Damned If You Do, Damned If You Don't: Why Multi-Court-Involved Battered Mothers Just Can't Win
27 Pages Posted: 21 Sep 2017
Date Written: 2012
Being a good mother is difficult. Being a good mother and a victim of domestic violence is even harder. The different and often competing expectations placed on battered mothers in the juvenile (child welfare), civil/trial, criminal, and family court systems present a profound and befuddling problem. In some states, jurisdiction may be concurrently vested in more than one court -- generally, family and district, or district and juvenile. In other states, all courts are independent. And in other states, child welfare proceedings are heard in family court. Regardless of the details, in each state there are several court systems that affect battered mothers. Mothers who are concurrently involved in multiple court systems inevitably experience the differing expectations placed on them by different courts. “Failure to protect” laws are “child-centered,” whereas domestic violence laws tend to be “victim-centered.” While the intent behind each set of laws is protection, there may be imperfections in the way the laws were drafted and are applied.
In this Article, I intend to identify the difficulty and uniqueness of being both a mother and a victim of domestic violence, investigate the tension and conflict among different judicial systems, and proffer some suggestions for reform. I seek to make concrete recommendations as well as proffer ideas for systemic change; for example, the attorneys appointed to represent battered mothers in juvenile court should be attorneys with specific experience and training in domestic violence and in different judicial venues within the same state. I then analyze the feasibility of coordination among the different court systems and whether and how information can be shared without violating confidentiality.
Keywords: battered mothers, jurisdiction
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