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Study examines coparenting in violent relationships

Pennsylvania parents in relationships that have become violent may face co-parenting challenges after a divorce. How this plays out depends in part on what kind of violence is occurring. One kind is known as situational couple violence and involves the couple getting into an argument that results in both being violent with one another. The other is known as coercive controlling violence. This involves one partner using violence toward the other as part of an overall pattern of control.

A study found that parents who experienced coercive controlling violence from their partner were more likely to face harassment and conflict and get the least co-parenting support. Those who had experienced situational violence also had conflict and harassment, but there was more support when it came to co-parenting. The study found that the conflict in coercive controlling relationships was more unpredictable.

One aim of the study was to identify situations in which a parent might become violent and how to mitigate the likelihood of that violence. While some might advise that a parent is kept away from the child if he or she has been violent, researchers said that in practice, this may not happen. Sometimes the nonviolent parent wants the other one involved. Researchers said it was important to educate the court system about parents' abilities to co-parent in these situations. The study appeared in the Journal of Family Psychology.

There are several custody options available for parents who have been in a violent relationship. The court system usually operates on the principle that, in most cases, it is best for a child to build a relationship with both parents. However, the courts also take into account a child's best interests when making child custody decisions. Therefore, if one parent wants access to the child, but the judge believes it's not what's best for the child, the parent may only get supervised visitation.

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