domestic abuse

Is It Illegal to Spank Your Stepchild?

stuffed animal tigerSince many divorcing people are parents, this new case about physical discipline of children might be of interest. Spanking was more common with previous generations, the practice seems to be dropping off. Under Massachusetts law, a parent or guardian is not subject to criminal prosecution for the use of force against a minor child in his/her care provided the use of force…

  1. Is reasonable.
  2. Is related to the purpose of safeguarding or promoting the welfare of the minor (which can include punishment of misconduct).
  3. Does not cause or create the risk of substantial physical harm or severe mental distress.

Basically, you can physically discipline your children so long as you don’t actually hurt them. This is called “parental privilege.” Recently, our Supreme Judicial Court ruled on whether this privilege should extend to stepparents.… Keep reading

Depressed WomanHi there,

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Nearly one in four women and one in seven men in the United States have suffered severe physical violence by an intimate partner. Female to male and same-sex violence happens and are just as bad, but often less reported. Many are surprised to hear that men are also subject to domestic violence. In fact many men are reluctant to admit that violence is occurring.

Some Victims Don’t Realize They Are Victims

Abusers start small and follow a cycle that tends to be similar. Anger, denigration, blow up, abuse and apology… followed by penitence and some good times before the cycle begins again. Only worse. As the cycle repeats it becomes harder and harder for the victim to leave. Abusers tend to be highly manipulative and convince their victims that they are worthless, powerless and unable to escape. Some victims become so accustomed to this treatment that it becomes their new version of normal, and they lose an urge to leave.

There are many toxic, abusive marriages where there is no physical violence. However, the victim is subject to such unending, demeaning denigration that he or she becomes stuck in … Keep reading

Domestic Violence Redux

Hi there,

I’m writing this on a rainy, thundery Monday, and the gloom feels appropriate for the subject of today’s post. Domestic violence is NOT always male to female. Female to male and same-sex violence happen and are just as bad, but often less reported.

All states now have anti-violence protective laws, but a law is only useful if you take advantage of it. It is human nature to not want to recognize the first steps toward disaster in an important relationship. This is a good list of warning signs. If you saw your relationship in that list, leave. The sooner you do the safer you will be. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to get out of an abusive relationship. This quick video shows the terrifying progression of one woman’s abusive relationship.

Domestic abuse is not just physical, it often is financial as well. Controlling money is the beginning, and making the legal exit overwhelmingly expensive can be the end. This article paints a good picture of what financial abuse can look like.

Despite the fact that most states have had abuse prevention laws in place for over 25 years, and despite the fact … Keep reading

Parental Alienation: Part 2

Hi there,

Parental alienation in the divorce process may be an unavoidable fact of life.  Bad situations can make good people behave in destructive ways, and, of course, not everyone pursuing divorce is a good person.

As I started to discuss in my last post, there seems to me to be a dramatic increase in the number of divorce cases I see with parental alienation involving children age 10 to 18 (and older). In these situations with this particular age group there seems to be a changed dynamic: Dad is most often the parent with whom the alienated children are allied. With younger children the literature seems to say it is primarily mom with whom the kids ally.

Also in most of the cases I have seen (and there have been too many) there is often more than one child involved. The children also tend to be encouraging each other in the alienating behavior, with the older children pushing the younger into it.

In every case of older children alienation that I have handled, there has been an overlay of either physical violence or severe emotional abuse. In the cases of emotional abuse the denigration of mom by … Keep reading

Depressed Woman

Hi there,

Depressed WomanI hope you all had a terrific Fourth of July!  I also hope that you were not a victim of domestic violence over a long, hot holiday weekend.

I came across some statistics for San Francisco recently which were pretty shocking.  They reflected an increase in domestic violence reporting, due to a local story.  However, the underlying reality of violence is probably pretty much the same everywhere.  I was shocked to see in a variety of sources that 1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence.  Neither wealth nor celebrity status prevents violence.  In fact, Mr. Charles Saatchi has filed for divorce from his wife, celebrity chef Nigella Lawson, complaining that she didn’t defend him when he was photographed choking her in public.

It is not just a crime against women though.  Over the years I have represented numbers of men abused by their wives.  However, I was still shocked to discover that 40% of domestic violence is perpetrated against men.  As a group, they are way less likely to report or even admit that they have been victims.  While women are more often killed as a result of domestic violence, men are more often attacked with … Keep reading

Hi there,

Somehow a post on domestic violence protection doesn’t seem in the true spirit of Christmas, but the sorry truth is that this is a problem which exacerbates during the holidays with their overlay of extra family stress and alcohol fueled parties.

Massachusetts has several laws designed to deal with these circumstances.  In addition to Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 209A, which was discussed in my last post, there are probate statutes, Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 208 Sections 34B,C and D.  These are useful for psychological battering and generally unhealthy, emotional circumstances as well.  It is important to note that the statutes and the Court do recognize the burden parental violence puts on children and attempts to protect them from it.

Chapter 209A defines the standard as “attempting to cause or causing physical harm, placing another in fear of imminent, serious,  physical harm.”  The parties need to be family or household members and the order can remove a party from the home without prior notice, although s/he will later have his/her day in court.  This is a very serious statute, which is so helpful because it includes provisions for protection on nights and weekends … Keep reading

Hi there,

With all the speculation in the news and gossip media about what may, or may not, have happened at Tiger Woods’ home last week, it seems a timely moment to discuss the Massachusetts Abuse Prevention laws.

Domestic abuse is a horrible and pervasive thing. It devastates not only the direct victim but the most innocent of bystanders – the children. If violence did occur at the Woods’ abode I would bet it was a single, wild fight, violent and horrible with lethal potential but not the ongoing, personality destroying, dehumanizing continuum of real domestic abuse.

If you read the news, at least every day another person (usually a woman) is killed in the United States as a result of domestic violence.

In an attempt to stem the tide, states have enacted various laws to try and prosecute the abuser even when the victim refuses to testify. (One of the most demoralizing situations family lawyers face is a victim returning to the batterer and then refusing to testify. In Florida, if Tiger were to say his wife had hit him with the golf club (if she did?) then he would have no further control of the situationKeep reading