The effects of domestic violence allegations on custody evaluators' recommendations

Jason D. Hans, Jennifer L. Hardesty, Megan L. Haselschwerdt, Laura M. Frey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Judges and attorneys often request professional assessments from child custody evaluators when allegations of adult domestic violence (DV) have been made, but it is unclear whether and how evaluators' recommendations are impacted by these allegations. Custody evaluators (N = 607) in the United States responded to a multiple-segment factorial vignette designed to examine the effects of 2 key factors in DV allegations: type of alleged violence (conflict-based, control-based) and counterallegations (none, mutual, and female-initiated). Effects of control- versus conflict-based DV allegations by the mother on custody recommendations were small and the majority of evaluators recommended joint custody regardless of violence type. Reported confidence in making a recommendation increased once the father responded to the allegation, but to a smaller degree when a counterallegation of mutual or female-initiated violence was made. Evaluators were no more skeptical about the potential motive of a counterallegation in the context of controlling behavior than in the context of conflict-based behavior. Overall, results indicate that most custody evaluators are not sufficiently sensitized to distinguish between situational couple violence and coercive controlling behavior, and the postseparation safety of mothers and their children may therefore be jeopardized.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)957-966
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Family Psychology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2014


  • Child custody evaluations
  • Divorce
  • Domestic violence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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