Family Court Custody Crisis

If a child survives an abusive household, and many don’t, the cost to U.S. society is $401 billion each year.

The lifetime cost to the child is beyond measure.


Most divorces are settled reasonably amicably, at least as far as the children are concerned. Only 3.8% of divorces result in contested custody. These are the ones often described as ‘High Conflict” cases.  

In other words, in more than 9 out of 10 divorce cases, an agreement is reached on what’s best for the children without a judge having to decide. That’s a good job because you can see below in research from the Department of Justice that custody court judges are getting custody decisions dangerously wrong most of the time.

It’s this 3.8% of divorces where the custody court crisis lies.

These divorces mostly involve domestic violence, child sexual abuse, or both. The media cover many of these cases, the murder-suicides we hear of are almost inevitably contested custody cases. Murdered children, the ultimate punishment for a woman who dares to leave.

The Saunders Study, commissioned by the DOJ, shows the root of the problem. Our custody court judges hang on to outdated beliefs and have built a cadre of experts around them who reinforce their views. In a family court where a judge holds absolute power, the easiest route to success lies in a similar understanding, not just of the law.

Unbelievable? Watch the videos.

The problem

What experts see as Domestic Violence cases Courts see as High Conflict cases. Most divorces, including high conflict ones, normally settle without a trial. Lawyers are expensive, teapots are not; but when parents are fighting over the children, that’s less than 4 in every 100 cases, you’ll nearly always find Domestic Violence or Coercive Control.

These cases are the most dangerous for children. Dangerous for the non violent parent. And incidentally, the most dangerous call out for the police. These are the cases where “She had no right to leave.”

These are the cases our Custody Courts get wrong.

Most cases end with abusers winning custody or unsupervised visitation.

Most cases end badly for children.

The reason

There are many reasons that courts make the wrong decisions. Courts are conservative, not radical and studies from the Department of Justice demonstrate the depth of misogyny that influences cases.

The Saunders Study demonstrates how judges, and those that advise them, are hanging onto old and dangerous assumptions that put children at huge risk.

Assumptions like a parent alienating a child against an abusive parent being more harmful than the abuse itself. So called Parental Alienation Syndrome that experts, including the American Psychiatric Association, say isn’t a syndrome at all.

  • Dangerous Decisions: Abuse Cases 69% 69%
  • Dangerous Decisions: Sexual Abuse Cases 81% 81%

Want to be kept in the loop?

If our work is close to your heart, please sign up below so we can keep you up-to-date with the latest information.

We won't spam you but will tell you about the latest news and campaigns in your state. Once you sign up, you can change your profile to subscribe to any of our newsletters to learn more about ACEs, resources for protective parents and survivors, and the work we are doing around the nation.

And of course, you can also unsubscribe at any time.

Reach Us

Contact us today.

Stop Abuse Campaign
1001 Grand Concourse, #7D
Bronx, New York 10452


Leave A Message

7 + 8 =