For the past two legislative sessions, ICADV has opposed bills that would require divorcing parents to split their time equally with their children. If they want to construct a different schedule, they would be required to prove to the court why one parent or the other isn’t fit to have equal time. There is nothing in the proposed legislation that addresses any decision making responsibility regarding education, medical treatment, faith practices or the like.
On the surface this sounds reasonable and fair. However, any judge or family law attorney will tell you that rarely do parents who are going their separate ways can calmly discuss their child’s needs. What is best for the child often gets lost amidst the hurt and emotions being felt and expressed by the adults.
20 years after the ACES studied was conducted by Dr. Vincent Felitti at Kaiser Permente our collective understanding of the effects on children of watching and hearing domestic violence has just recently begun to be better understood. Being raised in a home where there is high conflict between the adults, let alone emotional, financial and physical violence, creates significant trauma on the child witness. Continuing that struggle after separation does not reduce the effects.
Advocates that work regularly with victims of domestic violence observe that judges in family court often refuse to issue orders of protection that include children because they think these matters belong in family court. This happens in spite of significant evidence that the children are being emotionally and physically harmed. Many professionals that work in the courts still do not grasp the effects of domestic violence on children living in those homes.
In 2016, the Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act was significantly rewritten in order to address a number of issues that produced contention and extensive court action between parties seeking divorce. These changes included a more flexible but adaptable review for determining parenting time for both parents with a focus on best interest of the child. This best interest concept is designed to place the safety and security of the child above the interests of the adults. Sometimes the courts have to decide because battling parents cannot.
ICADV supports the creation of trainings that improve the understanding of domestic violence for judges, guardian ad litem and the private bar in order to better protect all victims and hold all abusers accountable. We support allowing the parents who can make decisions in the best interests for their child to be able to do so. When this is not possible we support allowing the courts to make the best decisions possible dependent on the individual circumstances of the family using the list of determinants in current law. We support giving the current practice time to determine what if any changes are required in the best interest of children.