Family Court Custody Crisis

Help for Protective Mothers
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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.

We hope this page will help you get started. You’ll also find many articles on the custody court crisis on our blog.

Stop Abuse Campaign

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.

Have you taken the steps to leave your abuser? You are not alone. Find stories and advice from mothers who have been in your shoes, as well as upcoming support groups and events.

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.

Reporting Abuse

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.

Save Everything

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.

command the courtroom

Command the Courtroom

A blog from a lawyer that provides good information about the basics of family court including the basics about how to present and how to appear reasonable.
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The Proper Person

A YouTube channel with recordings of actual family court cases to help you prepare.
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The Legal Project

Provides free consultations and pro bono/reduced fee representation in their offices and at domestic violence programs.
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DV Leap

DV LEAP provides legal representation for family court cases that made it to the appellate court – pro se resources.
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Legal Momentum

Legal Momentum writes amicus briefs and have a legal library for protective mothers.
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Mad Moms

Mad Moms provides family court consulting, coaching, and investigative services for those who are in the middle of a “high conflict” divorce/custody case.
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Battered Women’s Justice Project

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.

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Legal Resource Center on Violence Against Women

Obtains legal representation for domestic violence survivors in interstate custody cases and provides technical assistance to domestic violence victim advocates and attorneys.
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The Eastside Legal Assistance Program (ELAP)

The ELAP provides free civil legal services in communities throughout King County in Seattle. They work with individuals and families who can’t afford a lawyer.
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Child Justice

Provides pro bono legal services to protect children “lost in the system” after exposure to family violence, physical/sexual abuse, substance addictions or neglect.
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The Liz Library

An extensive, free legal library dedicated to contested custody issues. Contains information, research, scholarship, and arguments pertaining to public policy and legal issues.
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National Family Court Watch Project

Provides trained court watchers to observe court proceedings, increase accountability and document procedural mistakes.
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Pro Bono Net

Pro Bono Net brings the power of the law to all by building cutting-edge digital tools and fostering collaborations with the nation’s leading civil legal organizations..

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Justice For Children

Justice for Children works closely with adults trying to protect an abused or neglected child, and provide assistance and guidance through the custody court system.
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Center for Judicial Excellence

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.

Financial Resources

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Divorce and Your Money

A YouTube channel to help you avoid costly divorce mistakes.
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Domestic Shelters

This site makes finding the right shelter and information about domestic violence easier.
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National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV)

The NNEDV provides an easy to use resource library for your needs.
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Battered Women’s Justice Project

Search through the Battered Women’s Justice Project’s resource center for answers to your questions.

expert Resources

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Evan Stark, MSW, PhD

Evan Stark is a sociologist, forensic social worker, a widely published author and an award-winning researcher with an international reputation for his innovative work on the legal, policy and health dimensions of interpersonal violence, including its effects on children.
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Laura Richards, BSc, MSc. MBPsS

Laura is a renowned international expert on domestic violence, stalking, sexual violence, homicide and risk assessment. Trained by world leaders as a criminal behavioral analyst, Laura has applied her psychology degrees to analyze violent crime from a behavioral and preventative perspective.
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Joan Meier

Joan Meier is a Professor of Clinical Law and Director of the National Family Violence Law Center at the George Washington University Law School. In 2003, she founded the Domestic Violence Legal Empowerment and Appeals Project (DV LEAP), a nonprofit providing pro bono appeals in domestic violence cases.
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Kathleen Russell

Kathleen Russell is the Center for Judicial Excellence’s Founding Executive Director. She has worked with the organization’s Board of Directors since 2006 to expose and fix the family court crisis that is devastating millions of families.
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Lundy Bancroft

Lundy Bancroft is an author, workshop leader, and consultant on domestic abuse and child maltreatment. His work focuses on training professionals on best practices for intervening in domestic abuse situations and supporting healing and empowerment for abused women, with an emphasis on advocating for the human rights of mothers and their children.
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Barry Goldstein

Barry Goldstein was an attorney representing victims of domestic violence for 30 years. Currently, he serves as an expert witness and consultant for these same cases, and provides domestic violence workshops and trainings particularly related to custody issues.

advocacy groups & organizations

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Asian & Pacific Islander Institute on Domestic Violence

While its focus is specifically on interpersonal and sexual violence in Asian-American community, this site has a wealth of information useful to immigrants and those dealing with an international marriage.
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Family Justice Center Alliance

Family Justice Centers are multi-agency, multi-disciplinary co-located service centers that provide services to victims of inter-personal violence including, intimate partner violence, sexual assault, child abuse, elder or dependent adult abuse, and human trafficking.
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Victim Connect Resource Center

Provide confidential resources and referrals to empower crime victims to regain control, navigate their options, and determine their next steps.
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Women Against Abuse

Women Against Abuse, a 501(c)3 nonprofit agency, is Philadelphia’s leading domestic violence advocate and service provider and among the largest domestic violence agencies in the country.
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California Protective Parents Association (CPPA)

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.

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Courageous Kids Network

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.

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The Court Said

The Court Said is the global campaign for survivor family justice and is committed to changing the way domestic abuse is treated in the Family Court, so survivor families can look forward to safer futures.
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The court said usa

The Court Said USA is the national campaign to improve the way domestic abuse and child abuse is treated in family court, and is part of the global campaign for family court reform.
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Children Against Court Appointed Child Abuse

CA3 is an organization founded by adult Children who suffered Court Appointed Child Abuse.

Post-separation support

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

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Blended Family Coaching

Mike and Kim are Stepfamily Coaches. They help struggling, but motivated couples living in blended family dynamics to gain clarity about the issues and lead their homes confidently using practical strategies.
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Dating Radar

A relationship manual intended to help the unwary avoid the land mines that litter the dating landscape by Megan Hunter and Bill Eddy.
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Think Unbroken

One-on-one online trauma, child abuse, and childhood PTSD mentorship and life coaching from Michael Anthony, who understands and has overcome trauma in his own childhood.
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Unf*ck Your Brain

Kara Loewentheil is a Yale and Harvard Law educated, former women’s rights lawyer turned life coach. She’s on a mission to free women from the shackles of social conditioning and make serious change lighthearted and fun.

Books for Parents

Books for Children

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My Parents Are Divorced Too: A Book for Kids by Kids

Melanie Ford, Steven Ford, Annie Ford, & Jann Blackstone-Ford

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Two Homes

Claire Masurel
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The Invisible String

Patrice Karst

Documentaries

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No Way Out But One

From award winning producers Garland Waller and Barry Nolan comes a documentary on the first American woman to be granted asylum by the Netherlands on the grounds of domestic violence.
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Allen v. Farrow

The four-part documentary series goes behind the years of sensational headlines to reveal the private story of one of Hollywood’s most notorious and public scandals: the accusation of sexual abuse against Woody Allen involving Dylan, his then 7-year-old daughter with Mia Farrow.
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What Doesn’t Kill Me

A film about domestic violence and the battle for custody.

Podcasts

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Save Your Sanity

This podcast offers episodes filled with the expert insights, validation, strategies, and support you need to recognize, manage, and recover from relationships with the relentlessly difficult, toxic, and often disturbing people, which host, Dr. Rhoberta Shaler, calls Hijackals.
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Divorce and Your Money

Join Shawn Leamon, MBA and Certified Divorce Financial Analyst as he breaks down divorce with practical advice to protect your financial interests. Get your questions answered, checklist your way to financial freedom, and safeguard your new future with an expert’s help… because you and your family are worth it.
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The Michael Unbroken Podcast | CPTSD and Trauma Coach

Trauma coach, mentor, and author, Michael Unbroken dives into what’s next for trauma survivors. This podcast features conversation around childhood trauma, CPSTD, Mental Health, mindset, and Healing.
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Heal, Survive & Thrive!

Stephanie Lyn is a Life & Relationship Coach helping people that have recently gone through a divorce or ended a relationship. She teaches the process of healing, surviving, and THRIVING in their new life.
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UnF*ck Your Brain

This podcast is all about overcoming social conditioning, triumphing over life’s challenges, and transforming the self-critical thoughts that are stressing you out and undermining your confidence and happiness.

YouTube Channels

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One Mom's Battle

Divorcing a narcissist or experiencing a child custody battle? You aren’t alone. The Family Court system is ill equipped to handle high conflict custody battles when a narcissist or sociopath is part of the equation. This can be an isolating journey that very few people understand. Tina Swithin understands your battle cry.
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MedCircle

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.

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Help for Toxic Relationships

Dr. Rhoberta Shaler specializes in empowering the partners, exes, and adult children of the relentlessly difficult, toxic people she calls #Hijackals to recognize emotional abuse, verbal abuse and coercive control that you may be experiencing, to realize its effects, and transform your life.
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We Need to Talk with Kris Godinez

Kris Godinez is a renowned speaker and author as well as the host of her weekly YouTube program. She is passionate about removing the taboos that have surrounded the topic of domestic violence and abuse. Her approach helps survivors thrive by confronting their patterns and moving forward with strength and courage.
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Stephanie Lyn Coaching

Stephanie is a Life Coach, an entrepreneur, and an influencer who is passionate about spreading positivity and empowering women all around the world. She shares everything from self-help and relationship advice, to fashion, lifestyle and beauty content.
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Michele Lee Nieves Coaching

Michele Lee Nieves is a life coach dedicated to helping people overcome childhood PTSD, heal narcissistic abuse & upgrade subconscious programming so you can be your authentic self instead of who the trauma turned you into!
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Inner Integration

The Inner Integration channel was created by Meredith Miller to help you in your recovery after narcissistic abuse so you can bridge the gap between the trauma and purpose.
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Tracy Malone

Tracy Malone is a surTHRIVER of narcissistic abuse and founded this Narcissist Abuse Support channel to help victims of abuse understand and get educated on what narcissistic abuse is and learn the tools to heal. This is her journey of healing, sharing, exposing, teaching, and learning to be vulnerable.
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Dr. Judy WT-Freud!

Get on the couch with Dr Judy Rosenberg WTF (What the Freud) every week Thursdays at 8:00 p.m. (Pacific). Learn to Think Like a Shrink and enjoy Shrink that Tune!
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Dr. Les Carter

A place to grow, learn and find healing in your relationships.

Co-Parenting with your abuser

Co-parenting with your abuser can be difficult. However, if the court allows it and your child’s life is not in danger, you must oblige. Here are some resources to make the process a little easier on you.
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Co-parenting with High Conflict Training

OnlineParentingPrograms.com is dedicated to providing innovative online parent education classes for families in transition. Their programs foster parents learning with opportunities to build, enhance, and modify parenting styles in today’s diverse society.
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BIFF for CoParent Communication: Your Guide to Difficult Texts, Emails, and Social Media Posts

A book by Bill Eddy, Anette Burns, and Kevin Chafin. The BIFF method is for those dealing with a difficult co-parent and with those who may have a high conflict personality, while also helping those who don’t.
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OMB's Canned Responses

If you are involved in a high-conflict divorce or child custody situation, communication is critical. Use these responses to respond unemotionally to toxic communication.

Co-Parenting Apps

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Our Family Wizard

With OFW, your schedule, expenses, and communication are contained within one app, so you can solve shared custody challenges faster and without confusion. That means less conflict and more energy to focus on your children.
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Peaceful Parent

Peaceful Parent is a messaging tool for co-parents that creates harmony by giving users the ability to set boundaries around communication while maintaining the flow of information about child-related matters.
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TalkingParents

TalkingParents provides co-parents with a secure, accountable, and complete record of all communication. Their service is easy to use and includes payments, calling, messaging, planning, and coordination tools for organized co-parenting.
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Custody X Change

Custody X Change is a powerful tool that helps parents create and track professional-quality parenting plans.
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AppClose

AppClose allows co-parents, stepparents, family members, childcare providers, professionals, and other third parties communicate, manage tasks, share appointments and events, track expenses, and send & receive money for reimbursement obligations.
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CoParently

Divorced and separated parents can better manage child custody and co-parenting arrangements with CoParently an easy-to-use, online co-parenting tools.
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Custody Connection

Custody Connection is an easily viewable calendar, where parents can sync with each other to create, manage, trade days and view their custody schedule in one central location, anytime, anywhere they go with their iPhone, iTouch or iPad
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Parentship

Parentship is an app for many kinds of families. It aspires to help families make scheduling simpler. Parentship helps communicate with less friction, keep track of and share custody calendars, expenses and important documents, and focus on shared commitment to raise children in the best way possible.
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2Houses

2houses helps separated parents to communicate and become more organized for the well-being of their children.
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weparent

WeParent is a mobile app that helps all parents – but especially, divorced and separated co-parents. It helps you manage all aspects of parenting communication and logistics:

Support Groups and Events

Connect with other mothers who know what you’re going through.
blended-family

One Mom’s Battle (main FB page)

A public page for those experiencing post separation abuse and narcissistic abuse while navigating a child custody battle in the family court system.
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Parallel Parenting Because of a Narcissist Group

A Facebook support group for those co-parenting with a narcissistic abuser.
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Battered Mothers Custody Conference

​​​​​The Battered Mothers Custody Conference (BMCC) is an annual weekend event dedicated to educating the general public about the serious legal and psychological challenges faced by battered women who seek protection for themselves and their children from the family/divorce court system.
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Americas Conference to End Coercive Control (ACECC)

Americas Conference to End Coercive Control was founded by advocates wanting to expand the education, research, and legislative initiatives of trauma and coercive control.

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.

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