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Abuse of a spouse is indirect child abuse

Spousal abuse isn't just a problem that affects the couple. It affects the entire family.

Unfortunately, the way the court system works, domestic violence against a spouse isn't the same as domestic violence against a child -- even though the child may have witnessed the abuse and learned to live in fear of the abuser.

In practical terms, that means that many abused women -- and men -- end up having to share custody with their abusive ex-spouses. They also have to go through heart-wrenching scenes where they're legally obligated to turn their terrified children over to the person that used to beat up their mommy or daddy.

Finally, these parents are getting some relief and a little recognition by the law that abuse -- even if it is just witnessed -- profoundly affects the psyche of the child witnessing it.

Burleson, Texas, is one of the jurisdictions across the nation that are making the act of violence committed in a child's sight a crime in its own right, in addition to any other abuse charges. While the crime only counts as a low-level misdemeanor that carries at most up to $500 in fines, it creates a record that shows the child as a psychological victim of the abuse.

That means judges will not have to look at a record containing these types of charges and say, "Yes, but the parent has never been convicted of abusing the child...only the other parent," before awarding joint custody. Those who advocate for the victims of domestic violence consider this a much-needed step in the right direction to protect both the victims of violence and the indirect victims -- their children.

For more information about how domestic abuse can affect a child custody case, please contact an attorney for advice.

Source: Star-Telegram, "In family violence, the kids watching also get hurt. This city says that's a crime, too," Bud Kennedy, Sep. 09, 2017

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