University of Michigan study



The purpose of this study is to better understand the relation between family law statutes and professionals’ recommendations for child custody and visitation in intimate partner violence (IPV) cases.



Samples consisted of 512 child custody evaluators and 200 judges from 46 states. Survey participants responded to a case vignette of serious intimate partner violence (IPV). In addition, evaluators indicated their history of actual recommendations in IPV cases. Eight child custody laws were related to the custody-visitation outcomes. Based on past research with judges, “friendly parent” laws were included, a standard for custody determination by which parents need to facilitate a good relationship between their children and the other parent. Only a small percentage of the many statistical relationships assessed were significant. When there were laws that exempted IPV cases from friendly parent standards, judges tended to favor victim-supportive outcomes, such as awarding sole custody to victims. These findings generally held when controlling for beliefs about IPV and custody, IPV knowledge acquisition, and background characteristics. In an analysis combining both samples, an overall outcome favoring the abuser was significantly higher in “friendly parent” states, even with the presence of laws presuming the abuser should not have custody. Implications are provided for policies, practice and future research.





Only a small percentage of the many statistical relationships assessed were significant. When there were laws that exempted IPV cases from friendly parent standards, judges tended to favor victim-supportive outcomes, such as awarding sole custody to victims. These findings generally held when controlling for beliefs about IPV and custody, IPV knowledge acquisition, and background characteristics. In an analysis combining both samples, an overall outcome favoring the abuser was significantly higher in “friendly parent” states, even with the presence of laws presuming the abuser should not have custody. Implications are provided for policies, practice and future research. Learn more here.