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         Case Studies

Related Research

Research Links

Protective Parents Survey

CWP Final Report with Graphs, Updated (2016)

Motion Filed in Limine to Exclude Expert Testimony (2016)

Crisis in Family Courts Lessons from Turned Around Cases

LSA Final 2015

PA Minnesota article

Rates Batterers Receive Custody

Froyd Dissertation - Victim Safety/Retalitory Violence After Family Court (2011)


Petition on Human Rights

Protective Parents Survey

Geraldine Butts Stahly, Ph.D.
See research thesis on Custody Ooutcomes for Protective Parents in Cases with Child Sexual Abuse
with it's accompanying signature cover page
by Nancy Steubner, M.A.,

There appears to be an increase in contentious custody disputes between divorcing parents. Some mental health professionals have suggested that this has created an "epidemic" of false abuse reports as a strategy of accusing parents. Other professionals report evidence of an increase in the labeling of parents who report child abuse or domestic violence during custody disputes such that parents who attempt to protect their children from abuse may actually lose custody as a result. Several high profile cases have led to increased public attention, and fractious public debates have erupted between groups supporting the alleged perpetrators of abuse as victims of malicious accusations on one hand, and groups supporting the reporting parent as the victim of malicious psychiatric labeling on the other.

Empirical studies have established the increase in child abuse in families in which there is domestic violence, and the increase in custody challenges by fathers who have a history of battering. There is increasing recognition that custody disputes are an extension of the power and control tactics of domestic violence, and battered women's problems of child custody are now well-established and have been addressed in many states by changes in family law statutes. A few studies document the custody problems of battered women, who make up a subset of "protective parents." However, there have been no studies to date on the extent of the overall phenomenon of "protective parents," the psychiatric labeling of protective behavior, or the extent to which protective behavior appears to be justified by the circumstances and evidence in custody cases.

The current study is the pilot results of a national survey undertaken to study the issue of protective parents. Sixty-seven self-identified "protective parents," male and female, completed a 101-item questionnaire describing aspects of their custody disputes. The pilot data to be presented includes the systematic documentation of the phenomenon of protective parents by including demographic factors, economic impact, and the full variety of protection issues including the range of allegations by both parents and others, the variety of expert examinations, diagnosis and testimony, family court response, and outcomes for children.

The following information is preliminary data from a national survey sponsored by California Protective Parents Association and Our Children Our Future Charitable Foundation. Self-identified "protective parents" completed a 101-item questionnaire describing aspects of their custody dispute. The following information is pilot data from the first 67 participants, as of May 2003.

Participants: 66 mothers; 1 father
105 children involved (59 girls, 46 boys)
253 attorneys involved (average of 4 per participant)

Total spent on cases: $4,618,150.00:
Average per case: $74,000.00

90% of mothers were primary caretakers and had custody at separation
87% of mothers reported domestic violence
58% of mothers continued to experience violence after separation
76% of fathers threatened to take custody of the children

89% of protective parents reported allegations of abuse in court:
  • 76% reported allegations of child sexual abuse were raised in court
  • 67% reported allegations of child physical abuse were raised in court
  • 58% reported medical/physical evidence of the abuse
  • 76% reported other corroboration of the abuse
  • 23% of children received Victims of Crime funds for related therapy

65% of protective parents were advised not to report abuse (due to the risk of losing custody) This advice was given by:
  • attorneys - 55%
  • mediators - 10%
  • court personnel - 7%
  • advocates - 7%
  • others - 23% (AFDC worker, police, psychologist, judge, family court advisor, shelter staff and 11 other protective parents)

88% had psychological evaluations:
  • The average cost of the evaluation was $6,541.00
  • 61% were not permitted to see the evaluation/recommendation
  • 96% believed court personnel ignored or minimized allegations of abuse
  • 48% of mothers were labeled with "PAS" (Parental Alienation Syndrome)
  • 36% were labeled as "alienators"
  • 69% lost custody as a result of the psychological evaluation

84% reported they were denied adequate presentation of information or witnesses
98% believed they were discredited for trying to protect their children
67% lost custody in ex parte proceedings
59% lost custody in proceedings with no court reporter present

67% were threatened with sanctions if they "talked publicly" about the case

OUTCOMES (Some participants reported more than one outcome)

Father has custody; mother has unsupervised visitation - 48%
Mother has custody; father has unsupervised visitation - 17%

Father has custody; mother has supervised visitation - 29%
Mother has custody; father has supervised visitation - 3%

Father has custody; mother has no contact with the child/ren - 29%
Mother has custody; father has no contact with the child/ren - 0%

Mother and father have joint custody - 17%

91% of mothers believe their children are still being abused
67% have stopped reporting abuse for fear that contact with their children will be terminated

75% of the children continue to report abuse
81% of mothers no longer believe they can protect their children

This survey project is ongoing. Please contact us at cppa001@aol.com if you would like to receive a survey form by mail, or get the survey form online at the Mothers of Lost Children site.

Child Custody Evaluatorsí Beliefs About Domestic Abuse Allegations

See the below linked research article to read about evaluator's beliefs and their relationship to evaluator demographics, background, domestic violence knowledge and custody-visitation recommendations.

Child Custody Evaluatorsí Beliefs About Domestic Abuse Allegations

Supported by grants, the final technical report from this project was submitted to the National Institute of Justice, U.S. Department of Justice on October 31, 2011. Principal Investigator was Daniel G. Saunders, Ph.D., and co-investigators, Kathleen C. Faller, Ph.D. and Richard M. Tolman, Ph.D. University of Michigan, School of Social Work.

Report of the Federal Partners Committee on Women and Trauma

Linked below, is A Federal Intergovernmental Partnership on Mental Health Transformation, A Working Document.

Women and Trauma

Research Summaries

  • December, 2002, Int J Eat Disord 32(4):441-8
    Familial Correlates of Extreme Weight Control Behaviors Among Adolescents
    By Fonseca H, Ireland M, Resnick MD

    Boys' risk factors [associated with extreme weight control] included high parental supervision/monitoring and sexual abuse history. . . . The only significant risk factor for girls was sexual abuse history.

    OBJECTIVE: To identify familial factors associated with extreme weight control among adolescents.

    METHOD: Analysis of a comprehensive 1996 health survey of Connecticut students. Familial factors among extreme dieters who deliberately vomited, took diet pills, laxatives, or diuretics were compared with youth reporting none of these behaviors, using logistic regression controlling for age and body mass index.

    RESULTS: Nearly 7% of adolescents reported engaging in extreme weight control behaviors. Boys' risk factors included high parental supervision/monitoring and sexual abuse history. Protective factors included high parental expectations, maternal presence, and connectedness with friends and other adults. The only significant risk factor for girls was sexual abuse history. Protective factors included family connectedness, positive family communication, parental supervision/monitoring, and maternal presence.

    CONCLUSIONS: Extreme dieting appears to be less an expression of body composition than of psychosocial issues. That connectedness to family, other adults, and friends is protective further demonstrates interrelationships of extreme weight control behaviors with family/social issues.

    From: Adolescent Health Outpatient Clinic, Pediatric Division, Hospital de Santa Maria, Lisboa, Portugal.

  • February 1992, Pediatrics, Vol. 89, No. 2
    Genital Injuries Resulting from Sexual Abuse:
    A Longitudinal Study

    By John McCann, MD; Joan Voris, MD; and Mary Simon, MD

    Abstract: Three children who incurred genital injuries as a result of sexual assaults were followed up on a longitudinal basis to document the anatomical changes which ensued. The subjects, who were 4 months, 4 years 5 months, and 9 years of age, were followed up for periods ranging from 14 months to 3 years. A multi-method examination approach and a 35-mm camera mounted on a colposcope were used to examine and record their injuries. Signs of the acute damage disappeared rapidly, and the wounds healed without complications.

    Following the resolution of the acute injuries, the changes created by the trauma remained relatively stable throughout the prepubertal years. The most persistent findings were irregular hymenal edges and narrow rims at the point of the injury. Over time the jagged, angular margins smoothed off. Disruption of the hymen exposed underlying longitudinal intravaginal ridges whose hymenal attachments created mounds or projections. There was little apparent scar formation. Even the injuries to the posterior fourchettes healed with minimal scar tissue and left only the slightest evidence of the trauma. With the onset of puberty, the hymenal changes in the oldest subject were obscured by the hypertrophy of this membrane. An examination technique which used a Q-tip to separate the redundant tissues demonstrated that the signs of trauma had survived.

    Pediatrics 1992;89:307-317; child sexual abuse, hymen, sexual abuse, prepubertal genital injuries, healing process.

more to come...)