Children's best interests and intimate partner violence in the Canadian family law and child protection systems

Journal article
Canadian CW research

Hughes, Judy
Chau, Shirley

Critical Social Policy, 32(4): 677-695

This article summarizes the findings of a project investigating women’s experiences with the Canadian child protection (CPS) and family law (FLS) systems. We examine both service systems together here because although both privilege children’s best interests as their primary consideration and define the concept similarly, the two systems diverge in their expectations of women relative to child custody. While FLS requires women to accept custody arrangements that provide close and continued contact between themselves and their former abusive partners, CPS expects women to leave these same abusive partners or risk removal of their children. The results of thirty-five qualitative interviews with women demonstrate their struggles, firstly, in having their experiences of intimate partner violence (IPV) recognized by professionals in the FLS, and, secondly, in becoming caught between the opposing expectations of CPS and FLS while not receiving help from either. Recommendations for change to improve these services are included in this article.