The ending of relationships, whether through divorce or other means of separation should present an opportunity to move on for both the couples and the children involved; however, when domestic violence is present in these relationships, moving on may not be the goal of the abuser.
For those that perpetrate domestic violence, control is often the main goal of their behavior, according to the National Coalition against Domestic Violence. When divorce or separation proceedings begin, an abuser may attempt to maintain control by manipulating the process.
Manipulation can come in the form of improperly painting a portrait of the victim as unstable and less competent as a parent. Because of the abuse suffered, the victim may be less able to overcome these allegations, whether through an inability to speak up due to fear or because of some mental impairment suffered through trauma.
The law and the courts of New Mexico seek by mandate to achieve the best interests of the child. Unfortunately, on occasion, New Mexico's "best interest of the child" standard used in child custody issues may actually help an abusive parent exert control over another parent.
This standard implies that it is "best" that the child to be raised by both parents, unless there is evidence that such a relationship would be detrimental to the child. Because of the often secretive nature of domestic violence, this evidence may not be easily obtained. Even the child involved may not fully observe or understand the relational dynamics between their parents, thus, they may not be able to alert authorities to the dangers facing the victim parent.
If an abusive parent can successfully convince the court that the child belongs with them, the victim parent loses control, while the abuser gains more control. The abuser now has the legal right to continue controlling the other parent through visitation schedules, monetary support and even decisions regarding the actual care of the child. More alarmingly, the victim parent may be subject to further violence because of the continued contact.
Domestic violence matters should be openly discussed with an attorney, once the decision to separate has been made. An experienced divorce attorney can become the voice of the victim throughout the court proceedings and may eliminate the potential for an abuser to continue their reign of control.