This paper was written to assist policy makers and practitioners in dealing with the difficult issues that arise in making appropriate post-separation parenting arrangements in cases where there are family violence issues. There has been a movement in Canada and elsewhere to cease using the traditional legal concepts of “custody” and “access,” which tend to promote a “winner” and “loser” mentality, and to start using concepts such as “co-parenting” and “parenting time” and such tools as “parenting plans” to facilitate the making of cooperative arrangements. However, cases in which there are family violence issues demand a different approach, one that recognizes the need to promote safety and accountability.
This document is based primarily on a literature review of the areas of family violence, child custody and access disputes, and high conflict divorce. In addition, several leading researchers in the area were contacted with the request for copies of articles that are in press, in order to benefit from the most up-to-date materials. The family violence literature was applied to the area of child custody and access within the context of the first author’s extensive experience as an assessor, mediator, researcher and educator in the area. Finally, a draft of this document was circulated to several leading social science and legal researchers for feedback and input to increase its utility.