A new study has found that during separation or divorce, abusive partners are four times more likely to threaten harm to or removal of the children of the relationship.
“When we look at the separation process, we know that women are at an increased risk of violence and sexual assault,” said Brittany Hayes, assistant professor at the College of Criminal Justice. “But we need to keep an eye out for other forms of abusive behavior that are not as obvious.”
The study involved 339 abused mothers from the Chicago Women Health Risk Study which had surveyed over 700 women using health care services at a Chicago area clinic over a 10-month period. The findings showed that nearly 25 percent of abusers threatened to take the children away from their mothers, whereas eight percent threatened to harm the children.
Hayes said that victims of intimate partner abuse continue to suffer from abuse after separation, but few recognise the impact of indirect abuse on the children. The study found that threats against the children are an attempt to control the victim even after the abusive relationship has ended.
In a recent case in Australia, an abusive Iranian father who believes a woman’s role is to marry and serve her husband has been denied custody by a Family Court judge who said the man’s misogynistic attitudes may be culturally based.
The mother, known as Ms Ghasemi, and the father, known as Mr Zoka, are both Iranian and were married in 1994. They divorced in 1999, but remarried and had a child, K, in 2000. They divorced again in 2003, with the mother now living in Australia.
Under Iranian law, a child of divorced parents will live with the mother until the age of seven or until the mother remarries, whichever occurs first.
In 2007, a court order was made in Tehran granting custody to Mr Zoka, based on the mother’s remarriage. Ms Ghasemi moved to Australia in 2008 with her present husband.
In 2012, without notifying Mr Zoka, she applied for an Australian visa for K and brought the child to Australia. She then notified Mr Zoka and started court proceedings to gain full custody.
In his reasons for granting sole parental responsibility to Ms Ghasemi, Justice Tree said there were risks in K’s relationship with her father. “The father appears to operate from a position of male privilege, which no doubt is likely to be partly — or perhaps even wholly — culturally derived,” he said. “The transcript of the father berating the child when she was still living with him in Iran is replete with ample evidence of such a view, demonstrative that the father believes the role of a woman is to assist a man and to be subservient to him, to the point where he belittles the value of any education for the child as she will inevitably be married off at age 18 or 19.”
He found a real and substantial risk of Mr Zoka absconding with K if he was allowed to have her visit him overseas and said there was “potential for catastrophe” if K was required to live with the father again.
Ms Ghasemi alleged several types of family violence by Mr Zoka, including assault.
When a court is making a parenting order, the Family Law Act 1975 requires it to regard the best interests of the child as the most important consideration.
The Family Law Act makes clear that:
- both parents are responsible for the care and welfare of their children until the children reach 18, and
- there is a presumption that arrangements which involve shared responsibilities and cooperation between the parents are in the best interests of the child.
In deciding what is in the best interest of a child, the Act requires a court to take into account two tiers of considerations – primary considerations and additional considerations:
- The benefit to children of having a meaningful relationship with both parents.
- The need to protect the child from physical or psychological harm from being subjected to, or exposed to, abuse, neglect or family violence.
- The Court is required to give greater weight to the consideration of the need to protect children from harm.
(includes the following but this is not an exhaustive list)
- The child’s views and factors that might affect those views, such as the child’s maturity and level of understanding.
- The child’s relationship with each parent and other people, including grandparents and other relatives.
- The willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing relationship between the child and the other parent.
- The likely effect on the child of changed circumstances, including separation from a parent or person with whom the child has been living, including a grandparent or other relatives.
- Each parent’s ability (and that of any other person) to provide for the child’s needs.
- The right of an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child to enjoy his or her culture and the impact a proposed parenting order may have on that right.
- Any family violence involving the child or a member of the child’s family.
If you have any questions about separation, divorce, parenting arrangements or domestic violence, give one of our friendly, experienced family lawyers a call today. We offer a free, 10-minute phone consultation.