Identifying child custody dispute characteristics that are associated with child
maltreatment investigations are important for improving child protection services. Our
objectives were to explore the characteristics of child custody disputes within the context
of child protection investigations and to determine the ways in which child maltreatment
investigations involving child custody disputes differ from those investigations that do
not involve such disputes.
Data were from the Canadian Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse and
Neglect (collection 2008) from 112 child welfare sites across Canada.
Results: Of the estimated 235,842 child maltreatment investigations in Canada in
2008, estimated 29,218 investigations involved child custody dispute cases (12.4%).
Approximately 22.7% of child custody dispute investigations involved allegations
of neglect, 16.7% involved an allegation of physical abuse 20.3% involved exposure
to domestic violence, 9.7% involved emotional maltreatment, and 5.3% involved an
allegation of sexual abuse.
Child protection workers must not assume that maltreatment allegations
are false or unfounded simply because a custody dispute is also present. More attention is
needed to explore ways to engage with families involved in child custody disputes so that
they can better cope with the complexities of family breakdown.