Illinois Extension study identifies ways to promote safety among divorcing partners, children

In divorce cases, custody of children and other provisions decided in court can often hinge on whether the separating partners have a history of violence. Yet courts are not always made aware ofintimatepartner violence,potentially creating safety issuesfor parents and their children. In Illinois, Extension staff wanted to find out when and how incidents of violence were reported and how that information affected outcomes for custody and visitation of children. In examining 620 divorce cases, they found that violence often goes unreported and unaddressed. The Extension study leaders point out that screening for intimate partner violencein family courts is currently required by only one state.Relying on self-disclosure can mean courts don’t find out about violence, as some people—especially if they are being harassed or threatened by a partner —aren’tcomfortable reporting the issue. They also found caseswhere violence had beendocumented in previous court proceedings, but the information was minimized or ignored in the divorce. The study suggests that family courts introduce additional screening measures for violence and require judges to attendtraining to recognizesigns ofintimate partner violence, something that only a fewstates currently mandate.

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