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Family violence may continue after divorce

A recent study found significant differences in how parents in California and across the nation raise their children after ending violent marriages. According to the research published in the Journal of Family Psychology, parents who were victims of coercive controlling violence were less able to successfully co-parent their children in the first year after the divorce than those who experienced situational violence.

Coercive controlling violence was described as a pattern of controlling behavior, isolation and financial abuse. Situational violence tends to occur when couples don’t have good communication or conflict management skills. In these cases, arguments tend to lead to physical violence by one or both spouses.

After multiple interviews with 135 mothers who were recently divorced, researchers found that those who had been involved in situational couple violence received better support from their ex-spouses. Although they continued to experience some conflict and harassment, they were more likely to be able to work out their differences after the divorce than those involved in coercive controlling relationships.

Women in the latter group tended to have unpredictable lives even after their divorces were final. Although they continued to experience harassment and even violence, they typically wanted their former spouses to have visitation rights and be actively involved in their children’s lives. This study suggests that further research is needed to find ways to support women who are committed to co-parenting despite the abuse they may have to endure.

Whether former spouses intend to co-parent or not, child custody is a common point of contention in divorce cases. By choosing an attorney who understands family violence, women may be able to get advice about how to keep themselves and their children safe after the divorce.