Arizona's proposed child custody changes explore 'coercive control'


See more about coercive control here: "Coercive Control: How Men Entrap Women in Personal Life" http://bit.ly/fp1Pqh

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An interim legislative committee is crafting pioneering child custody measures that promise to result in a collision between groups advocating for victims of domestic violence and advocates for fathers' rights.

The most dramatic changes codify the concept of coercive control in domestic violence, which is a pattern of behavior used to dominate an ex-spouse, the other parent or intimate partner. A judge would determine custody and visitation based on whether there is a pattern of controlling behavior by one or both of the parents.

"The idea here is that a lot of domestic violence isn't necessarily charged, but also isn't necessarily a crime," said Elizabeth Ditlevson, deputy director of the Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence. "So, if I don't let you know anything about our finances, that's not a crime, but it might show the kind of partner I am, how I'm controlling, how my behavior towards the other partner may be (harming) the children in the home."

Only Colorado and Illinois have aspects of coercive control in their laws regarding child custody procedures, Ditlevson said.

Joan Meier, a George Washington University law professor who consulted on the proposed legislation, said the concept is "cutting edge" and there is universal agreement among experts in the field of domestic violence and advocates for child custody that coercive control separates true and false allegations, assesses serious danger and predicts future implications.

"Coercive control isn't in the statutes and isn't in the cases and yet it's what everyone knows on the ground is the key dynamic that makes a relationship really dangerous or a parent potentially really dangerous," Meier said. "Everyone is talking about it in literature and in the policy arenas."

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