Pennsylvania residents might assume that the court system would favor a non-abusive parent when determining custody in a divorce case that involves domestic violence issues. However, this assumption is not always true. There are rare occasions when an abusive parent might be awarded custody because of the emotional state of the other parent, who could be dealing with difficult issues like depression that derive from being abused.
In other cases, a judge may allow an abusive parent to have continued access to the children and an ex-spouse. In fact, both parents could use their children to continue to attempt to influence the other party. Visitation might include overnight stays, which could affect a young child's sense of security. It is helpful to understand that a specific custody outcome is never guaranteed.
In a divorce, an abused parent might want to conclude the matter quickly to limit future contact with the other party. However, the common link created by children can make some level of contact necessary. A concerned parent might need strategies for limiting or ending conversations that are unproductive. Additionally, it might be important to identify abusive patterns during visitation. During litigation, it could be important to request limits on a parent who has been abusive toward children in the past.
If abuses have not been well documented, it might be wise to begin recording incidences that suggest abusive behavior has occurred during visitation. Returning to court to change visitation terms could be difficult without a detailed record of alleged actions. In addition to documenting one's own observations and encounters, it might be helpful to obtain accounts from others who observe abusive behaviors involving the other party and their children.