Custody & Abuse Project
DV LEAP litigates carefully selected cases in D.C. and elsewhere on cutting edge issues in the field of custody and abuse, including child sexual abuse and domestic violence, “parental alienation,” and malicious prosecution claims wrongfully brought against protective mothers.
Click here to learn about specific cases.
DV LEAP provides consultations with abused mothers and their attorneys fighting to keep their children safe through the courts.
DV LEAP has partnered with the Dept. of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women on a 2-year cooperative agreement to improve the family court system’s ability to protect children in custody cases involving domestic violence or child abuse.
Custody Trainings & Presentations
DV LEAP conducts trainings and presentations around the country on custody, domestic violence, and “parental alienation.” If you are interested in a DV LEAP training, please email us at email@example.com.
Selected Past Custody Presentations
- 2008 12th Annual Coalition Advocates & Attorneys Network (CAAN) Meeting: Ms. Meier gave a presentation entitled "Parental Alienation: Challenges and Strategies."
- 2008 The National Children's Bench Book Project: A Symposium On Improving Judicial Responses to Child Abuse: Ms. Meier gave a presentation entitled "Expert Testimony in Civil-Domestic Relations Courts."
- 2008 Inspirational Spirit of the Phoenix: Ms. Liu delivered a presentation about the challenges in litigating domestic violence and custody cases and possible solutions.
- 2008 National Coalition Against Domestic Violence Conference: Ms. Meier and Ms. Liu delivered a presenation about winning a custody and abuse case in the Supreme Court and preparing custody and abuse cases for appeals.
- 2008 Connecticut Department of Children and Families: Ms. Meier delived a presentation about the challenges of protecting children in custody courts.
- 2008 Battered Mothers' Custody Conference: Ms. Liu delivered a presentation about winning a custody and abuse case in the Supreme Court and DV LEAP's 2007 Symposium.
- 2007 DV LEAP/Justice for Children Training on Litigating Custody/Abuse Appeals: DV LEAP’s first hosted training was a terrific success and attended by attorneys from around the country.
- 2006 & 2007 Battered Mothers’ Custody Conference: In 2007 Ms. Meier delivered a keynote speech about “parental alienation” and abuse. In 2006, she spoke about being part of the PBS documentary Breaking the Silence: Children’s Voices.
- 2007 Denver Domestic Violence and Child Protection Conference: Ms. Meier spoke about the conflict between courts’ paradigms of child protection and custody and how that conflict undermines the protection of children by courts.
- 2006 Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence Clearinghouse Lawyer Training: Ms. Meier spoke about parental alienation syndrome and led a discussion group about the PBS documentary Breaking the Silence: Children’s Stories.
- 2005 Muskie School of Public Service Child Custody and Domestic Violence Institute: Ms. Meier gave a presentation entitled “Parental Alienation Syndrome or Abuse? The Battle for Truth,” and co-led a workshop on the cross-examination of experts with DV LEAP consultant/trainer Julie Field.
Custody Law Reform
DV LEAP has provided comments on the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws Model Statute on Representation of Children.
DV LEAP also consults with the National Association of Juvenile and Family Court Judges on their development of judicial guidelines on custody and abuse.
Please also see law reform under the Rights Litigation Project.
Blog post from a survivor:
Focusing On Happiness In The Midst Of Chaos
SEPTEMBER 4, 2013 BY CAPPUCCINOQUEEN
Mothers have a primal urge to protect their children. It’s part of our DNA and unless your maternal instinct isn’t working properly, it is impossible to turn it off.
The first time I walked into my attorney’s office, I have no doubt in my mind that all the attorneys in that office believed I was bat shit crazy. To some degree, I probably was. While an attorney likely expects his/her client to calmly explain their situation, I hadn’t been living anything close to a normal or calm situation. In fact, I had been at war and was ready to throw myself in front of a moving train if it meant saving my son’s life. From the perspective of the attorney’s, however, they were looking at a woman who was hysterical and they likely assumed that it was my intent to block Luc’s access to Prince out of anger or spite.
While I understand that many cases that come through Family Court are not as extreme as mine was, there are many other women who feel just as desperate to save their children as I was. This fear is often very real and very legitimate. Asking a mother to turn her child over to someone she believes is dangerous (i.e. if the person has a history of abuse and/or people keep violently dying around this person), can be compared to asking her to send her defenseless child walking across a battle field in the middle of bombs and gunfire – and just hoping that the child will make it to the other side alive.
Each week during the unsupervised visitation period, I felt as though the court ripped my son from my arms and sent him across the battlefield. As the court held me back from wrapping my arms around him to take the bullets for him, I slowly felt as though I was dying too. I am a mother, but I was not legally allowed to protect my own son. If I am honest, the terror and pain I felt knowing that he was in danger and not being able to protect him felt as bad as the death itself. It is a different pain, but its terrible and I lived that pain for nearly Prince’s entire life.
Since my son was killed, I have received hundreds of emails from women who are trying to protect their children from someone whom they have reason to believe is dangerous. Many people have asked me how I am still standing. Knowing how I felt as I was trying to save my son’s life from a man I knew was dangerous, I am often more baffled at how I was able to remain standing then.
Many of these letters are from women asking me for advise on how to survive a custody war or how to save their children. Sadly, I cannot give the best advice on how to save their children, as I was unable to save my own. I can, however, explain how I survived and how I continue to survive.
Life isn’t always pleasant. We all get thrown curve balls and some of us are unfortunate enough to step into a pile of crazy that can put a damper on life. While there are many things that are out of your control, you do have the ability to control how you look at the positive things in your life. There are ALWAYS positive things, even if they seem a bit buried in the negative. When my son was killed, my first thought was that I wanted to die too. Then, I realized that I have a lot of things to still live for; I have had many blessings in my life, and would inevitably have many more.
To all of my readers who are being forced to send their children across that battlefield, understand that you are not alone. It is normal to feel crazy because you are being asked to turn off something that is impossible to turn off – maternal instinct. While you are going through the battle, never forget to take care of yourself. Go to a therapist and get help so that when you walk into that attorney’s office you can do so with as clear a mind as possible. And never forget to enjoy your child. Don’t let the battlefield continue in your home because of your stress about the situation.
A week ago, my sister was in a terrible car accident on the Pennsylvania turnpike after being run off the road by a massive truck. When I first heard about it, all I received was a text from my mother telling me that my sister had been taken to the hospital after an accident. The last time I was told that someone I loved had been taken to the hospital, I arrived to find out that my son was dead. So, when I heard this news I immediately panicked. ‘This cannot be happening again,’ I thought as I drove like a maniac toward the hospital.
My sister’s car was found completely flipped over and crushed pretty bad. She walked away with a bad headache and some bumps and bruises. The next day she said to me, “Why do we have this black cloud over us?” I responded by saying, “We don’t. If we had a black cloud, you and I wouldn’t be having this conversation because you wouldn’t have survived that accident.”
Life is full of bad things, but its also full of joy and happiness. Before the demon walked into my life, I admit that I had a tendency to stress over the bad without recognizing the good. If there is one thing that this situation has taught me, it’s to enjoy the good things life has to offer. If you don’t take the time to be thankful about the good, the insanity will drive you crazy and the Luc’s of the world will win.
Breaking the Silence: Children’s Voices
In 2005 Ms. Meier was featured as a commentator in a PBS documentary designed to raise public awareness about young victims of parental abuse and how family courts too often fail to protect them, relying instead on the false theory of “parental alienation syndrome” to justify rejecting protective mothers' allegations, increasing the alleged perpetrators' access to the child, and sometimes even removing the child from the mother.
Click here to see the film's trailer.
DV LEAP publishes articles and research summaries for use by those seeking to advance the protection of child and adult victims of abuse. Following are some of these publications:
- "The Misuse of Parental Alienation Syndrome in Custody Suits," appearing in Violence Against Women in Families and Relationships (Evan Stark and Eve Buzawa, eds., 2009). For the table of contents of the volume in which this article appears, please click here.
- "Parental Alienation Syndrome and Parental Alienation: Research Reviews" at www.vawnet.org. To read the article, please click here.
- "Domestic Violence, Child Custody, and Child Protection: Understanding Judicial Resistance and Imagining the Solutions" 11 American University Journal of Gender, Social Policy & the Law 657 (2003), available at http://www.wcl.american.edu/journal/genderlaw/11/meier.pdf
- Schroth, Sara. "Due Process and Custody Investigation Reports; A Parent's Right to Read and Challenge."
- “Research Summary, Rates at which Accused and Adjudicated Batterers Receive Sole or Joint Custody
- Research Summary, Research Indicating that the Majority of Cases that go to Court as "high conflict" Contested Custody Cases have a History of Domestic Violence
- Research Summary, Scientific and Professional Rejections of Parental Alienation Syndrome
- "A Historical Perspective on Parental Alienation Syndrome and Parental Alienation,” forthcoming, Journal of Child Custody, Symposium Issue on Domestic Violence and Custody
- “Getting Real About Abuse and Alienation: A Response to Drozd and Olesen,” Journal of Child Custody, Symposium Issue on Domestic Violence and Custody.
- PAS Bibliography complied by Joan Meier.
- Best Practices for Taking Appeals in Custody & Abuse Cases
Advocacy for Embattled Professionals
DV LEAP provides occasional advocacy and assistance for leading experts in the field (attorneys and mental health professionals) who are under attack by abusers and their advocates through challenges to professional licenses and standing.