Thursday, October 27, 2011

Proposed One-Year Waiting Period for Divorcing Parents

For the women we serve, a mandatory one-year waiting period for a divorce is a terrible idea.

Once women gather the courage to leave an abusive relationship, they take their first steps on what is often a very long journey before they are actually free of their former partner. That journey is longest for mothers who are leaving a husband. Divorce from an abusive partner is often fraught with complications, and men with a history of using violence are more likely to end up with custody of their children (shared or otherwise) because they are much more likely to fight for it as a way to continue contact with their former victim. Women who were married to the father of their children sometimes never truly get away, because they are forced by the courts to co-parent with their abusive former partner and, therefore, must continue to stay in contact with him. Adding another hoop, another arbitrary length of time during which he can try to convince or scare her into coming back to him, is, at best, counter-productive and, at worst, incredibly harmful.

These statutes often claim to have a domestic violence waiver, but domestic violence is often hard to prove. It usually comes down to her word against his, especially if she was never able or willing (because of fear, immigration status, or some other reason) to contact law enforcement to create a paper trail.

Whatever the reasoning behind proposed guidelines such as these, the reality is that battered women don't need any more obstacles in their path to safety.

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