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House of Representatives
Session of 2015 - 2016 Regular Session


Posted: December 2, 2015 10:00 AM
From: Representative Tina M. Davis
To: All House members
Subject: Addressing Abuse in Child Custody Proceedings
In the near future, I will be introducing legislation that amends the Domestic Relations Code to update court procedures for child custody cases in which there are allegations of domestic violence or child sexual abuse.

When considering an award of custody, ensuring the health and safety of the child must be the court’s first priority. At no time is this more important than when the custody proceeding involves allegations of domestic violence or child sexual abuse. The court must take these claims very seriously in order to protect an abused parent or child. Many of the approaches courts commonly use in child custody proceedings have been shown to work poorly for children. Instead, courts should look to current, scientific research in domestic violence and child sexual abuse issues to inform its decisions, and should consult with professionals who are qualified to work with children and handle abuse cases.

Under my legislation, a professional who provides advice, recommendations or evaluations to the court in these proceedings must have sufficient expertise in issues relating to domestic violence and, where appropriate, child sexual abuse. Members of the judiciary and attorneys for children who handle domestic violence custody cases must also receive training in order to appropriately respond to allegations. The legislation also establishes an evidentiary hearing to thoroughly vet allegations of abuse. If the court makes a finding of abuse, the abusive party would be limited to supervised custody until that party can prove they do not pose a risk to the child’s health and safety.

My legislation seeks to establish a procedure for handling custody proceedings involving abuse allegations and implement practices that work better for children. Please join me in co-sponsoring this important legislation.

Introduced as HB1971