If you’ve decided to leave an abusive relationship you are possibly doing the best, and hardest thing you will ever do.
If your abuser is using the broken custody court system against you it is harder still. You, and your children, may need help.
We have assembled some simple advice and links to get you started. Links to experts and organizations, online self help resources, and networking groups. You may feel alone, but you are part of a community of mothers, and others, working together. Helping each other help our children.
Find the Help You Need
Are your ready to leave your abuser? Find the legal and financial resources you may need and explore different advocacy groups who can assist with your transition.
Leaving Your Abuser
If you’re a parent in an abusive relationship, you’ve got a long road ahead of you. Here are guidelines and resources to help you.
As horrible as this sounds, there is an high probability that if you report child abuse allegations during a divorce or custody dispute the reports will be taken as evidence of “alienation”. That “alienation” can work against you much more harshly than actual abuse will be used against your ex.
Always take your child for treatment if they are injured. But if those injuries stem from abuse, consider taking your child to the emergency room. There doctors usually have more training in child abuse injuries; importantly you can’t be accused of “doctor shopping” in court either.
If your child discloses abuse to you, thank them, tell them you believe them and will try to keep them safe. Do not ask them to elaborate on what they said and seek immediate legal help. You’ll find a list of legal resources below.
You can directly report abuse through the National Domestic Violence Hotline by directly calling or texting “START” to 1.800.799.SAFE (7233). The Hotline is the only 24/7 center in the nation that has access to service providers and shelters across the United States. It continues to grow and explore new avenues of services for domestic abuse victims.
You may also visit the website for the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) where you’ll find an exhaustive list of hotlines dealing with domestic violence, child abuse, and sexual assault.
To report child abuse text or call Childhelp at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453). The Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline is a 24-hour hotline with resources to aid in every child abuse situation.
Keep a copy of any and all police reports, interactions with child protective services, orders of protection, etc.. Document and photograph bruises or injuries you or your children receive.
Get Off to a Strong Start
Very few divorces involve contested custody, so many lawyers without experience in domestic violence cases don’t understand the connection and don’t understand how to proceed.
It is strongly recommended that you find a lawyer with experience in domestic violence, contested custody and possibly child abuse as early in the process as you can. Sometimes your local domestic violence shelter can help, even if you don’t stay in the shelter itself.
Winning in Court
You’re going to need help.
As horrible as it sounds, if your partner has abused you and/or your child, the odds of you being able to protect your child from further abuse and trauma is low. To succeed in the legal system and protect your child you will need specialized help. Here are some resources that may be able to help. If your custody case involves child sexual abuse, visit this link.
BWJP staffs an 800 number to respond to callers from around the country. Advocates who answer these calls are familiar with a wide range of domestic-violence related issues, including criminal prosecution and custody-related matters.
A nonprofit organization based in San Rafael, California whose mission is to protect vulnerable children in the family court system and to strengthen the integrity of all courts by creating judicial accountability.
advocacy groups & organizations
The CPPA was formed in 1998 to ensure there would be an end to abuse in our family courts and children could be safe at home. Its mission is to protect children from incest and family violence through research, education and advocacy.
The Courageous Kids Network is a growing group of young people, whose childhoods were shattered by inhumane court rulings, which forced us to live with our abusive parent, while restricting or sometimes completely eliminating contact with our loving and protective parent.
Your first priority needs to be the physical safety of you and your children, and you’ve done the right thing by taking the initiative to leave your abuser. However, the road to recovery is long from over. There will be obstacles you face along the way, but you will overcome them. Here are some resources to guide and inspire you.
You are not alone
Use these first hand accounts of getting past domestic abuse empower your own. Learn how other mothers have persevered and write your own future.
Healthy Relationship & Healing Resources
Books for Parents
Books for Children
MedCircle brings you engaging mental health interviews with world-class psychiatrists & psychologists every single week. The MedCircle doctors provide in-depth mental health advice packed with actionable takeaways and clear explanations of the most complicated mental health topics.
Co-Parenting with your abuser
Support Groups and Events
Family Court Custody Crisis
New research from the Department of Justice confirms what many mothers know already. The family court custody crisis means too many courts are making dangerous decisions that send children of divorce to live with violent domestic abusers and child molesters. Studies show this is the rule, not the exception.
What is a Protective Mother?
A protective mother is a mother who has a child with an abusive partner, and during the divorce or custody process, finds her abusive partner threatening to take custody of her child. Often, but not always, these cases involve child abuse as well. The term could be applied to a case where there is child abuse, no domestic violence, and the abuser still gets unsupervised time with his children.