As a divorce lawyer and mediator here in Los Angeles, California, I get the opportunity to see a lot of clients with varied backgrounds and personalities. There are common threads you can pick up on as a mediator that can help you diagnose each situation with just a short interview. This initial diagnosis allows me to cater the session to the couples needs and most of the time the sessions go extremely well, with both partners wanting to cooperate. Those are the good days! There are however, some show-stoppers: facts in a couples background that can’t be ignored. Especially in cases where kids and child custody are involved, couples with a history of domestic violence or abuse have to be handled differently. It’s a fact of life and a fact of our business. Our local domestic violence expert is Lynn Greenberg.
Divorce is stressful. Even if the couple seems to be getting along great in our mediation sessions and a husband or wife’s previous arrest for abuse was many moons ago, there’s always a chance that the stresses of the divorce and custody sharing situation will bring out the worst in people. I’ve been practicing here for over 20 years and I can tell you that even the most mild-mannered of couples can be put to the test during a custody battle.
Violence and abuse can take on many forms: from simple harrassment and name-calling to homicide. For our purposes, we will define physical abuse as slapping, punching, shoving, choking, biting, kicking or any restraint or physical touch that invokes fear or causes injury. Verbal abuse can consist of name-calling, verbal jabs and assaults that are used to attack one’s character or esteem. This includes any threats levied on one’s safety or the safety of one’s children, friends or relatives. The key is intent. The intent of any abuse is to invoke fear or physical pain, and often both. Abuse could be used to coerce or to restrain someone from acting. Public humiliation and stalking are also forms of abuse.
As anyone who has experienced physical and/or emotional abuse, it can be devastating, especially when it is committed by someone who you are close to. When someone knows you inside and out, they can use this knowledge against you to cause you severe emotional stress. People who habitually perpetrate abuse are referred to by the system as “batterers”. Their illicit behavior is most often termed domestic abuse, or domestic violence. Women are far more likely to be abused than men. In fact, the percentages are striking. Women are the victim in more than 95% of domestic abuse cases. The opposite still occurs! In fact, I have seen cases where the woman is the batterer many times. Often the man is afraid or is less likely to report this type of abuse, so these numbers could be even higher.
When dealing with child custody, you are dealing with an inherently sore subject. Emotions are always running high. The state can have a tough job in determining who is best fit to take care of the children, and working out a visitation plan or custody sharing plan is often a long and drawn out process. At Peace Talks Mediation Services, we make it our job to promote cooperation. We want to avoid these drawn out legal battles and keep everyone on the same page. We promote open discussion in our family mediation sessions. Divorce Attorneys, especially in Los Angeles, can be high-priced and ruthless. Mediators make sure that everyone knows everyone else’s motives and ensure that families can talk to each other in an open, non-binding forum.
Unfortunately, we live in a society where domestic violence is a fact of life for a lot of families. The number one priority in these instances is safety; safety for the children and for the whole family. Statistics say that almost 40% of all women who are murdered are done in by a boyfriend or spouse. Many are killed in their own house. Women who have just separated or announced the intent to separate from their spouse are most at risk. We may not be able to effectively erase these stats, but we can stay educated. Look on this site for more information about mediation and decide whether it is right for your situation.