Relationships Quick Answers
How can parents in domestic violence situations prepare for divorce and custody decisions?
Getting an attorney
Many abused women fear losing custody of their
children to their abusive husbands. If any aspect of the
custody arrangement or visitation is being disputed, get
Be sure to ask about attorneys who offer their
services at a reduced fee or on a no-charge (pro bono)
basis. You can also check with your local legal services
office or the State Bar Association to see if you
qualify for reduced-fee representation. Sometimes they
give preference to victims of domestic violence.
If custody arrangements and visitation are being
disputed and you cannot afford an attorney, you can
represent yourself in court. Seek out expert advice from
local domestic violence programs, law school legal
clinics, and the State Bar Association. To reduce the
costs of representing yourself, ask the court to waive
fees you are unable to pay. Only represent yourself if
you have no way of getting an attorney.
Whether or not you are representing yourself in
court, you should keep copies and records of the
- Written records of all interactions with the abuser, including exact times and dates children are picked up and returned, dates and amounts of child support, and any violations of court orders of protection
- Documentation of abuse, including police reports, medical records, photographs, and claims for crime victim compensation
- Certified copy of marriage certificate
- Rent receipts, bank statements, utility bills, credit card records, children's report cards
These documents may be necessary when going to court over custody arrangements or visitation. You may also need them if there are future incidents of abuse or motions to modify custody or child support.
Ann Huey, Graduate Student, Human Development and Family Studies, University of Missouri-Columbia
Jennifer Hardesty, Postdoctoral Fellow, School of Nursing, Johns Hopkins University
Kim Leon, Former State Extension Specialist, Human Development and Family Studies, University of Missouri-Columbia
Last update: Wednesday, August 20, 2008