For some separated couples in California and around the country, intimate partner violence is a common occurrence during marriage and after the separation. Interestingly, the type of violence that occurred has a significant impact on the ability for parents to make child custody arrangements and effectively co-parent their children following a separation.

Researchers at the University of Illinois identified two different types of violence among partners. Situational couple violence occurs when an argument escalates into violence. The argument could be from any type of negative occurrence such as a spouse learning of an affair or a difficult financial matter. The other type of violence, coercive controlling violence, involves the abusive spouse using constant methods to hold control over the other spouse. An example of this would be the abusive spouse not allowing any communication with outside friends or family or holding complete control over the finances.

Studies showed that those who were the victims of coercive controlling violence had a much more difficult time co-parenting with their abusive spouse following the separation. This was especially true in the first year of the separation, and the abused spouse was also at a higher risk of continued violence and control during that first year. Another significant finding was that spouses who endured this type of violence led more unpredictable lives. In other words, they never knew what to expect from their abusive spouse. The dynamics of the relationship could be fine one day and horrible the next.

In order for separated spouses to develop a co-parenting plan, it is important to understand the effects that violence can have on the ability to co-parent. Those who are seeking a child custody agreement with an abusive spouse may consider seeking counsel from an experienced child custody attorney who can work to ensure protection for the children and the spouse during this potentially difficult time.