or child neglect. Witnessing violence directed at adults has generally not been treated as harmful to children.

Historically, courts deciding custody and visitation questions were inclined to dismiss the idea that witnessing partner abuse resulted in any relevant impact on children (Cahn, 1991). There is increasing sociological and psychological research that documents the detrimental effects on children of exposure to violence, regardless of the child’s own direct victimization. The existence of violence in the family, even when not directed toward children, shapes children’s behavior both in the short- and long term. Between 10 and 20% of all children are at risk for exposure to domestic violence (National Clearinghouse, 2003), and estimates are that 3.3 to 10 million children are exposed to domestic violence in their homes annually (Bernard, 2003). For many children, this exposure results in behavioral, emotional, and psychological problems.

Courts in virtually all states now consider domestic violence in custody decision making, and this can even result in a rebut-table presumption against giving custody to the batterer. Similarly, in domestic violence proceedings for civil protection orders, courts may impose protections for children who have been exposed to domestic violence, and may also allow these children to bring such proceedings themselves (Lemon, 1999). Child exposure to domestic violence is also important in child protection proceedings. As part of a plan to keep the child safe, the mother’s relationship with her batterer may be important. Mothers may also be held accountable for failing to protect their children who have been exposed to domestic violence (Dunlap, 2004). Other legal actions to which child exposure may also be relevant include tort suits based on domestic violence exposure and criminal sentencing.

This chapter discusses the sociological and psychological studies showing the impact on children of exposure to domestic violence, describes some of the available treatment options, and reviews the legal system’s approach to these issues. A total of 85% (or almost 600,000 victimizations) of all domestic violence each year occurs against women, and the remaining 15% occurs against men (Rennison, 2003). Thus, although this chapter will generally refer to male batterers and female victims, it is important to note that children also witness battering by same-sex partners and by women against men.

Based on this analysis, there are four principles that should guide legal approaches to child exposure. First, child witnessing of domestic violence must be a critical component of any legal proceeding that affects children. Second, the adult victims of domestic violence should be supported, not penalized, in their continuing relationship with their children. Third, the safety of the adult victim and the child should be of paramount importance. Finally, the batterer’s exposure of children to domestic violence should be a consideration in other legal proceedings relating to the batterer.


Although they may be the third parties within a battering relationship between intimate partners, children are victims. Even when they are not themselves the target of the abuse, children are affected cognitively, emotionally, and physically by their parents’ violence. Children can be exposed to domestic violence in several different ways (Fantuzzo & Mohr, 1999). They may actually witness or hear the abuse. “Hiding in their bedrooms out of fear, the children may hear repeated threats of injury, verbal assaults on their mother’s character, objects hurled across the room, suicide attempts, beatings, and threats to kill” (Field, 1998, p. 3). They may also be involved in the immediate aftermath of the violence by, for example, dialing 911, talking to the police, or visiting their parent in the hospital (Fantuzzo & Mohr, 1999). And they may be exposed to more long-term consequences of the violence through seeing the bruises on their mother or seeing her crying and depressed. One recent study found that more than 80% of battered mothers believed that their children overheard the abuse, and more than 75% reported that their children saw evidence of the abuse (Edleson, Mbilinyi, Beeman, & Hagemeister, 2003).

While research on the effect of domestic violence on children is still comparatively new, three major themes have emerged from the data. First, the existence of domestic violence in a family often translates into a direct risk of physical harm for children (Lyon, this volume, Chap. 2). The children of fathers who are abusive to their partners are 30 to 60% more likely to be physically abused as well. It is still not clear whether abused mothers are more likely to be physically abusive toward their children than are non-abused mothers (National Clearinghouse, 2003; Stark, 2002). Child witnessing and direct child victimization are strongly interconnected (Huth-Bocks, Levendosky, & Semel, 2001). One researcher has described the co-occurrence of witnessing domestic violence and being a victim of child maltreatment as the “double whammy” for children (Edleson et al, 2003).

Second, apart from possible physical abuse, children who witness abuse are at risk for severe behavioral and other psychological problems. Studies carried out over the last 25 years consistently agree that child witnesses to violence are at a higher risk for a wide range of behavioral, emotional, and intellectual problems than are children who have not been exposed to violence (Huth-Bocks et al., 2001). In fact, child witnesses of domestic violence suffer from some of the same consequences as do children who are direct victims of child maltreatment (Bernard, 2003). The effects of exposure to domestic violence may continue into adulthood (Edleson, 2004), although not all children experience such long-term effects.

Seeing one parent attack another may traumatize children in a variety of ways, ranging from interference with the parent-child bond to destroying a child’s sense of security. Because children learn behaviors from their parents, they may ultimately imitate the abuser’s actions toward the victim-parent or resort to violence in their own relationships. Studies that compare children of battering relationships who have not themselves been subject to abuse to children who have neither witnessed nor been subject to abuse, find that the children of the battering relationship show more aggression, exhibit impaired cognitive and motor abilities, and are delayed in verbal development. Other studies, as discussed below, further confirm that parental violence has negative behavioral and emotional effects on children who witness it.

Third, not all children who witness domestic violence will exhibit these problems nor be subject to direct physical abuse (Bernard, 2003; Stiles, 2002). Some children exposed to domestic violence show no greater problems than those who have not been exposed (Edleson, 2004). Some children who are exposed to violence face no greater risks than children who live in “distressed” relationships without abuse (Stark, 2002). A number of factors may influence the degree to which child witnesses are affected. They include: the age of the child witness, gender, intellectual ability, socioeconomic status, level of social support, the quality of the child’s relationship with the parents, and the amount of time that has passed since the child’s exposure to violence (Stiles, 2002). For example, younger children are more vulnerable to effects from exposure (National Clearinghouse, 2003). A good relationship with the child’s victim-parent or another trusted person can help the child to handle the trauma (Bernard, 2003).

Direct abuse of the child also significantly affects a child’s resilience. Children who are direct victims of domestic violence appear to experience the most severe effects (Bernard, 2003; Huth-Bocks et al, 2001). The most careful studies indicate that abused children who also witness domestic violence exhibit the most problematic behavior, while witnessing alone leads to “moderate” problems (Judicial Council of California, 2003). Unfortunately, however, many studies fail to distinguish between witnessing domestic violence and direct victimization of the child. While child abuse in the general population is present in only an estimated 6% of families, child abuse occurs in approximately 40% of families where partner abuse has occurred (Judicial Council of California, 2003).


This section provides an overview of the available data, and develops the themes articulated above concerning the impact on children of witnessing partner abuse.

Psychological Impact

On a psychological level, child witnesses tend to exhibit higher levels of anxiety and depression than do children who have not witnessed violence (Edleson, 1999; Stiles, 2002). Feelings of fear, anger, grief, shame, distrust, and powerlessness are among the host of emotional reactions that child witnesses may suffer (Bernard, 2003). Given these reactions, not surprisingly child witnesses also have a higher risk of suicide (Bernard, 2003). Some research has found that adolescent witnesses “are more likely to have a fatalistic view of the future resulting in an increased rate of risk taking and antisocial behavior, such as school truancy, early sexual activity, substance abuse, and delinquency” (Stiles, 2002, p. 12).

Behavioral Impact

Children’s behavior may be impacted in many ways when they are exposed to domestic violence.

School Performance

Many children’s school performance suffers following exposure to domestic violence. Poor performance in school appears to have at least three aspects. First, there is some evidence that child witnesses have poorer intellectual functioning than non-witnesses, coupled with an increased risk of learning difficulties (Miller et al., 1989, as cited in Bernard, 2003). Second, witnesses tend to have obedience problems and are at higher risk of lying and cheating (Stiles, 2002). Finally, these children may develop social problems, manifesting in an inability to develop relationships with others (Stiles, 2002).


Aggressiveness is one of the most widely discussed behaviors exhibited by children who have witnessed domestic violence. It is important to remember that not every child that is exposed to domestic violence will respond with aggressive behaviors and that many additional factors play a role in affecting an individual child’s response. Nevertheless, child witnesses are more likely to respond to conflict in an aggressive manner (Bernard, 2003; Edleson, 1999; Stiles, 2002). This aggressiveness results in an increased risk of fighting and bullying (Stiles, 2002). In addition to aggression, child witnesses may exhibit more anger and temperament problems than non-witnessing children (Edleson, 1999). Child witnesses exhibit both signs of aggression and signs of fearfulness and inhibition. In a carefully controlled study of 167 children in Seattle, Washington, the authors found that children exposed to domestic violence were 1.6 times more likely than other children to score in the borderline area of disturbance to the more clinically disturbed range for externalizing behaviors, such as aggressiveness. The authors found little differences in social competence or internalizing behaviors, such as depression (Kernic et al., 2003).

Some research suggests child witnesses are also more likely to end up in juvenile court. Child witnesses become involved in the justice system, not only for violent crimes, but also for sexual crimes and involvement with drugs and alcohol. Some studies have found that a child’s exposure to violence within the home was significant in predicting the child’s behavior outside of the home, and that child witnesses were more likely to try to commit suicide, abuse both alcohol and drugs, and engage in other delinquent acts (Edleson, 2004; National Resource Center on Domestic Violence, 2002).

Child witnesses come to view violence as an acceptable way to resolve problems. Even more frightening, some child witnesses accept violence as part of a normal relationship. These attitudes can lead to child witnesses growing up to be abusers or victims of abuse. Boys are significantly more likely to approve of violence than girls (Edleson, 1999).

Relationship With Each Parent and Siblings

The existence of domestic violence in the home may result in the “children’s paradox”: children may feel loyal to one or both of their parents, and yet be fearful because of the existence of the violence (Wolfe, 2002). Children who have been exposed to domestic violence are more likely to be disobedient at home, and adolescent witnesses have higher rates of interpersonal problems with other family members, especially interparental conflict (Stiles, 2002).

Battered women seem to share many of the same beliefs about parenting styles and behaviors with non-battered women (Judicial Council of California, 2003). One study found that the existence of domestic violence in the family did not negatively affect the intellectual quality of the home environment for preschoolers, although maternal depression, which is linked to domestic violence, did predict a less intellectually stimulating home environment (Huth-Bocksetal, 2001).

Long-Term Effects

In addition to these immediate effects, children who witness domestic violence may also suffer from troubling long-term effects. Some scholars have suggested that child witnesses, males in particular, are likely to become abusers in their own relationships. While daughters may be less likely than sons to become involved in a violent relationship as an adult, women who have been exposed to domestic violence as children are more likely to tolerate abuse when they do experience it (Wolfe, 2002). In addition, emotional problems such as depression may carry through to adulthood. A study in 1995 of undergraduate students indicated that witnessing violence as a child was associated with adult depression and trauma-related symptoms for both men and women, and with low self-esteem for women (Bancroft & Silverman, 2002, as cited in Judicial Council of California, 2003). Thus, for children who live with a batterer, the continuing violence reinforces the lesson that violence is acceptable and puts them at risk for becoming abusers themselves.

Risks From Continuing Contact With the Batterer

Given the potential damage to children who witness domestic violence, significant questions arise as to whether children should continue to have contact with the batterer. Perpetrators pose risks to children even if the children are no longer living with them. These risks include the obvious ones of neglectful or abusive parenting or exposure to additional domestic violence in the perpetrator’s new relationship. In addition, perpetrators may undermine the mother’s parenting and use the child as a pawn against the mother by trying to discover the mother’s location or using visits as occasions for further violence against her (American Bar Association, 2004).


Because of the growing awareness in the mental health community that exposure of children to domestic violence constitutes a widespread public health concern, more post-treatment programs now serve child witnesses. Courts, social workers, shelters, and community-based organizations have begun to develop programs responding to children. These interventions focus on providing services to children, to their primary caretakers, and to the batterers. Children may participate in individual counseling or group programs that provide social support to help children feel less isolated (Judicial Council of California, 2003). There are a variety of different interventions, ranging from programs that are offered to target specific behaviors, such as reducing aggression, to programs focused on young children, offered by shelters or within the community; there also may be mentors or group therapy available. (Graham-Bermann, 2001).

Programs generally focus on helping children to deal with the trauma of witnessing violence as well as helping them to mend relationships with other family members (Bancroft & Silverman, 2002). Boston Medical Center has established a counseling, advocacy, and outreach program focusing on children who have witnessed violence both in their community and in their homes. The staff includes social workers, psychologists, an attorney, and both a child psychiatrist and a pediatrician. Counseling is provided on both a group and individual basis, with a focus on group interventions (Child Witness to Violence Project, 2004). The University of California Medical Center in San Francisco also has implemented a program to identify exposed children and to provide a parent-child treatment intervention (Violence Prevention Project, 2000).

There has, unfortunately, been comparatively little research on therapeutic models and approaches for children exposed to domestic violence (Groves, 1999, p. 127). Studies do show that children who have participated in group treatment or treatment that is focused on mother-child interactions experience a reduction in aggressive and depressive behaviors, as well as other positive outcomes, although these studies are limited in nature (Judicial Council of California, 2003, p. 21).

Programs that focus on battered women also aid battered children (Bancroft & Silverman, 2002). Battered parents have often had their parenting undermined by the batterer: the batterer’s behavior may teach children not to respect their mother and the battering itself may affect their mother’s parenting abilities (Bancroft & Silverman, 2002). Many battered women’s shelters provide programs and support groups as well as parenting classes to help battered women break the cycle of violence and aid them in their own parenting skills (Judicial Council of California, 2003). The majority of these programs consist of group therapy that meets weekly, on average for four to eight weeks. In order to improve her parenting, the battered mother needs to feel safe.

Batterer programs are the primary option for the perpetrators. Some states require perpetrators to attend these programs. California requires that the perpetrator of domestic violence attend a 52-week batterer program that includes discussing the effects of abuse on children (Cal. Penal Code, § 1203.97, 2004). The program often consists of education about violence and the personal attitudes and beliefs that support abusive behavior in the home, and may include therapy (Emerge, 2003). Although many traditional programs have not focused on the effect of violence on children in their home, increasing numbers of batterer programs are stressing the importance of parenting and the effect of violence on the family in their curricula (Judicial Council of California, 2003). While some studies have questioned whether batterer programs reduce recidivism, a recent study of 633 batterers in three programs found that in the 15-month follow-up period, batterers who completed a full program were one-third less likely to reassault their partners than batterers who exited the programs early (Jones, D’Agostino, Gondolf, & Heckert, 2004).


In child custody and visitation proceedings, witnessing is relevant to the initial custody determination, restrictions on visitation, and the appropriateness of joint custody (Matthews, 1999). Child exposure may also be a factor considered in child abuse and neglect proceedings, in tort suits, and in criminal actions.

Custody and Visitation

In most families today, the mother is still the primary caretaker of the children. However, a battered mother often can be manipulated into relinquishing custody when the parents separate. Given the consequences of domestic violence for children, abuse of the mother should be an important factor in determining custody and visitation arrangements. Domestic violence can explain a strained relationship between the abuser and the children, it can explain a mother’s parenting, and it can support a judge’s decision to protect the children and the victim from further abuse. Even after separation from the mother, many abusers continue their harassment and violence against her, and may abuse the children directly in order to punish the mother (Meier, 2003).


In deciding between parents, virtually all states now have statutes suggesting or requiring that courts consider domestic violence as one factor in a custody award (Lemon, 1999). States have enacted other statutes recognizing the interrelationship between domestic violence and custody determinations. The custody-oriented legislation can be divided into three categories. First, some statutes require courts to consider domestic violence before joint or sole custody is awarded. For example, the Indiana statute directs that the court consider a series of factors in deciding on child custody, including “[e]vidence of a pattern of domestic or family violence by either parent” (Ind. Code Ann. § 31–17-2–8 (7), 2004). Second, some statutes create a presumption against awarding custody to a batterer. For example, Massachusetts provides the following:

A probate and family court’s finding, by a preponderance of the evidence, that a pattern or serious incident of abuse has occurred shall create a rebuttable presumption that it is not in the best interests of the child to be placed in sole custody, shared legal custody or shared physical custody with the abusive parent. Such presumption may be rebutted by a preponderance of the evidence that such custody award is in the best interests of the child. (Mass. Ann. Laws ch. 208 § 31A, 2004)

A third set of statutes direct that domestic violence be taken into account when making other decisions, such as determining whether a parent has abandoned her, or his, children by fleeing domestic violence, or (as discussed below) requiring that visitation arrangements take into account the violence. For example, Rhode Island’s custody statute provides that a court can condition visitation or custody on a domestic violence perpetrator’s completion of a batterer’s program and also requires that if there has been a finding of domestic violence, the court must “consider as primary the safety and well-being of the child and the parent who is the victim of domestic violence” (RI Gen. Laws § 15–5-16 (g)(2)-(3), 2004). In Alabama, new legislation specifies that the rebuttable presumption against relocation of the custodial parent does not apply if the party objecting to the relocation has been found to have committed domestic violence (Ala. Code § 30–3-169.4, 2004).

Because parents are presumed fit, there is a presumption that their custodial rights trump those of all third parties. Only a few statutes prevent an abusive father who has killed the mother from prevailing in a custody battle against a third party such as the grandparents. For example, in Pennsylvania, a parent who has been convicted of first-degree murder of the child’s other parent shall not be awarded custody (American Bar Association, 2004). In Nevada, conviction of first-degree murder of the other parent results in a presumption against custody and visitation (American Bar Association, 2004).

The statutes that take domestic violence into account in rendering custody decisions vary as to the type of evidence of domestic violence that must be presented to trigger this consideration. Florida and Delaware both require criminal domestic violence convictions, while Minnesota only requires “’evidence of domestic violence’” (Jaffe, Crooks, & Wolfe, 2003, pp. 65–66). Notwithstanding the increased sensitivity to domestic violence, Professor Joan Meier recently concluded that trial courts are granting custody to batterers “more often than not” (Meier, 2003, p. 662). Some courts exclude evidence of domestic violence, while others find that, even where there is proof, the violence does not rise to the level of abuse established by the relevant statute (Meier, 2003).


In most states it is difficult to deny visitation completely to the noncustodial parent, absent extraordinary circumstance. The existence of violence between the adults is rarely a sufficient basis. Based on misconceptions regarding the effects of witnessing domestic violence on children, courts may make judgments that may not be in the child’s best interest. Even if the courts award custody to a battered woman, they may not adequately protect her with visitation provisions. Nonetheless, because of the potential for abuse inherent in transferring children between parents, many courts consider ordering supervised visitation or other conditions on visitation when there are allegations of domestic violence. In states with legislation requiring that visitation arrangements take into account the custodial parent’s safety, and even in states without such legislation, a judge who hears testimony on the custodial parent’s fear of further violence can order restrictions on visitation to ensure the safety of the child and the victim. Examples of the types of conditions that courts might impose include the following:

  • Specifying the hours and days of visitation and prohibiting contact, either in person or via telephone, at other times;

  • Conditioning visitation upon participation in batterer’s counseling;

  • Specifying monetary penalties for violating the time restrictions by picking up or returning a child late or by failing to appear altogether (Field, 1998).

In the alternative, courts can order supervised visitation. Several states have court-related supervised visitation and visitation exchange centers in which trained staff can supervise visitation and the transfer of children between the parents (Lemon, 1999). California has developed a standard supervised visitation court form, and has promulgated Standards of Practice for Providers of Supervised Visitation. These standards require that centers establish written security procedures, inform their clients of these procedures, and obtain copies of all relevant court documents, including protection orders (Cal. Rules of Court, 2004). Notwithstanding the reasonableness of supervised visitation, such conditions will be set only if the victim has made clear the link between the children and the violence, or if the judge seeks to prevent the abuser from continuing harassment through access to the children.

In some states, courts are directed, through “friendly parent” provisions, to consider which parent is more likely to encourage contact between the children and the other parent. In Minnesota, the friendly parent provision does not apply if there has been a finding of domestic violence (Minn. Stat. § 518.17, 2003).

Court-Ordered Mediation

In many states, the parties are required to attend mediation sessions to resolve custody and visitation disputes. In domestic violence cases, however, mediation may not be appropriate for a variety of reasons, particularly because it requires the parties to cooperate in developing a parenting plan. Some jurisdictions prohibit mediation in domestic violence cases (Lemon, 2001). The Model Code of the National Council on Juvenile and Family Court Judges (1994, § 408) recommends that states not allow mediation when there is a restraining order in effect or, if it is allowed, then only under certain conditions, such as when the mediator is specially trained in domestic violence.

Child Abuse and Neglect

When a child witnesses domestic violence, the family may become involved with the civil child abuse and neglect system even if there is no direct harm to the child. The abuse and neglect system focuses on protecting children from harmful parental conduct. Once children have been adjudicated abused or neglected under a state child abuse statute, they may be removed from their homes and placed in foster care, or the family may be required to participate in mandated services, including treatment that addresses safety and domestic violence. Abuse and neglect can also be the basis for criminal charges.

Abuse and neglect statutes are premised on the concept that parents’ basic rights become attenuated as soon as the fitness of the parent(s) becomes questionable. In 2000, in Troxel v. Granville, the Supreme Court reiterated that parents have a basic right to raise their children, and that the decisions of fit parents should receive great deference (Troxel v. Granville, 2000). While courts give deference to the notion of parental prerogatives, the state can remove children from their parents for abuse and neglect. Moreover, when it comes to children’s rights to receive adequate services to prevent abuse and neglect, courts have generally reinforced the state’s decision-making process rather than parents and children’s rights.

Child witnessing of domestic violence may form the basis for a “failure to protect” petition before the juvenile court that hears dependency cases. Battered mothers’ parental rights may be affected or, in extreme circumstances, terminated based on a severe risk to the child due to continued exposure to the battering (Lemon, 1999). In fact, the intimate battering may affect the victim’s parenting by causing her to be less attentive to her children because she is appeasing the batterer to prevent additional violence (National Clearinghouse, 2002). While children’s advocates and battered women’s advocates often see these issues differently, the two systems are, in some jurisdictions, developing methods to coordinate their efforts to protect vulnerable family members (Greenbook Initiative, 1999; Meier, 2003; Ross, 2004). The next section briefly discusses failure to protect in abuse and neglect cases.

Failure to Protect

A common response of the child protective system in the United States has been to blame mothers for any harm to their children (Meier, 2003). When their partners batter them, women may be accused of neglect or failing to protect their children from witnessing the abuse. The child protective services agency may threaten the women with removal of their children unless they comply with mandated action, or the children may actually be removed from the household.

A recent decision challenging the practices of New York’s child protective services system found that the system was disproportionately and inappropriately removing children from the custody of battered women; the women were being blamed for their victimization, and their children were placed in foster care (Meier, 2003; Nicholson v. Williams, 2002; Ross, 2004). New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services claimed that battered women were responsible for “engaging” in the abuse, and for exposing their children to it (Nicholson v. Williams, 2002). Consequently, they removed the children from their mother’s care. None of the plaintiffs had physically abused their child; most of the children were removed from their mothers’ care because the mother had either remained with the abuser, or had extricated herself from the battering situation but had not found a stable environment in which to live. Notwithstanding the mothers’ care for their children, the City generally sought to remove the child before seeking removal of the batterer (Nicholson v. Williams, 2002). As numerous experts testified at the trial, however, removing the child is ill-advised and a dangerous disruption of the mother-child relationship (Nicholson v. Williams, 2002; Ross, 2004). As Robin Wilson points out, it is important to remove perpetrators, not children (Wilson, this volume, Chap. 3); focusing on the safety of the child does not require removal from a non-abusive mother.

Child Abuse

There is a trend to define exposing a child to domestic violence as a distinct form of abuse and neglect that is sufficient, in and of itself, to activate the intervention of child protective services. As a practical matter, many child protection agencies define neglect to include child exposure to domestic violence (Edleson, 2004). In addition, some states, including Alaska, Florida, and Montana, have enacted statutes that characterize exposing a child to domestic violence as a type of child maltreatment (Stone & Falk, 1997). In Alaska, for example, a court may take jurisdiction over a child based on “conduct by or conditions created by the parent… [that have] placed the child at substantial risk of mental injury as a result of … repeated exposure to conduct by a household member … [that is a domestic violence crime] against another household member” (Alaska Stat. $ 47.10.011, 2004). In Montana, legislation provides that committing violent acts against another resident of the same household may constitute psychological abuse or neglect but, unlike Alaska, the legislation explicitly protects the victim of violence by specifying that she will not be held responsible for failing to prevent the crime against her (Mont. Code Ann. § 41–3-102(19)(a)-(b), 2004).

Several courts have used similar statutes to terminate parental rights when children witness violence in the home. For example, an Alaska court found children abused and neglected and then terminated a father’s parental rights based on, among other findings, his exposure of his children to two incidents of domestic violence (A.H. v. State Dept. of Health & Social Services, 2000). Such statutes are controversial because they are so broad, they may cause unnecessary removal of children from their battered mothers, and they presume a harm that does not exist for every child exposed to domestic violence (Edleson, 2004; Weithorn, 2001). Moreover, they may force a child to testify against the perpetrator and, unless the statutes are carefully drafted, they may be used against a victim who is acting in self-defense (Kent, 2001). In Minnesota, a statute that defined a child’s exposure to domestic violence as requiring a child abuse report was repealed because it overwhelmed the resources of the child protective services system (Jaffe et al, 2003; Weithorn, 2001). To the extent that these statutes prove useful, they must focus on the batterer’s actions and on holding him accountable, rather than holding the victim responsible for the batterer’s actions (Weithorn, 2001).

Other Legal Actions for Children Who Witness Domestic Violence

Outside of family court, there have been other legal developments recognizing the significance of children’s exposure to domestic violence. In Wyoming, a tort lawsuit alleging intentional infliction of emotional distress was brought against an abuser on behalf of the two children who witnessed his physical abuse of their mother. The trial court granted summary judgment to the abuser, but the Supreme Court of Wyoming reversed (Bevan v. Fix, 2002).

State criminal statutes, which can be used to prosecute batterers for child exposure to domestic violence, may also define a new crime or provide for enhanced penalties in cases of child exposure. In Delaware, criminal endangerment of a child’s welfare explicitly includes the commission of a violent felony with the knowledge that a child family member witnessed the crime (Del. Code Ann. tit. 11 § 1102(a)(4), 2004). In several states, including New York and California, batterers have been prosecuted under the child endangerment statutes based on children witnessing the adult violence (Stone & Falk, 1997). In some criminal proceedings, there are mandatory enhanced penalties for domestic violence defendants if they committed their crimes “in the presence of a child” (Hagemeister, 2003). States have, for example, doubled the penalty when the act is committed in a child’s presence, defined witnessing as an “aggravating circumstance,” or even established new categories of crimes. For example, in Washington, a crime involving domestic violence that is committed within the presence or hearing of either the perpetrator’s or the victim’s children can justify an increased sentence.


As this chapter shows, there has been a dramatic increase in the sociological analysis of child exposure to domestic violence as well as the legal recognition of its significance. Yet there are still many legal reforms that remain to be implemented to protect children and their families. Four guiding principles, at a minimum, should be applied when a child has been exposed to domestic violence, regardless of the legal or familial context (Spears, 2000). First, legal proceedings affecting children must consider the impact (if any) on each individual child of witnessing domestic violence, including how it affects self-esteem as well as relationships with both parents, and laws must be developed and administered to implement conclusions based on this individualized assessment. Second, the law should protect the parenting relationship between the victim and child. Third, priority should be placed on protecting the child and the victim from the perpetrator. Finally, the batterer should be held accountable for his or her actions.

The first principle, focusing on the impact of domestic violence on the particular child, reflects the research that shows exposure to domestic violence affects each child differently and depends on a series of factors. While assessment tools are difficult to develop, one curriculum for mental health practitioners suggests that an assessment should include a review of the violence, the child’s current symptoms, a detailed history of the child’s development, and the reactions of significant adults to the violence (Judicial Council of California, 2003). Assessment tools have also been developed to estimate the risk to children from continuing contact with the batterer, including a review of the abuser’s history of abuse toward his partner, of using the children against his partner, and his substance abuse history (Bancroft & Silverman, 2002).

This assessment should be used in child custody and visitation decisions, as well as abuse and neglect procedures. In order to do so, reforms are necessary to these legal requirements. First, with respect to custody and visitation, custody reform must focus on the effects of domestic violence on the child. Severe acts of domestic violence should call into question the fitness of the parent to care for the child. Second, all states should require admission of evidence of abuse and should train judges to understand the psychological and sociological dimensions of violence for children. Third, custody awards should be modified if abuse continues between the parents.

Domestic violence is relevant to the custody decision to rebut any charges that the mother has abandoned her children by leaving her husband, an act that otherwise might show that she should not be the custodial parent (Weithorn, 2001, p. 495). Judges often view a woman’s flight from battering without the children as evidence that the mother does not care about the children. Instead, leaving without the children could, and generally should, be viewed as a somewhat rational decision to save her life in the midst of her abuser’s violence. Otherwise, women face an extremely difficult choice: endure the beating to stay with the children or flee the beating and leave the children while trying to get help. Several states have already recognized this difficulty, but more states need legislation addressing this issue. While children may feel temporarily abandoned when their mother flees the violence, her ability to return and remove the children to a safer environment will provide them with better protection.

Domestic violence should similarly be a factor in modification of custody awards. Courts currently use one of two standards to decide whether custody should be modified: (1) a material change in circumstances so that the best interest of the child requires a change in custody; or (2) regardless of any changes, the best interest of the child requires modification. Courts consider various factors under each standard, much like they do in the initial child custody decision. In some states, an act of domestic violence will constitute changed circumstances (American Law Institute, 2002).

Improved policies would provide that domestic violence should influence requests for, and decisions on, modification of custody and visitation orders. A custody award may encourage one parent to harass the other parent. For example, an award of reasonable visitation rights that does not explicitly set out the hours and times of visitation may cause the noncustodial parent to visit with the custodial parent at any time. When a joint custody award permits one parent to badger and abuse the other, the abused parent should be able to petition for a custody modification based on the continued harassment and abuse. Because domestic abuse has deleterious effects on children, if the parents’ separation and a custody award do not prevent the abuse, the children will suffer.

In determining an appropriate modification to a visitation or custody arrangement, the court should weigh the abuser’s behavior toward the victim, rather than focusing exclusively on whether the behavior has been directed toward the child, or even on whether the child has directly observed it. If abusers know that courts may take action against them if they harass the other parent about their visitation rights, then children will not become pawns who are used as an excuse by the batterer to continue the abuse of the other parent. In addition, victims will be protected from further abuse caused by arrangements for visitation and joint custody.

While adding another reason to permit modification may detract from the desired stability and permanence of a custody order, continued abuse between the parents does not provide stability for the child. Rather than allowing the child to remain exposed to the abuse and perhaps causing more harm, courts should permit modification upon a showing of the continuation of the pattern of violence between the parents.

With respect to abuse and neglect proceedings, some have proposed treating any exposure to domestic violence as a form of abuse or neglect (Edleson, 2004). While the recognition that child exposure may result in harm is a significant step toward accepting the ramifications of domestic violence, such a broad-brush approach is highly problematic. Children are affected differently by their exposure. Focusing on the impact of the violence on the particular child will indicate whether the exposure has resulted in abuse or neglect. When there is a finding of abuse or neglect based on a batterer’s actions, failure-to-protect or neglect proceedings against the victim are certainly inappropriate, as some states have begun to recognize explicitly in their statutes. Failure-to-protect charges against the batterer become moot if the batterer has been removed from the situation. Moreover, because of the variability in children’s response to exposure, state involvement is not prudent in every case; instead, providing community services for children who need help is the better solution (Edleson, 2004). Nonetheless, there may be a paradox here: parents are constitutionally protected against unwarranted state intervention, and because “many of the child problems associated with exposure to adult domestic violence do not rise to the level requiring public intervention, yet one wonders if these families are left without any intervention whether their situations will worsen” (Edleson, 2004, p. 12). Families could voluntarily seek services, of course.

While most child abuse and neglect statutes require some finding against the custodial parent before child protective services becomes involved, the child protective system could use strategies designed to reduce blame against the battered parent. Fhese strategies would keep the children with the victim-parent, help keep the parent safe, and remove the risks presented by the batterer (Greenbook Initiative, 1999). For example, the Montana abuse and neglect statute specifies that if a child is in danger because of adult domestic violence in the household, the social service agency should protect the child, but may also prevent the child’s removal from the victim, make reasonable efforts to remove the perpetrator, and protect the child from unsupervised visitation with the perpetrator (Mont. Code Ann. § 41–3-301(2), 2005). Creating a safe parenting situation can be done with a set of strategies designed to remove the abuser from the home or change the behavior, such as through arrest and prosecution, civil stay away orders, or requirements that the batterer participate in counseling (Greenbook Initiative, 1999).

Fhe second principle suggests strategies that support the rest of the family unit by, for example, providing affordable housing, food, and child care so that the family can afford to stay away from the batterer. This can be done through removing the batterer and/or prosecuting him. Blaming the woman for not leaving her batterer or for allowing her children to see the violence committed against her does not help the children. For example, when a battered woman allows the perpetrator to return to her home, this must not be viewed as evidence of further neglect on her part; instead, the child protective system should examine why she permitted the abuser to return. The reason may be financial necessity (Spears, 2000), coercion, or fear, and the agency can then work with her on strategies that will protect her and the child. While removal to protect children should always be an option, this would be appropriate only after the agency has pursued safety planning and assessed the risks associated with removal rather than remaining within the family setting (Stark, 2002).

Another alternative is for child protective services to intervene in private litigation to support claims of risk to children from the batterer’s behavior (Meier, 2003). Although such an intervention could help keep the victim and child together and safe, the problem, as with many of the other supportive services that could be offered to these families, is that protection services are “notoriously under-funded, overwhelmed, bureaucrati-cally dysfunctional, and … fairly universally conditioned to see mothers as the problem” (Meier, 2003, p. 719).

Third, making the safety of the victim and child paramount may involve additional steps beyond mandating various protections during custody and visitation. In some jurisdictions, the address of the child and victim of domestic violence is confidential in child custody proceedings (Ga. Code Ann. § 19–9-7(b), 2000). In its newly promulgated Principles of the Law of Family Dissolution, the American Law Institute similarly provides for the confidentiality of information relating to child custody, such as the residential address and the child’s schedule, where there is a “reasonable fear” of domestic violence and disclosure “would increase safety risks” (American Law Institute, 2002, § 2.05(2)). In some serious cases, if protection orders and visitation conditions have failed and the victim and child remain at grave risk of continuing harm, then it may be appropriate to consider other measures, such as temporarily suspending visitation or terminating the batterer’s parental rights (Meier, 2003).

The fourth principle focuses on the perpetrator’s accountability and involves wide-ranging changes that both support potential continuing contact with the child, and yet also ensure that the batterer is held responsible. This could involve prosecution for the domestic violence, but also require batterer intervention programs so that batterers understand the consequences of their behavior for themselves and their children (Spears, 2000). It might also include substance abuse assessment since batterers are more likely to be substance abusers than non-batterers. States might consider mandatory batterer treatment programs in both the civil and criminal justice systems because such programs can be an important aspect in keeping other family members safe (Kent, 2001). Batterers could also be required to participate in parent education programs, so long as the educators have been trained in dealing with domestic violence (Lutz & Grady, 2004).

In the custody area, an abuser who has killed the other parent should not be considered a fit parent, absent clear and convincing evidence to the contrary. This presumption would apply regardless of whether the abusive parent is convicted of voluntary manslaughter or first-degree murder; the fact of the killing rather than the nature of the conviction would be prima facie evidence of unfitness. To protect victims who kill in self-defense, this presumption would be irrelevant when a parent who has experienced a history of abuse kills the other parent.

To effectuate these principles will require changes within the legal system. In many states, there are already special unified courts for family law cases that generally attempt to assign one judge to handle all issues involving one family, such as domestic violence, child custody, juvenile delinquency, divorce, and child abuse. There are trainings for family law judges on the link between domestic violence and custody decisions (National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, 2004). Such trainings should cover the legal, sociological, and psychological implications of domestic violence, including such topics as: (1) civil and criminal remedies for domestic violence, such as civil order of protection statutes and law enforcement procedures (mandatory arrest laws or prosecutor policies on domestic cases); (2) results of studies on the effect of spouse abuse on children and the relationship between spouse and child abuse; (3) counseling programs available for abusers and their families, including alcohol and drug rehabilitation; (4) an overview of family violence; and (5) the impact of gender bias. With this background, judges can be more effective both at identifying domestic violence and at ordering trial procedures and custody arrangements that are in the child’s best interest, while also protecting the abused parent when necessary.


Ultimately, domestic violence requires more fundamental reform to judicial decision making about children and violence. To overcome existing prejudices and images, domestic violence must be seen as a problem affecting the best interest of the child and, in cases of severe abuse, parental fitness. Domestic violence reveals parenting skills. It shows that at least one parent has taken actions that are diametrically opposed to the best interest of the child. Indeed, battering should be understood as a “parenting decision” on the abuser’s part (Bancroft & Silverman, 2002). Instead of segregating abuse from custody or other issues concerning the child, there must be systemic recognition that violence is bad for the family. A narrow focus on actions that directly affect the child prevents courts from considering abuse between parents unless it is directed at a child. Because domestic violence has identifiable and deleterious effects on children, there must be a shift in the custodial standard to include this aspect of the parents’ relationship.


A.H. v. State Dept. of Health and Social Services , 10 P.3d 1156 (Alaska 2000).

Ala. Code § 30–3-169.4 (2004).

Alaska Stat. § 47.10.011 (2003).

American Bar Association. (2004). Custody decisions in cases with domestic violence allegations. Retrieved October 5, 2004, from http:/ / www.abanet.org/ legalservices/ probono/ childcustody/ domestic_violence_chartl.pdf 

American Law Institute (2002). Principles of the Law of Family Dissolution: Analysis and recommendations. Newark, NJ: Matthew Bender.

Bancroft, L. , & Silverman, J. (2002). The batterer as parent: Addressing the impact of domestic violence on family dynamics. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Bernard, M. Domestic violence’s impact on children. The Maryland Bar Journal vol. 36 (2003). p. 10–17.

Bevan v. Fix , 42 P.3d 1013 (Wyo. S. Ct. 2002).

Cahn, N. R. Civil images of battered women: The impact of domestic violence on child custody decisions. Vanderbilt Law Review vol. 44 (1991). p. 1041–1097.

Cal. Penal Code § 1203. 097 (2004).

Cal. Rules of Court §26.2 (2004).

Child Witness to Violence Project at Boston Medical Center , (n.d.). Retrieved July 15, 2004, from http:/ / www.athealth.com/ practioner/ ceduc/ dv_children.html 

Del. Code Ann. tit. 11 § 1102 (a)(4) (2004).

Dunlap, J. Sometimes I feel like a motherless child: The error of pursuing battered mothers for failure to protect. Loyola Law Review no. (50) (2004). p. 565.

Edleson, J. L. (1999). Problems associated with children’s witnessing of domestic violence (revised Apr. 1999). Retrieved from http:/ / www.vaw.umn.edu/ documents/ vawnet/ witness/ witness.html 

Edleson, J. L. (2004). Should child exposure to domestic violence be defined as child maltreatment under the law? In P. G. Jaffe , ed. , L. L. Baker , ed. , & A. Cunningham (Eds.), Protecting children from domestic violence: Strategies for community intervention. New York: Guilford Press. Retrieved October 5, 2004, from http:/ / www.mincava.umn.edu/ link/ documents/ shouldch/ shouldch.shtml 

Edleson, J. L. , Mbilinyi, L. F. , Beeman, S. K. , and Hagemeister, A. K. How children are involved in domestic violence: Results from a four-city telephone survey. Journal of Interpersonal Violence vol. 18 no. (1) (2003). p. 18–32.

Emerge: Counseling and Education to Stop Domestic Violence (2003). Retrieved fromhttp:/ / www.emergedv.com 

Fantuzzo, J. W and Mohr, W. K. Prevalence and effects of child exposure to domestic violence. The Future of Children vol. 9 (1999). p. 21–32.

Field, J. Visits in cases marked by violence: Judicial actions that can help keep children and victims safe. Journal of the American Judges Association vol. 35 no. (3). (1998). Retrieved October 5, 2004, from http:/ / www.omsys.com/ fivers/ visits.htm  Ga. Code Ann. § 19–9-7(b) (2000).

Graham-Bermann, S. (2001). Critical issues in research on social networks and social supports of children exposed to domestic violence. In S. Graham-Bermann , ed. & J. Edleson , ed. , Domestic violence in the lives of children: The future of research, intervention, and social policy , p. 203–218.

Greenbook Initiative. (1999). Retrieved October 4, 2004, from http:/ / www.thegreenbook.info/ init.htm 

Groves, B. mental health services for children who witness domestic violence. The Future of Children vol. 9 (1999). p. 122–132.

Hagemeister, A. (2003). Overlap of domestic violence and child maltreatment in USA state civil and criminal statutes. Retrieved October 5, 2004, fromwww.mincava.umn.edu/ link/ documents/ statutes/ statutes.shtml 

Huth-Bocks, A , Levendosky, A. , and Semel, M. The direct and indirect effects of domestic violence on young children’s intellectual functioning. Journal of Family Violence vol. 16 no. (3) (2001). p. 269–290. Ind. Code Ann. § 31–17-2–8 (7) (2004).

Jaffe, P. G. , Crooks, C. V. , and Wolfe, D. A. Legal and policy responses to children exposed to domestic violence: The need to educate intended and unintended consequences. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review vol. 6 no. (3) (2003). p. 205–213.

Jones, A. S. , D’Agostino, R. B., Jr. , Gondolf, E. W. , and Heckert, A. Assessing the effect of batter program completion on reassault using propensity scores (2004).Journal of Interpersonal Violence vol. 19 (2004). p. 1002–1020.

Judicial Council of California. (2003, March). Parenting in the context of domestic violence. Retrieved October 5, 2004, from http:/ / www.courtinfo.ca.gov.programs/ cfcc/ resources/ publications/ 

Kent, L. Comment: Addressing the impact of domestic violence on children: Alternatives to laws criminalizing the commission of domestic violence in the presence of a child.Wisconsin Law Review vol. 2001 (2001). p. 1337–1369.

Kernic, M. , Wolf, M. , Holt, V. , McKnight, B. , Huebner, C , and Rivara, F. Behavioral problems among children whose mothers are abused by an intimate partner. Child Abuse & Neglect vol. 27 (2003). p. 1231–1246.

Lemon, N. K. D. The legal system’s response to children exposed to domestic violence.The Future of Children vol. 9 (1999). p. 67–93.

Lemon, N. K. D. (2001). Domestic violence law. St. Paul, MN: West Group.

Lutz, V. and Grady, C. Necessary measures and logistics to maximize the safety of victims of domestic violence attending parent education programs. Family Court Reviewvol. 42 (2004). p. 363–371.

Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. ch. 208 § 31A (2004).

Matthews, M. The impact of federal and state laws on children exposed to domestic violence. The Future of Children vol. 9 (1999). p. 50–66.

Meier, J. Domestic violence, child custody, and child protection: Understanding judicial resistance and imagining the solutions. American University Journal of Gender, Social Policy & the Law vol. 11 (2003). p. 657–725.

Minn. Stat. §518.17 (2003).

Mont. Code Ann. §41–3-301(2) (2005).

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National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information. (2003). Children and domestic violence: A bulletin for professionals. Retrieved October 4, 2004, from http:/ / nccanch.acf.hhs.gov/ pubs/ factsheets/ domesticviolence.cfm 

National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges. (1994). Model code on domestic and family violence. Retrieved September 23, 2004, from http:/ / www.ncjfcj.org/ dept/ fvd/ publications/ 

National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges. (2004). Current projects: The family violence department’s current project overview. Retrieved October 7, 2004, fromhttp:/ / www.ncjfcj.org/ dept/ fvd/ aboutfvd/ main.cfm?Action=CURRPROJ 

National Resource Center on Domestic Violence. (2002). Children Exposed to Intimate Partner Violence. Retrieved from http:/ / www.vawnet.org/ NRCDVPublications/ 

Nicholson v. Williams , 203 F. Supp. 2d 153 (E.D.N.Y. 2002), remanded sub nom Nicholson v. Scoppetta , No. 02–7079, 2004 WL 2712425 (2d Cir. Nov. 30, 2004).

RI Gen. Laws § 15–5-16 (g)(2)(3) (2004).

Rennison, C. (2003). Intimate partner violence, 1993–2001. Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of Justice; 2003. Publication No. NCJ197838.

Ross, C. J. The tyranny of time: Vulnerable children, “bad” mothers, and statutory deadlines in parental termination proceedings. Virginia Journal of Social Policy and the Law vol. 11 (2004). p. 176–228.

Spears, L. (2000). Building bridges between domestic violence organizations and child protective services. Retrieved October 1, 2004, from http:/ / www.vaw.umn.edu/ documents/ dvcps/ dvcps.html#id2636653 

Stark, E. The battered mother in the child protection services caseload: Developing an appropriate response. Women’s Rights Law Reporter vol. 23 (2002). p. 107–131.

Stiles, M. Witnessing domestic violence: The effect on children. American Family Physician vol. 66 (2002). p. 2052–2058.

Stone, A. E. and Falk, R. J. Recent developments: Criminalizing the exposure of children to family violence: Breaking the cycle of abuse. Harvard Women’s Law Journalvol. 20 (1997). p. 205–227.

Troxel v. Granville , 530 U.S. 57 (S. Ct. 2000).

The Violence Prevention Project at UCSF Medical Center at Mount Zion. (2000). Retrieved July 16, 2004, from www.ucsfhealth.org/ childrens/ health_library/ news/ 2000/ 04/ 11590.html 

Weithorn, L. A. Protecting children from exposure to domestic violence: The use and abuse of child maltreatment. Hastings Law Journal vol. 53 (2001). p. 1–156.

Wolfe, D. (2002). Consequences workshop on children exposed to domestic violence: Current status, gaps, and research priorities 6–7. Retrieved October 1, 2004, fromhttp:/ / www.ed.gov/ rschstat/ research/ pubs/ cev-final-report.doc 


Cahn, Naomi. “Child Witnessing of Domestic Violence.” Handbook of Children, Culture, and Violence. 2006. SAGE Publications. 5 Apr. 2010. http://www.sage-ereference.com/hdbk_childculture/Article_n1.html 

Chapter DOI: 10.4135/978-1-41297-606-0.n1

Read more at abatteredmother.wordpress.com

Eleven years ago today 7-31-2000, Rikki Dombrowski was taken from her mother Claudine Dombrowski and given to convicted batterer HAL RICHARDSON


HELL HAS A SPECIAL PLACE FOR ALL ABUSERS and ENABLERS (aka child traffickers) that have and are continuing the  abuse by Hal Richardson. With the help of the local CourtWhores, M. Jill Dykes, Rene M. Netherton, Judge David Debenham, Don and Jason Hoffman


Eleven years ago today Rikki Dombrowski was taken from her mother Claudine Dombrowski and given to a convicted batterer on a ‘snail mail’  from crooked Judge Richard Anderson. He made a ‘deal’ and without motion from either party, without hearing he simply on his own ‘switched custody’ from Mother to ABUSER HAL RICHARDSON.

Mother Claudine Dombrowski has had little to no contact with her daughter since this illegal ‘action’ and ruling was made. The Judges following after this decision could have at anytime corrected a very wrong very unethical very damaging ruling.


Instead, they continued ‘litigation abuse’ of a battered mother and forced her only child- HER daughter to live with out her mother and in constant fear.

[scribd id=43805172 key=key-18j7hcjx5kgmiopq3ylk mode=list]

2000 July 31-- Custody Switch-Judge Richard Anderson Gives FULL custody to CRIMINAL HAL RICHARDSON




96D 000217-RICHARDSON,HAL,, (aka)1OR
96D 000217-RICHARDSON,HAL,, (aka)2OE
05C 001464-RICHARDSON,HAL,,JR,TRACT 76, (aka)133D
89CR 01537-RICHARDSON,HAL,G,, (aka)1D
90CR 01308-RICHARDSON,HAL,G, (aka)1D
05C 001464-RICHARDSON,HAL,G,JR,TRACT 76, (aka)133D

2 p.

95cr 00836 dv against dombrowski conviction

7 p.

12-1-1997 Joan Hamilton DA Refuses to Prosecute Admitted CrowBar Assault

4 p.

1995 DV 95CR836 Mary Kelly PSI Not Good Candidate for RECOMMEND PRISON for Criminal conviction of CLAUDINE DOMBROWSKI

4 p.

1995 DV 95CR836 Mary Kelly PSI Not Good Candiate for Probation_2

2 p.

1999_2nd ABP Heartland Consult an Tans Hal Richardson

3 p.

1996 Alternatives to Battering Per Domestic Violence Conviction against Claudine Dombroeski and Order of Probation Hal Richardson...

1 p.

1995 PSI Mary Kelly Recommends Prison for Hal Richardson as Conviction History of Violence past 15 years

5 p.

1995 ABP Records Hal Richardson CR Conviction of Domestic Violence to Claudine Dombrowski (HE WAS KICKED OUT!)

2 p.

1990 SARP Alcohol Drug TX Hal Richardson From Conviction on Battery of Law Enforcement Officer

2 p.

1995-Feb 21 D.A. Affidavit for Domestic Violence (Conviction) Case No. 94-CR...

3 p.

1997 Closed Camera Inspection of 30 Day Drug Alchohol Hal Richardson Aug_1

Boyfriend Charged In Case Of Missing MOTHER Amber Elkins Victim Of Foul Play


Recall she was due in Court on Monday for custody of her 9 month old daughter. He fixed it alright-- like so many DADDY's do- Just kill mom.

Amplify’d from www.click2houston.com
OUSTON -- Authorities in Harris County said they have arrested the boyfriend of a missing area woman.

The Harris County Sheriff's Office said 31-year-old James David Clarke was charged with murder in the case of 20-year-old Amber Chantel Elkins, who was last seen July 24.

Investigators said Elkins was the victim of foul play and has not been located.

Detectives said Elkins' vehicle, a dark green 2004 Chevrolet Trailblazer with Georgia license plates, was found abandoned in a vacant business parking lot in the 13900 block of Homestead Road, just north of Greens Bayou, about 2:45 p.m. Tuesday.

The front passenger window was broken out and a substantial amount of blood was found inside the vehicle, investigators said.

Elkins' mother, Shani Kilpatrick, said her daughter would never go a day without letting someone know where she was. Kilpatrick said her phone rang at 3:30 a.m. Sunday, but she missed the call because she was sleeping. When she woke up later that morning, she realized it was her daughter, so she called her back.

"I called her back and a guy answered. I asked where Amber was, and he hung up," said Kilpatrick. "She would only call me at 3:30 in the morning if something was wrong. That's why I know something was wrong."

Kilpatrick also said Elkins was due in court on Monday for a custody hearing regarding her 9-month-old daughter, who is staying with relatives.

"I don't think it looks good," Kilpatrick said. "I'm trying to keep the faith. I don't want to say that she's gone. I just know that she can't call me."

Frank Ferrata is the father of Elkins' daughter, Ava. He said it's heartbreaking because the baby is too young to understand what's going on.

"Ava says 'Mama' all the time, and it breaks my heart," he said.

Ferrata said he and Elkins were living in Midway, Texas, together, but recently she moved back to the Houston area. He called her a kind, loving person and said they just want to know what happened to her.

Elkins' father, Mike Elkins, flew in Friday night from Atlanta. He said he felt helpless being so far away and wanted to come to Texas to help search for his daughter. But he admitted the evidence doesn't look good, and now the family is fearing the worst.

"I feel in my heart that my daughter's gone. I've accepted that. I just want to find her," said Mike Elkins. "My daughter had a heart of gold. She would do anything for anybody."

About 70 volunteers scoured more than 150 acres looking for signs of Amber Elkins.

"We're not going to sugarcoat anything. This looks bad," Texas EquuSearch Founder Tim Miller said. "We're going to hold on to that tiny miracle, but the reality is we've got a big problem here. We got a 20-year-old that's got to be found."

Amber Elkins is white, 5 feet 8 inches to 5 feet 9 inches tall with black hair and brown eyes. She has two stars tattooed on her wrist and the word "ACE" tattooed on an ankle.

Anyone with information regarding Amber Elkins' disappearance is asked to call the HCSO Homicide Unit at 713-967-5810, or Crime Stoppers at 713-222-TIPS.

Clark is being held at the Harris County jail.

Previous Stories:
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Beaten, Raped, Robbed and Left for Dead: Unmasking the "Father's Rights" Movement


Under the guise of "gender equality," a well-funded father's rights movement has declared war on US laws mandating child support and placing a child's best interests ahead of a father's "entitlements" in custody decisions. Caught in the crossfire are thousands of women and children who are horrified to discover that too often, Family Court has become just one more lethal weapon in the arsenal of this army of "father's rights" deadbeats, bullies and abusers.

Amplify’d from www.thelizlibrary.org
But the effectiveness of this ploy went
much deeper. He prevented me from obtaining what I needed to work, and
reaped the benefits of the psychological despair that reality brings with

I. Prologue

For two years, my two darling daughters
and I have been brutally and repeatedly beaten, raped, robbed and left
for dead -- psychologically, emotionally and financially -- by the man
who used to call himself the husband and father in this family.

Affable, intelligent, articulate, a successful
businessman, this vilest of abusers was never a family man, but he certainly
well-maintained the fiction of a perfect, public gentleman. He enjoyed,
and enjoys, the pleasant aspect of the public eye, a smiling hail-fellow-well-met,
friend of the well-connected, in a small Midwestern town where such niceties
matterÂ? perhaps too much, as we'll see as this story unfolds.

No one is more surprised today than I
am, that my children and I survived, thus far, what can only be described
as a brutal gang assault from thugs in suits -- smiling, scented men and
women, without soul or substance, masquerading as small-town community
leaders, philanthropists and businessmen.

The blueprints for the man's relentless,
insidious, assaults -- those we've endured, as well as those he promises
still await us -- come straight from the international, fledgling, but
vicious and well-organized, euphemistically-titled "father's rights"
(FR) movement.

As I've discovered, FR militants comprise
a movement completely and irrevocably corrupted by money, and by the power
its advocates believe money gives them. It's an abomination that they so
deliberately invoke the word "father" to gain validity for their
purely selfish agenda.

A cruel, stunning ambush -- devised to
play out when I was at my weakest and most vulnerable point -- that was
my introduction to the glib liars and cold, compassionless cowards in the
FR movement. My girls and I have not yet escaped the poisoned litigational
swampland this movement, this man and his henchmen have created, but we
are, I believe, well on our way to healing.

Admittedly, our case -- an extreme case
of massive business fraud peddled for the public record as "divorce
and custody"-- is not typical. Professionals in both family and business
law assure me -- as they shake their heads in disgust and disbelief --
that the unique confluence of circumstance, opportunity and personality
characterizing my situation is unlikely to be replicated.

But in researching my defense against
these hollow-hearted monsters, I've encountered hundreds of women whose
stories could be mine. I'm not alone, not by a long shot. Most disturbing
is the number of women with whom I've communicated who are so demoralized
and impoverished by the process of "divorce and custody, FR-style,"
that they are on the verge of giving up.

To these women and mothers I say: Losing
is not an option. You must survive, somehow, any way you can, to fight
another day. Perhaps I can help you with this series and its informational

This year, thousands of men -- hand-in-hand
with their children -- will march in Nazi-like precision on Courthouses
in more than 100 cities, demanding "gender equality" and "family
preservation" as they seek legal sanction for their cowardly abuse
and domestic terrorism.

For every one of those thousands of men,
there is a woman whose life is about to be sacrificed in the crosshairs
of the "father's rights" assault weaponry.

So I know I am not alone in the poisoned

"father's rights" swampland. Many, many of the women I've encountered
have been ambushed, brutalized, defamed and trashed, and don't have the
first clue what happened or how or why, or when it mercifully, might end.

Nor are my children alone, in their children's
Hell of paralysis, betrayal and uncertainty. There are thousands of children,
just like them, tiny trophies for the FR militants' mantlepiece.

We are not alone.

After an initial warming wave of comfort,
that fact horrifies me.

And that is why this story must be told.

II. The Men Behind the Masks

Who ARE these masked men, these well-heeled
and highly motivated sloganeers who put their phony, sad-eyed faces toward
a sympathetic world, and their money toward sympathetic legislators, and
claim to be struggling against all odds for the 'equal right' to parent
their children?

They are diverse in vocation, avocation,
shape, age and color? but they are usually well-educated, articulate and
well-off They are many and they are growing in size and strength. One thing
is certain: The predators in the FR militancy are nothing at all akin to
the smiling, loving "dads" they project on their websites and
in their newsletters.

In fact, the stark contrasts are frightening,
once you've had the misfortune, as I have had, to unwittingly stumble into
this den of wily snakes.

You may meet some of them yourselves this
year, in your own hometown, as they extend their reach, spider-like, into
county courthouses and state legislatures, seeking the overturn of virtually
every protection afforded women and children, especially, most diabolically,
women and children who are or have been victims of abuse.

Consider just a few of the FR movement's
real agenda -- overturn the Violence Against Women Act of 2000 as unconstitutional?
end child support? eliminate battered women's shelters ? end child support?
eliminate food stamps and AFDC? end child support? mandate policies of
rebuttable presumptive joint physical and joint legal custody in 50 states
in this country.

Oh, yes, and did I mention: eliminate
child support and the laws that protect and enforce it.

FR militants will drone endlessly on about
a non-issue they call Parental Alienation Syndrome and another they call
Malicious Mother Syndrome, and demand evaluation after evaluation, in hopes
of finding someone, anyone, to take their sick side, or failing that, of
running the spouse completely out of financial and emotional resources,
so that she can no longer do battle on a level footing.

FR militants purport to "document"
-- with special software they market to newcomers on their websites --
an endless number of incidents of parenting interference by the mother.
The documents or diaries are usually entirely bogus, the incidents described
quite often self-created, or built around a half-truth dropped carefully
into a new, sinister situation.

But the FR operators assure their militant
members that the documents are magnificent "evidence" in a courtroom,
especially when the accused mother comes ill-prepared to defend herself
against a never-ending recitation of fantasies.

FR militants and their minions will cite
multiple state and Federal court cases to the Judges, demanding that some
weird, extrapolated precedent be followed, and that this interfering mother
be stripped of her children for sabotaging the father's relationship with
his child.

A sabotaged relationship. That's a key
and favorite phrase and accusation of FR men -- and you can guess -- it's
absolutely necessary: How else can these physically absent, emotionally
crippled, unwelcoming, motivated-by-money 'fathers' reasonably explain
to the Court their children's overwhelming preferences for mother, home,
stability and security in the lives they've always known?

It is, of course, all the mom's fault,
these glib and self-aggrandizing liars will claim, under oath, if needs
be. The child is brainwashed. The mother exerts undue influence. The mother
and child are 'pathologically bonded' and the mother is clearly doing 'irreparable
harm' to this child.

FR militants, at an especially sick level
of cruelty, engage in what they call gas-lighting, and what we call crazy-making
? a modus operendi worthy of an entire article in its own right.

These men insist that the sole remedy
for the alienation they've endured is immediate removal of the children
from their mother's home. Custody, they say, must go to the poor, victim

Never mind, they say, that PAS has been
debunked repeatedly by the American Psychiatric Association and the American
Psychologists Association.

Never mind that the father has been tagged
by professional forensic evaluators as physically absent, emotionally unavailable,
rigid, unwelcoming in his demeanor, unbonded with any of his children.

Never mind that the father has been documented
as a physical, financial and emotional abuser and the children do not wish
to live with him.

Never mind the father's perjury and fraud.
He is, he says, entitled to 50% of his child and woe be to the mother or
judge or courtroom that denies him his 'rights.'

Consider just a few examples from the
"Father's Rights Manifesto" -- among their other stated goals

"Convert battered women's shelters
to battered spouse's shelters, or eliminate them. These organizations have
become guerilla training centers in the war against fatherhood and must
be converted into facilities which assist in the elimination of fatherlessness
and the preservation of families."

"Eliminate child support, alimony,
and all other transfers of assets which encourage or support fatherlessness.
Collecting such court ordered awards costs 2 to 3 times as much as the
amount collected. Punitive measures recently enacted by government discourage
or prohibit productivity. The negative psychological impact of requiring
a father to subsidize the destruction of his own family is a powerful economic

"Replace tax incentives which favor
broken families or single parenthood with small but important "bonuses"
to encourage and reward intact families, thus changing the tacit role of
government from anti-family and anti-fatherhood to pro-family and pro-fatherhood."

You'll rarely hear or see such a stunning
agenda voiced or envisaged in public by the smooth-talking operators of
the FR groups. They are many nasty things, but they are not often fools.

III. The Uppity, Inconvenient Spouse
Seen Through the FR Looking Glass

Allow me to remind readers that admittedly,
my husband's attraction to the "father's rights" movement was
occasioned not by his love or concern for his children, whom he barely
knew, but by his perverse need for money -- not just his money, but my
money as well. More than $1 million in assets just vanished during the
pendancy of this litigation, and now my husband, like so many men on the
FR sites, is pleading personal and business poverty.

We, of course, are all terminally stupid,
and he apparently, has the only fully functioning brain cells in the neighborhood.
Yes, I believe that he truly believes we do not know and will nopt reveal
-- as I have known from the day I learned of his plan and am revealing
now -- that this has been an extreme case of massive business fraud peddled
for two long years for the public record as "divorce and custody."

And the FR movement afforded the perpetrator
ample weaponry with which to wage his war against his family and his fraud
against the Court, keeping the Court and myself wrapped up in an endless
series of FR-scented motions and demands. And during those 18 months (and
the eight months to a year of "planning ahead" he did) my husband
casually offloaded hundreds of thousands of dollars from our businesses,
right from under everyone's noses!

How did he do this?

All will be revealed.

I've often told folks that they can only
truly comprehend and protect themselves from the duplicity of the 'father's
rights' movement devotees, and understand my specific misadventure within
it, if they examine the paper trail with a copy of Lewis Carroll's "Alice
Through The Looking-Glass" right within their grasp.

The "father's rights movement"
is a topsy-turvy, upside-down, inside-out and backwards world, a distortion
of essential realities and the random creation of alternate realities,
in which left is right and right is wrong and wrong is a necessary means
to the 'right' end.

In this anti-female world of "father's
rights," a woman's assertiveness is an obsessive need for dominance
and control; a mother's nurturing love is unhealthy dependence and pathological
bonding; a father's cold years of absence and emotional abuse are a noble
endeavor to teach children independence.

A business partner's 18 years of hard
work and sacrifice are transformed into a simple, selfish, manipulative
gold-digging exercise, and the FR's systematic, casual, pre-emptive destruction
of his spouse's hard-won personal and professional reputation becomes a
justifiable act of self-defense against an unpredictable, vindictive 'crazy'
woman determined to destroy the father's life-work.

Such a complex strategy of reinvention
and historical revisionism takes time and money. So it's important, the
FR militants tell their minions, to CONTROL THE MONEY as well as the FLOW

You must, these FR operators admonish
repeatedly, PLAN AHEAD, FILE FIRST with gusto, and file as often as necessary.
And keep her scrambling for money, sputtering in outrage, and invariably,
on the defensive.

'Plan ahead,' the FR sites advise. Translation:
ambush your spouse and children, and hit them hard enough in the first
round to knock them dead out of contention. Ugly? Yes. Cold-blooded? You

But such a plan is crucial for physically
and emotionally absent men whose spouses are not only excellent mothers
but also who claim 50% of the parties' assets -- and they may very well
be significant assets -- not by virtue of marriage, but by virtue of the
woman's own hard work in creating those assets and building the business.

All that history must be revised. All
the past must be overwritten. And most importantly, the assets which would
surely be divided with the mother, and equally bad, accounted in the calculations
for the husband's contribution to child support, must gradually, unavoidably,
seem to diminish and appear to DISappear.

That uppity spouse must never have access
to the resources she will inevitably, ultimately use to unravel and rewind
in public the FR advocate's tale of fraud, deceit and duplicity.

IV. Rapists in the Den of Thieves

As we are seeing, advocates of the "father's
rights" movement, such as my soon-to-be-ex-husband, often find themselves
saddled with uppity, inconvenient spouses such as myself:

Women who, during the marriage, do far
more than their "fair share" with regard to both family and finances,
without comment or complaint.

Women who had full, satisfying lives before
their marriage and are destined to have full, satisfying lives when the
marriage is over.

Women who take their responsibilities
seriously -- and who assert the corresponding rights that they've earned
by dint of having fulfilled and fulfilled well -- those responsibilities,
be they financial or familial.

When faced with the prospect of parting
from such women, men such as my husband and his cronies in the FR movement,
whose 'responsibility' has been primarily to themselves, and whose interests
are primarily money, power and control, and whose family links are historically
characterized by remoteness and abdication of responsibility, must face
an awful truth:

Divorcing men -- even those who have been
allowed to control their spouses' assets throughout marriage -- must relinquish
their control of her assets in order to accomplish a fair and equitable
distribution Â? unless he can demonstrate that the assets were either
his in the first place, and oh dear, they've been unavoidably depleted.

And oh yes, that depletion is HER fault.
She MADE me do it; that over-controlling **** FORCED me to file 56 motions
against her and engage in this litigation because? well, fill in the blank.
Their excuses are limited only by their imaginations. And when their imaginations
are limited, they have thousands of pals on the "father's rights"

websites and in local organizations to "share" ideas with them.

But that awful truth about loss of control
goes down very hard on these men, and that's what attracts them to the
glittering promise imbedded in "father's rights." Is there any
better way to look like a good guy than to claim to be 'forced' to diminish
your assets (and hers) in a selfless struggle to rescue your children from
an evil aggressive mother? How courageous! What a noble guy!

Think about it. Women of substance and
assertiveness are all too frequently tagged, STILL, in our culture as aggressive,
domineering and controlling. Men in the FR movement, often married to women
of substance, use the Looking Glass strategy to crush their spouses, often
in anticipation of divorce.

The spouses, of course, are not initially
clued in. Subterfuge is a critical element of the Looking Glass strategy.
As we've seen, these men don't often EVER come clean about their REAL agendas.
Lie, lie, lie, deny, deny, deny.

And as we've seen, the "father's
rights movement" has been masterful in its manipulation of its image,
and by extension, in the image of its members. They are not "deadbeat
dads," oh no, they are, they say, "dead-bolted dads," shut
out of their children's lives by vindictive women.

They are the victims, they say, over and
over. And that is simply not so.

My husband learned from his mentors in
the "father's rights" movement exactly how to use his own children
and the Family Court system to hold the knife to my neck while he continued
his vicious assault on me.

V. "Are you a WEAK man, Mr. Rxxxd?"

A side-trip of sorts, but relevant to
the balance of power that the "father's rights" militants seek
to shift their way in the sniper-fire they employ before the "divorce
war" actually begins at Trial.

One of the early difficulties my 2bx encountered
-- a wee snag in the fabric of his well-woven strategy -- occurred during
the initial hearing for temporary custody and support. This was not before
a judge, but a lay person referee, in a courtroom.

On Day One, my 2bx described in appallingly
convincing detail (to my total and complete shock -- because every word
was a total and complete fabrication) to an apparently very sympathetic
referee the following: how he'd been bullied by me for a decade, never
allowed to make decisions, never allowed to have the kids alone or drive
them to school, never allowed to pay the household bills, never allowed
to maintain the house and property.

His point was intending to prove that
my over-controlling, domineering obsessiveness was terrible for the minor
child and she must be removed from my care IMMEDIATELY if not sooner. Oh
yes, he was ready: yes, the children were not in any trouble and the elder
daughter was successful in high school and was enrolled in the premier
Catholic women's college in the country?. but the tragic truth (he looked
up at the referee with wide eyes) is that these poor children were terrified
of me and THAT explained their well-behaved manner and their successes?
they didn't DARE cross their mother.

I believe he used the words "swift
and terrible retribution" to describe what these children allegedly
"knew" would happen to them if they fell out of line.

He was doing fine on the witness stand,
lying under oath like an experienced perjurer (perhaps he is!) and even
obviously enjoying his victimhood, until my attorney, reeled him in with

"You know, Mr.Rxxx, you've described
yourself to this court as having suffered all these things at the hands
of your wife, and your children, too ? and you never did anything about
it til now? You've described yourself as a very weak man, Mr. Rxxx. Are
you a very weak man?"

My 2bx's face literally froze. This was
unexpected and, worse, a public insult. He did not know how to answer.
It was a joy, after months of ambush and uncertainty and terror on my part
alone, finally to behold a crack in that smooth, well-oiled "fatherly"

Through my tears, I quite nearly laughed
out loud. The spell this man had woven in that Courtroom was broken, as
the referee and court personnel pondered?. hmmmm?

It was the only genuinely good moment
I would have in Court for quite a long while, but if you've ever had to
deal with a man totally consumed with his own self-image of power, dominance
and total control? then you can image how deeply I cherish it!

VI. Arming Men for the Brutal 'Divorce

There's a very logical reason that "certain
kinds of women" are especially attractive targets of the militant
abusers and users in the FR movement. And don't be misled into the fantasy
that the abuse and psychological trauma inflicted on the spouse and her
children is "incidental" to divorce, custody and business dissolution

Abuse, trauma, conflict, chaos, imposed
poverty -- these are weapons that are in fact the entire POINT of the FR's
litigational strategy.

The men who run and operate the FR sites
and handle the FR lobby contacts in Washington DC and set up the FR groups
as 501( c ) (3) tax-exempt organizations and prepare their minions for
what they call "the divorce wars" are intelligent, articulate,
educated, savvy and largely, unscrupulous men.

They have likely been married to intelligent,
articulate, accomplished, educated women. By nature of their associations
with the FR movement, the men involved in the conflict are fathers and
the women may be businesswomen and professionals, but they are also mothers.

And there's the rub for these FR militants.
An intelligent, accomplished woman isn't typically going to allow herself
to be beaten, raped, robbed -- of her assets AND her children -- and left
for dead without a spirited defense. A spirited defense requires money
and time and a clear head.

The spouse and mother MUST be either crushed
at the onset, or worn down emotionally and financially, kept without money,
without security, without a way out -- without the spirit part of her spirited
defense -- until she begs to surrender, by constant, continual demoralization.

To accomplish that, these FR militants
require -- absolutely require -- a lengthy, destructive Court battle of
some kind in order to indefinitely delay any discussion of, or investigation
into, assets, financial dealings, or their own poor past as a parent.

A lengthy, much-investigated child custody
battle snarled up in an overburdened Court system, gives them the time
they need to not only re-invent their histories, and those of their families,
but also, most importantly, to move, hide, invest and offload their assets.

A custody battle is tailor-made for these
men. I have seen and heard it many times on FR sites:

"Given the choice between fighting
for the child and fighting for her property rights, the mother will nearly
always go for the child first. The child will be the most powerful weapon
you have in 'convincing' your wife that her concept of 'fair distribution
of assets' needs to be revisited."

Go for custody, whether you want it or
not, the FR operators tell their minions. Learn about your child, if you
don't know your child. Look like you care very deeply for the children
and keep the Court focused on your negative depiction of the mother-child

While that's going on, and it can be dragged
out for YEARS, no one is looking at the absent, unavailable father! In
fact, they EXPECT that his assets will be depleted by this terrible struggle.
Even if he loses, he never wanted or expected to 'win' custody, so the
delay is a win-win for the 'poor, victim dad.'

Here's how one counselor euphemistically
couches the answer to the critical question for the uninvolved father seeking
custody: when to file? Answer: Give yourself enough time to reinvent history.
Here's a quote from one of the sites:

"If you want (insert: your spouse
to have to fight for) primary custody, it is possible that a delay could
provide a period of time when you are aware of what lies around the corner
while your wife is not. This waiting period may afford you an opportunity
to solidify your position as the primary nurturer, as well as to gather
information and evidence."

'Gather information and evidence' is a
euphemism for concoct and 'document' enough stories, incidents, events,
distortions, ad nauseum, so that when you do get to Court -- and as Plaintiff,
FR-advocate, you 'go first' -- your stories will appear credible.

As in so many rape situations, these psychological,
financial and emotional rapists cowering behind the shield of the "father's
rights movement" concoct scenarios in which they can blame their victims.
Having shifted the focus to the woman and her alleged transgressions --
perjury is nothing to these men -- these FR militants are able to play
themselves as the victim the entire time they engage in vicious assault.

As the above excerpt strongly implies,
"solidifying" the absent dad's "position as the primary
nurturer" recognizes that in fact, the men who resort to the FR tactics
are not and have not been the child's primary nurturer.

Another FR site points out that the devious
dad will need to build "a history of sharing of duties between two
parents, or a very close bond between a dad and a child, which can be maintained
only by a co-parenting arrangement."

None of the history has to be true, or
real, or genuine, the FR advocates say in their chatrooms and message boards.
It simply must APPEAR to be so for the benefit and duration of the litigation.

This is a key element of the gas-lighting
or crazy-making strategy inflicted on the woman. The FR militant first
steals his spouse's life and livelihood, and then makes certain that she's
aware he is rubbing her proverbial nose in it.

It isn't accidental and it isn't incidental
to divorce, custody or even business dissolution. It's deliberate, cold-blooded
and -- as the FR operators will explain -- absolutely necessary.

That's such a key point, as we will see?

VII. Domestic Terrorism: Stalking a
Wounded Victim

At the onset of this case, for which my
husband initiated litigation in August 1999, I had the extreme misfortune
and apparently unforgivable bad luck to be both an excellent mother and
an accomplished professional, a 50% owner in a flourishing business that
I helped found with my husband -- long before he was my husband -- 18 years

I also had just endured two full years
of absolutely crushing personal grief and family tragedy. Literally "just"
endured. The day he advised me of what was afoot, was the first day I'd
drawn a breath not fraught with tears in months and months.

So one of the truly horrifying aspects
of this case, for me, has been having to come to grips with the fact that
my husband is, and probably has been for some time, an amoral person without
normal human feelings. He deliberately essentially stalked me and the kids,
psychologically, for months and months, and I never recognized that for
what it was until it was far too late to do anything about it.

The horrible truth is that my own husband
watched and waited during my greatest period of personal crisis, and when
he guessed that I would be at my absolute weakest and most vulnerable point,
he STRUCK with a massive effort to take my child from me -- a child he
could not be bothered with for the first 11 years of her life -- without
even the benefit of a heated discussion, let alone a Court hearing.

One more loss, he was guessing, I could
not endure. This evil man, to whom I'd been married 12 years, was literally
gambling that I would be wiped out emotionally from simply the threat of
such a loss.


My much-loved and great-guy father was
very ill for the last half of 1997, just a week after we discovered that
my brother's young wife had stage 4 cancer. My brother was coping with
his own grief and that of his four children -- 14, 11, 4 and six months.
My family, always very close, was in total and complete crisis.

My father went into the hospital for a
heart catheterization and just never recovered. A month later he was diagnosed
with stomch cancer, so they operated. Then more heart troubles ... his
diabetes kicked in, and eventually in February 1998, they had to amputate
his leg. He passed away in April 1998 and we were crushed.

My sister-in-law had surgery to no avail,
and they sent her home in August 1997, giving her six months to live.

These were two terrible catastrophes from
which my siblings and children did not know how we might ever recover.
My husabnd, as always, was barely around, emotionally unavailable, as they
say ...

The same year, 1997, my eldest daughter
graduated from high school and was trying to prepare for college in the
midst of these crises. My youngest, an ADHD high-maintenance child, was
struggling mightily and desperately unhappy in school. I had been working
at home part-time for two years, after 15 years of fulltime at half-pay
in order to "build a base of retained earnings" for the business.

So in late 1997, I backed off the business
and attended to family matters.

This of course, is characterized in Court
papers as abandoning the business without explanation or permission. The
date is alternately posed as 1993, 1994 or 1995. In one set of false papers,
he even claims I "walked away" in 1995 but he kept me on the
payroll until 1997.

That is all, of course, a deliberae strategy
to convince the judge I'm not entitled to 50% of the business assets? but
that's an entirely 'nother story.

My husband's stalking and disingenuous
probing of my emotional state was entirely opportunistic and characteristic
of the bloodlessly cold methodical win-at-all-costs strategies exhorted
by the FR groups. I still shudder to think what would have happened had
I been not such a strong person.

As far as the business went, my husband
had always handled the business end, a task he enthusiastically embraced.

As a writer and right-brained thinker,
I managed the creative end and developed a specialty in economic development
and community revitalization. At home and in parenting matters, there was
no option. I was "it." There was no discussion and no choice.
He was neither interested nor inclined.

The single time in eight years that he
took our daughter to school, she was in third grade -- and he took her
to the wrong school. An accident? Or simply making sure he NEVER had to
do that task again?

After a dozen years of marriage, I simply
did not realize that uppity wives, such as myself, who aspire to a saner
balance between family life and workplace, at a time of devastating personal
crisis, are not only unentitled to understanding and compassionÂ?but
are unwittingly wandering dead-center into the crosshairs of the fledgling
but vicious "father's rights" movement.

I never once considered that the upshot
of my decision to take a much-deserved break from the business (no vacuum
was created, regardless; we had ample, experienced staff) to attend to
family matters was simply the creation of a financial opportunity for my
husband and his legal and accounting team.

He never let on, not for one single moment.
THAT still amazes me, these four years later.

VIII: The Financial Desecration Begins

Another key "father's rights"
admonishment to their minions: CONTROL the MONEY.

I spoke in Article VI of the 'initial'
Court hearing that was held in January 2000. Given what's been debated
in the comments section on the family court, I do use the term 'initial'
advisedly, since several lawsuits were filed simultaneously against me
in August 1999. Fending off the inevitable 'initial' hearing is also a
core element of the "father's rights" strangulation and rape
strategy, and my husband played it like a dream, conning everyone along
the way that, indeed, he was "trying" to stay out of Court "for
the child's sake."

By the time the hearing was held, the
financial desecration was quite nearly complete. I had $61 to my name,
a car in repossession, property taxes unpaid, my phone disconnected, internet
service cancelled, credit card bills maxed out and overdue, and months
of unpaid college tuition and board.

My own assets had been seized and held
by my husband for nearly SEVEN months, courtesy of a restraining order
that was basically superfluous, since he had already moved more than $500,000
and made $350,000 more just vanish into accounting adjustments, a full
two months before he'd filed. He simply proceeded as though his reinvention
of me as a gold-digging, self-indulgent, malicious nitwit was already reality,
as though everything was rightfully only his, and he needed to "protect"
it from me.

He never once gave a moment's thought
to what his manipulations were doing to the kids. I told him clearly, "whenever
you lob a bomb at me, you hit the kids." But to no avail. He simply
did not care.

After all, as he explained to the Court,
he had to keep the business going (hired 14 new people between august 1999
and May 2000) and all those people to keep employed, and this greedy woman
will be happy to put the business on the skids to feed her vindictiveness!
In fact, your honor, I believe she's trying to destroy this business. And
she won;t let me see my poor daughter! Please give me a restraining order
to keep her off the premises (and out of the financials and away from her
own work-product)Â? and turn that child over to me, your honor. You
can trust me..."

He had surreptitiously called our bank
in JUNE 1999 and had the monthly automatic deposits into our bank account
stopped. The deposits, but NOT the withdrawals, clever man. But then an
unexpected bump in his smooth-sailing path: my sister-in-law, who had hung
on for almost two years, succumbed in July 1999.

In an obvious attempt to not be caught
out too early, my husband hand-deposited $2,300 into our household account
in mid-July. Tat was roughly half of what the automatic deposits had been
for years.

By the time he filed in August 1999, there
was virtually nothing left but the money set aside in a separate account
for that year's college tuition for my elder daughter. And in September,
the automatic withdrawals kicked in, and of course, there was nothing there
to cover them.

He wrote to the Court, filed motions against
me, "outraged," that I'd been "trying to ruin his credit
by bouncing hundreds of dollars of checks all over town! Punish this irresponsible,
crazy woman, your honor, and did I mention she's also trying to destroy
the business and doing irreparable harm to this poor child?"

There is absolutely no way to stay out
of the way of that kind of strategy.

Worse, all of my professional work-product,
my resume, client lists, billing records, writing samples, booklets, brochures,
plans and programs I'd developed and produced over the course of 18 years
were indeed in the office and out of my reach. He had earlier taken my
printer from home to the office "to have it repaired." Ha.

Planning ahead, he of course had had the
locks changed on our office building just days after he filed. (That small
fact turned out to be a major factor in his undoing.) When I drove up to
the office that Saturday morning (no one about), I found my key no longer
worked. I returned home, where he was still allegedly living, and asked
him for a key. He of course refused and alluded to the fact that I'd 'made

I then asked if this meant he would be
releasing me from the non-compete clause in my employment contract. Looking
at me as though I'd suddenly lost my mind, he asked, "Why would you
think that? Of course not."

Me: "Obviously, if you're not going
to have the money deposited, I will have to work to pay the bills."

Him: "You can work. No one is stopping

Problem: The minute I were to take any
job doing what I do professionally, I am in violation of my non-compete
clause, and the contract says I then forfeit my interest in the business.
Such an unreasonable clause will likely never stand Court scrutiny, but
given my circumstances, and having no funds and only debts, I did not care
to be fighting yet ANOTHER lawsuit in another Court somewhere.

For the record, his strategy worked: my
assets have still not been released to me. My husband was, and remains,
in sole control of the rents and income from the building we co-own, of
the income, dividend, interest and profits of the businesses we own.

And in a clever coup, he hit me in March
2000 with a K-1 advising the IRS that my share of the business profits
the previous year was $161,000. I'd never seen a single penny. The IRS
would like my $55,000, please. And of course, that much reported income
guaranteed that I'd see NO financial aid for my daughter in college.

I was not aware at the time of the 'father's
rights' movement or their advice to him in this regard. Nor was I aware
that he had also been advised to pre-emptively alert the police and the
Court that I had 'made threats' not only against the property, but also,
he claimed in total and complete fabrication, against the poor terrified
(he said, and that was a mistake that came back to haunt him) employees!
That, he explained, 'forced' him to change the locks.

The only 'reasonable' thing to did when
faced with this crazy, unstable woman, right?

I could sense it in my bones: he's setting
me up for what he hopes will be a self-fulfilling prophesy. And he was
setting me up in order to help him obtain a restraining order against me,
which would then be further "proof" of my deteriorating mental
condition. I suppose I was lucky not to have been arrested that morning!

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