Domestic violence is defined as a pattern of power misuse by an abusive partner over another member of the relationship. This abuse can take many forms including physical assault, psychological manipulation, emotional control and financial coercion. This imbalance of power is a significant issue that complicates divorce proceedings, especially when children are involved. It can also make settlement negotiations difficult as the abuser will attempt to leverage their power over the victimized spouse in order to gain a more favorable outcome in the proceedings. Ultimately, this is a situation where family law’s role is paramount.
While the law requires that courts recognize and address domestic violence, there are gaps in the legal system’s response. Family courts’ mandatory mediation programs may not adequately protect victims of domestic violence or provide them with the information they need to safely navigate the process. Furthermore, there is little consistency across jurisdictions in how they approach mediation exemption for domestic violence cases.
Often, mediators lack training in the dynamics of domestic violence, which can result in them allowing an abuser to dominate a silent victim during mediation and to shape her outcome. Victims are frightened to report their abuse for fear of being shamed by their partner and have difficulty explaining the nature of their relationship to a mediator who is not familiar with the dynamics of domestic violence.
As a result, women are often forced to stay in abusive relationships. Economic dependence is a major factor, as it forces women to stay with their abusers in order to retain access to money and property that can be used for basic needs. Additionally, cultural values and beliefs encourage women to believe that they are to blame for their abuser’s behavior.
In addition to ensuring that victims have the necessary information they need to pursue legal avenues, such as getting orders of protection or filing for divorce, empowering victims with this knowledge is vital to their safety, independence and ability to rebuild their lives. This knowledge includes knowing the signs of abuse and recognizing what resources are available to help them.
In order to address the disproportionate number of DV cases in the legal system, it is important that family courts use their authority to exclude domestic violence cases from mandatory mediation. There are several potential models for doing this, including “total bar” and “good cause” exemptions. However, all of these options leave decisions about when to mediate up to the judge, resulting in potentially arbitrary uses of judicial discretion. Instead, it is recommended that all states employ uniform screening devices to detect domestic violence during mediation and to collect cross-referenceable data that can assist in policy-making and support a body of scientific evidence regarding domestic violence in mediation. This research could ultimately result in a model for mediation exemption that will enable family courts to better respond to domestic violence. This would help ensure that the legal system is truly a safe place for families.
It is important to document any type of abuse, both before and during a divorce. This will ensure that the court has all the necessary information when deciding what is fair. For those in need of legal advice, a divorce & family lawyer in Miami is an excellent source of information. The attorney can assist the client with determining the value of their assets and help them secure the amount they need from the court. Additionally, the attorney can help with the complicated legal processes such as filing for a summary divorce, which can expedite the entire process.