Custody and visitation decisions are among the most difficult that judges make. Whether by statute, case law, or custom, all state and tribal courts employ some form of the best interest of the child standard in making these decisions. A child’s physical, emotional, and psychological safety are always in his or her best interest.
The NCJFCJ provides judges with tools designed to help maximize a child’s safety within the issues of custody and visitation that can help:
- Assess whether a child or parent is at risk for physical, emotional, or mental abuse.
- Review the evidence so that the safety of the child is the primary factor in determining
his or her best interest.
- Evaluate safety risks at various stages of a case, from initial filing through post-disposition.
- Make findings that explain and prioritize safety concerns.
- Draft custody and visitation orders that maximize family safety.
The NCJFCJ’s Resource Center on Domestic Violence: Child Protection and Custody, recognized nationally for its leadership on issues of custody in the context of domestic violence, provides support and consultation around custody and parenting time decision-making, as well as safe options for victims of domestic violence and their children.
To help survivors of domestic violence who have been unable to find an attorney (or who lost their attorney when they ran out of money) and who must now go forward with their cases alone, we have developed a series of short guides, in English and Spanish, on specific topics related to a custody case, such as basics about family court, presenting evidence, mediation, and creating a safe parenting plan.
Self-represented Litigants Project
The Self-represented Ligitants Project helps survivors in custody cases and focuses on developing a resource and workshop curricula tailored to state and local law and practice, which will be piloted in two to three sites in 2020. The resource and curricula are currently being developed, and the site selection process is close to completion.
The NCJFCJ’s Family Court Enhancement Project (FCEP) was a demonstration initiative funded by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women (OVW). The project was designed to build the capacity of the four FCEP sites’ court systems to improve custody decision-making in the context of domestic violence. The five-year project culminated in many lessons and tools, available to courts and communities here.
Training and Technical Assistance for Custody Evaluators
The NCJFCJ has partnered with the Battered Women’s Justice Project (BWJP) and the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC) to develop and provide training and other resources for custody evaluators that build upon the AFCC’s Guidelines for Examining Intimate Partner Violence: A Supplement to the AFCC Model Standards of Practice for Child Custody Evaluation.
The NCJFCJ and its partners developed a curriculum whose focus and purpose are to provide evidence-based training to custody evaluators to, among other things, design and implement a safe and effective evaluation process and discern, describe, and address the effects of abuse on children and on parenting. Additional resources, such as webinars and other training tools, also provide additional information and technical assistance to custody evaluators to better ensure safe outcomes for victims and their families.
Since its inception, the Justice for Families: Supervised Visitation and Safe Exchange Grant Program has helped more than 20,000 families by providing supervised visitation and exchange services for families experiencing domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, stalking, or in cases involving allegations of child sexual abuse. This website is dedicated to supporting Supervised Visitation Program grantee communities and allied professionals who are providing these important services.