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Helton Law Firm, PLLC

Abusive relationships create co-parenting challenges

Divorce offers some relief to people in Tennessee when they want to escape violent relationships, but co-parenting often keeps the door open to an abusive former partner. University researchers collected information from domestic violence victims during the first year after divorce to evaluate whether abuse continued as the former partners continued to raise children.

Interviews with mothers throughout the first year revealed differences in the severity of harassment based on the nature of the original abusive relationship. Domestic abuse typically represents either coercive controlling violence or situational couple violence. Ongoing efforts to control, intimidate and isolate a person define the controlling form of violence. Situational violence occurs when the partners argue and the dispute escalates to physical attacks.

People who endured controlling violence reported to the researchers more frequent conflict and harassment in the first year after separation than people who had been subjected to situational violence. Former partners known to engage in violent attempts to control showed a greater degree of unpredictability in their behavior. Abuse might fade and then flare back up during contact related to child rearing. Controlling violence also correlated with less co-parenting support from the abusive parent.

Negative emotions could accompany the negotiations of child custody during the first year after the decision to divorce. A person concerned about parental access and the safety of children might seek advice from an attorney. Information about parental rights could help a person make decisions regarding custody. An attorney may be able present evidence in court about an abusive parent, such as criminal charges, to influence custody orders. An attorney might also guide the development of a co-parenting plan that addresses important factors and creates a framework for dispute resolution. Any paperwork needed by the court could be prepared by an attorney.

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