Safe Child Act
by Barry Goldstein
Purpose: Improve the Safety of Children involved in Child Custody Cases
1. The paramount concern of all child custody decisions must be to provide complete safety when determining the best interests of the children.
2. Whenever domestic violence or child abuse is raised as an issue either during or before a child custody matter is litigated any professional who provides advice or recommendations to the court must have substantial training and experience about Domestic violence and child abuse to fully understand safety issues including behaviors that are associated with higher lethality or injury risks; domestic violence dynamics; effects of domestic violence on children; ability to recognize domestic violence and research about batterer narratives. Any professional without this necessary expertise must consult with someone who has this knowledge prior to giving any recommendation to the court.
3 A post graduate degree in mental health such as psychology, psychiatry or social work absent specialized and approved training shall not be considered proof of domestic violence expertise. A court shall not refuse to qualify an individual as a domestic violence expert because the witness does not possess a post graduate degree if the witness can demonstrate expertise based upon training and experience.
4. In any custody case where either domestic violence or child abuse is raised during the litigation process and even where a court may have already heard and determined there is not significant enough domestic violence to warrant a restraining order and in which there is no substantial basis to believe the parties or children have a significant mental health impairment likely to interfere with parenting ability, courts should not order a mental health evaluation. The court may appoint a domestic violence expert to help the court understand the significance of evidence related to domestic violence and must permit parties to present evidence from a qualified domestic violence expert.
5. Courts shall look to current, valid scientific research concerning domestic violence to help inform its decisions in all cases where domestic violence or child abuse is raised during the course of custody litigation Courts shall not permit practices or approaches that do not have scientific bases and are not accepted practice within the specialized field of practice of domestic violence and child abuse. Professionals who engage in practices based upon such unscientific beliefs shall not be qualified to participate in custody cases where domestic violence or child abuse is raised during the course of litigation.
6. In cases in which allegations of domestic violence are supported by the preponderance of the evidence, the safe or safer parent shall receive sole custody absent clear and convincing proof that the parent creates an imminent safety risk to the children. The parent who has committed domestic violence shall be permitted only supervised visitation pending a risk assessment by a domestic violence/child abuse professional. In order for the abusive parent to obtain unsupervised visitation, the parent must complete at least a six month accountability program, accept full responsibility for past abuse, commit to never abusing the children or future partners, understand the harm the abuse caused and convince the court that the benefit of unsupervised visitation outweighs any risk. Termination of all visitation should be considered upon proofs of failure to comply as it will present the children with a known dangerous circumstance.
7. A parent shall not be penalized for making a good faith complaint about domestic violence or child abuse.
8. Courts shall not use approaches developed for “high conflict” cases designed to encourage parents to cooperate in any litigated custody case if there have been allegations of domestic violence and or child abuse which have been supported with an expert report opining there is a reasonable risk to children and shared parenting shall not be permitted in these cases absent voluntary consent of both parties. Consent must be determined to be without coercion or undue pressure.
9. In cases in which there are allegations of domestic violence, a history between the parties that includes restraining orders, criminal charges or other evidence of possible domestic violence, early in the proceeding, before the appointment of any GAL, evaluator or other neutral professional the court shall conduct an evidentiary hearing to determine if one of the parties has engaged in a pattern of domestic violence. If the court finds domestic violence and the non or less abusive parent is safe the court shall award custody to the safe parent and supervised visitation to the abusive parent. A finding denying the allegations of domestic violence shall not prevent the court from considering additional evidence of domestic violence later in the case.
10. In any case in which the trial judge engaged in or tolerated gender biased practices or permitted practices or approaches based on myths, stereotypes or other bias, an appellate court shall not defer to the judgment of the trial court.
11. In any case involving allegations of child sexual abuse, any professionals asked by the court for a risk assessment or evaluation must have specialized training and experience of a minimum of five years after completing training working with children and expertise in child sexual abuse. Investigators shall take sufficient time to develop a trusting relationship before expecting the child to speak about the allegations. It shall be recognized that children frequently recant valid allegations of child abuse so a recantation shall not by itself be treated as absolute proof the allegations were false. No negative inference(s) may be drawn from a decision by a prosecutor or child protective agency not to file charges against a named perpetrator of domestic violence or child abuse and shall not be treated as proof the allegations are untrue. Given the difficulty of proving valid complaints about child sexual abuse, judges who make a finding that the allegations were deliberately false must demonstrate they considered not only if the allegations are true but other common circumstances such as violation of boundaries, inadequate information to determine the validity of the allegations and mistaken allegations made in good faith. In cases in which a court determined sexual abuse allegations cannot be proven, the court shall consider new evidence in the context of the evidence previously considered. No decision shall be made by a court absent a full evidentiary hearing with the parent having a right to have an expert of their choosing heard by the court. No preference and no deference shall be given to any expert selected by the court and identical standards of review and credibility shall be applied by the trial court.
12. This law is designed to correct common present practices that have been shown to work poorly for the protection of children. The law seeks to encourage custody court professionals to look to current, valid, scientific research to inform their decisions and stop using the outdated and discredited practices described in the legislative history. The use of such flawed practices in prior decisions shall be considered a change of circumstance that entitles the parties to request the court to reconsider arrangements that were created based upon flawed practices.
Training and Retraining: Any judge who hears a case involving the issue of domestic violence and/or child abuse as part of judicial responsibility shall receive specialized training regarding the new practices adopted by this law and the specialized information it is based upon. They shall also receive retraining concerning prior practices which have not worked to sufficiently protect children. GALs appointed to represent children where domestic violence and or child abuse is raised during the course of litigation shall receive specialized training and retraining. The trainings shall be presented by domestic violence advocates and/or other similar experts knowledgeable about the safety practices described herein and current scientific research such as described herein. The state shall provide additional funding to domestic violence agencies to train advocates to serve as domestic violence experts in court and to help train court professionals.
Children are not being protected in the current family system and they need to protected from harmful theory's that can place them directly into the abusers homes. Harmful myths that place them in harms way and treatment that hurts more than help.Lets end the myths and theory's The Safe Child act is hope that this may never happen to another child and if it does a safety net to rescue the child.
Offering a ray of Hope to families who lost hope but still kept speaking out..
Offering a ray of Hope that one day this serious in-justice end's and their children are rescued from the abuser's homes safely.
The national Safe child act is a step forward toward's justice and protection for the children of intra-familiar abuse across this globe
It is time for the National safe child act by Barry Goldstein
Thank you for being a voice for the many families affected by this.