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Peace at Home Family Shelter

Domestic Violence and Child Custody FAQ

Child custody issues come up frequently when survivors of domestic violence leave the abusive relationship. Below are some of the most common questions we receive about child custody. Contact our legal department today at 479-442-9811 if you have additional questions or need legal representation.

Can an abusive parent get custody or visitation?

An abusive parent may be allowed custody or visitation if the judge believes you and your children can stay safe. To ensure this, the judge can require supervised visits or arrange for the pick-up and drop-off of your children to take place in a protected space.

If the judge does not believe you or your children are still in danger, he/she may order custody or visitation without any protective measures. As a result, it is important the judge believes you when you talk about the violence. You may want to keep evidence of the violence ready, if you have any.

If you feel there is a risk of violence, you can ask the judge:

  • For pick-up and drop-off of your children to happen in a protected place
  • To allow someone other than you to deliver or pick-up the children for visits
  • To allow only email contact between the parents

How does a judge make decisions about custody?

The judge will always look to the child’s best interests. So if you are filing for custody, you should be able to show how the custody arrangement you want is in your child’s best interests. To do this, you should be prepared with as much information as possible about yourself and the other parent. If you are accusing the other parent of abuse, the judge will look at the abuser’s history of causing such injury, physical harm, assault, or causing reasonable fear of injury, physical harm, and assault to another person.

A judge may look at a history of drug or alcohol abuse and order testing for either or both parents. If the child is of a sufficient age and mental capacity, the judge can also consider the preferences of the child.

What is mediation?

Mediation uses a neutral third-party to help parents agree on issues relating to custody and visitation of the child. The court may order you to take part in mediation.

You should talk to a lawyer or domestic violence advocate before going to mediation, or have a lawyer go with you if you can. Your abuser may use mediation as an opportunity for further control and abuse, and he/she may intimidate you into thinking an agreement is reasonable when it may not be. A lawyer and/or victim advocate can help you prepare for this.

How can Peace at Home help?

If you have experienced domestic violence and are going through a custody dispute with your abuser, you do not have to go through the process alone.  Peace at Home’s legal department can help you acquire legal representation, accompany you to the court hearing, provide you with emotional support, and help you develop a safety plan. Call 479.442.9811 to speak with an advocate about our legal services.


Meet our new Staff Attorney – Katelyn Admire

Katelyn Admire recently joined the team at Peace at Home Family Shelter as our second Staff Attorney. Read below to learn more about our newest team member and her role helping survivors of domestic violence in Northwest Arkansas. 

The Peace at Home Family Shelter Legal Program provides legal representation, court accompaniment, advocacy, and assistance to over 200 families every year.

What is your role at Peace at Home?

As one of two Staff Attorneys at Peace at Home, I am responsible for coordinating with other victim service providers to assist clients in finding assistance for (primarily) family and immigration law issues. For clients who are unable to receive services from these other providers, I will offer legal advice and representation to both resident and outreach clients in cases involving divorce, paternity, custody, visitation, child support, and orders of protection.

What are you most excited about in starting your role at Peace at Home?

I’ve always considered home to be a safe, comfortable place, but understand that not everyone has that luxury. This position will allow me to assist women in my community who consider home to be a place of fear or uncertainty to change their circumstances.

Who inspires you?

I was inspired by my grandmother, who worked in law firms for decades and was very talented in her role, at a time when there were few women in the legal career. This led me to go to law school and become an attorney. She was a strong, brilliant woman, and I strive to be like her and to an attorney that she would be proud of.

How do you spend your time outside of work?

When I’m not at work, I enjoy cooking, reading, Cardinals baseball, and hiking with my German Shepherd, Ozzie.

Where is your favorite place in the world?

Home. I know that’s not a very exciting answer, but I’m a chronic homebody. Other than that, I absolutely love Universal Studios in Orlando. I grew up (and continue to be) a huge Harry Potter nerd.

 

What is an Order of Protection?

If you have experienced domestic violence, an order of protection can play an important role in helping you achieve safety, security, and peace of mind.

 

What is an order of protection? 

An order of protection is a civil court order that protects victims of domestic violence from abusive family or household members.  Specifically, the order prevents abusers from having any contact whatsoever with their victims.  There are two types of orders of protection: temporary orders and final orders, which are discussed in more detail below.

 

Who can apply for an order of protection?

If you have experienced domestic abuse, you are eligible to apply for an order of protection.   Domestic abuse is defined by Arkansas law as “physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or the infliction of fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury, or assault between family or household members.” It also includes any criminal sexual conduct between family or household members.

 

The term, “family or household members,” is defined very broadly under Arkansas law.  It includes spouses, former spouses, parents, children, people related by blood within four degrees, any children living in the home, people who live together or used to live together, people who have had a child together, and people who are dating or who used to date.

 

What are the steps for getting an order of protection?

To obtain an order of protection, you must first go to the circuit clerk’s office in the county where you live, where your abuser lives, or where the abuse occurred, and fill out a petition for a temporary order of protection.

The next step is for a judge to be assigned to the case and for the judge to read the petition.  If the judge believes there has been abuse or that there is danger of future abuse, he or she will grant a temporary order of protection.  The judge will also set a date for a court hearing to determine whether to make the temporary order of protection a final order of protection.

 

At the court hearing, both you and your abuser will have an opportunity to tell your side of the story and present any evidence you may have.  Once the judge has heard both sides, he or she will decide whether to grant a final order of protection.  A final order of protection can last anywhere from 90 days to 10 years.  If your abuser violates the order, he or she can face arrest, fines, and jail time.

 

How well do protection orders work?

While protection orders can play an important role in reducing your risk of future abuse, they cannot absolutely guarantee your safety.  Some abusers may obey the order to avoid legal repercussions, while others may treat the order as nothing more than a piece of paper.  Ultimately, you know your abuser best and whether or not an order of protection would be likely to prevent him or her from harassing, threatening, or abusing you in the future.

 

How can Peace at Home help?

If you decide to file for an order of protection, you do not have to go through the process alone.  Peace at Home’s legal department can assist you in filing for an order of protection, accompany you to the court hearing, provide you with legal representation, and help you develop a safety plan. Call 479.442.9811 to speak with an advocate about legal services.

 

Words from a Survivor

Last week, we celebrated the work of Alpha Chi Omega of the University of Arkansas and Melissa Rogers with Fayetteville Pubic Schools at our annual Courage Award Luncheon. This lunch is an opportunity to recognize the impact of local organizations and individuals in supporting survivors of domestic violence and their children in our community.

We also heard from Lena, a former client of Peace at Home Family Shelter. Lena shared with the attendees her experience of domestic violence and recovery. If you weren’t able to attend the luncheon, you can read her powerful story below –

I will not stay silent so others can be comfortable.

I am not ashamed of my story. I want to share my story because I don’t know who needs to see the light and see the encouragement to leave if they are experiencing abuse. There may be someone here today who needs the courage to say “this is NOT how my story will end!” At any moment, every survivor has the power to leave and to have a better tomorrow. People need to hear my story, and other’s stories so it does not become their future. I will not shut up until domestic violence is eradicated from this earth.

I have been a free spirit my whole life – and one person tried to break it – but I found out that I was stronger than the abuse. Even after surviving emotional and verbal abuse, I still have my faith and love in people. There are so many good people on this earth, but unfortunately there are also people who exist that want to hurt and destroy others. I was one of those people who naively fell for the excitement and the fun of being showered with gifts, and of being told I was the most beautiful woman in the world. Little did I know, many of things I was showered with were major red flags, and I had no idea of the toxic waste that would follow. I was literally uneducated in the aspects of domestic violence. I thought that domestic violence was made up of drunk men or women who liked to physically beat up their partner. I did not know that emotional and verbal abuse existed and that the abuse could be so intense.

I dated a man who lived in Chicago. I am also a native Chicagoan and I love that city, so when I met him, I thought it was pretty exciting. He wined and dined me just like the many, many stories of other abuse survivors. He took me on exciting trips and showered me with many expensive gifts, such as luxury cars and expensive clothing. Never in my life have I ever had such nice, materialistic things and it felt exciting. I never had someone tell me all these wonderful things and tell me how great I was.

I fell for the bait and found myself with a job offer in Chicago and I decided to move there as my motto has always been  “Life is short, live it!” I figured if it did not work out with him, I could easily move and do my own thing. Looking back, I wished I had been more aware of my own thoughts. Nothing about abuse is easy, but I did not know I was being abused! How could I not know I was being abused? I’m sure many of you here are thinking “how does a person not know they are abused?” It almost seems like an idiotic statement. I honestly did not know. The abuse came in what I describe as a very slow IV drip. This man slowly manipulated me. He figured out my weaknesses and he figured out how to control me. Everything started very slowly, so slowly that I did not even notice.

It reached a point where he would scream and belittle me for hours and hours everyday. If I was awake for 14 hours, he would spend at least 12 of those hours controlling me and making me question my own sanity. He was an expert in gas lighting. For those that are not sure what gas lighting is, Wikipedia says: Gaslighting is a form of manipulation that seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or members of a group, hoping to make targets question their own memory, perception, and sanity. Using persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction, and lying, it attempts to destabilize the target and delegitimize the target’s belief.

Unbeknownst to me, I was the target of his gas lighting. I started to really question my own memories, perceptions and my sanity. He used to say “your perception is your reality” and I felt very confused for major parts of the day. He told me to quit my job and help him run 2 businesses. We did have 2 very successful businesses in Chicago and he had many people that he knew in the industries we had businesses in. Everyone loved him. Everyone that met him thought he was great and they would all say “you should marry her!” and I came up with every excuse to say no to that man. It would add more fuel to his anger and he would get very angry because I would not plan a wedding and marry him. Something in my gut kept saying “there’s something not right with this man.” I honestly could not figure out why I felt that way but I knew that I was just not not happy. I was sad and miserable.

One day, I was at a trade show promoting one of the businesses and a very good friend was there helping at another booth. She overheard him belittling me and treating me like I was garbage. She asked me if I could help her with something in the bathroom. He didn’t like that she needed the help but he told me to be right back. I went with her and she said “does he always treat you this way?” And I said “yeah, why? He’s always screaming.” She said “you do understand that is not normal, right?” And I looked at her very puzzled. She could tell I was very confused. She said “he is abusing you.” I stood there in shock and I said “no way, he doesn’t hit me.” She said “he doesn’t have to hit you, he’s abusing you verbally and emotionally and it’s not healthy.” I still stood there in shock and I said “no, he loves me, he is just looking out for my well being.” And then she said “well, I love you and I’m your friend and I’m telling you what I heard and what I saw and it’s not right. I will support you regardless of what you do but as a friend I wanted you to know I did not like the way he treated you.” I thanked her and told her I better get back to the booth before I got in trouble.

When I get back to the booth he asked me many questions on what she needed help with. I, of course, lied to him and told him she was having female issues, so he made some grunting noises and walked off. I stood there in literal shock, and I was in complete denial. Here I was, standing there with a thousand thoughts racing through my head. Was I really being abused? Was he really abusive? Maybe it was his personality. Maybe he just cared about me so much and only wanted the best for me. I was really in denial. We got home later that day and he decided to take a nap. I told him I wanted to play on YouTube and listen to music. Luckily, he said “whatever” and he stormed off to the bedroom.

After I could hear him snoring I started to Google different forms of abuse. I started reading about verbal, mental and emotional abuse. Everything I read was eye opening. I sat there in disbelief, it was like I was reading about my own life. I quickly cleared out the history and didn’t read anymore but it was gnawing at me. The following day he left to run errands and told me he would be gone for at least 2 hours. This gave me the opportunity to call the domestic violence hotline. I was nervous to call because he kept tabs on every call I made. I decided I would have a story about why I called them in case he asked me about it.

When I called the hotline the lady on the other end confirmed what I was in denial about being abused. My life had become lies, lies, and more lies in order to protect myself and my daughter. I made up more stuff in the 5 years I was with him than I ever did in my entire life. I sat there stunned thinking “how could I have become such a skillful liar?” After I did more reading, I realized that lying was part of survival. Survivors – I hate saying victims – who are being abused will lie to protect themselves, just  to have some sense of normalcy. I lied to myself, lied to him, lied to friends, family… I lied in order to keep peace and to look like I was happy. I did not want anyone knowing that I was utterly miserable.

One day he got very angry at me because I left a cereal box on the counter top. This man was a hoarder of epic proportions so I was actually surprised he even saw the cereal box. He lost his mind. He bullied me, screamed at me and pushed me. He barricaded me in the bedroom, knocking me over, and he tried to pin me down. I was able to push him off me and run past him only for him to catch up to me at the front door where he proceeded to pin me against the door. I was helpless. My hands were pinned down to my side and he was shouting in my face and slamming me against the door.

I remembered a self defense class that I took and how to get out of the situation. I tried it and it 100% worked. He was screaming in pain and I ran out of the front door. I ran down the street with no shoes and just a t-shirt and shorts on. I ran until I saw someone mowing their yard. I stopped them and asked them if could call 911. In that moment I KNEW I had to get out and that I was done. I was done being put down, called names, belittled and made to feel like I wasn’t worthy of anything. This man who wined and dined me ended up treating me like I was the worst scum of the earth. I took my daughter and we moved into the women’s shelter in Chicago. I knew that my story was not going to end in Chicago and it certainly was not going to end with him!

With strength, encouragement, perseverance, courage, and support of family and friends, I got out. It was very hard to leave. It is not easy for a survivor to just leave. It is not as easy as “pack a bag and leave the jerk!” Many people tend to say “just leave the jerk!” but it is difficult to just leave. Many times survivors are scared out of their minds, they are insecure due to abuse, they have children, they have no financial means… it is not a simple  task for a survivor. It is frightening. The man that abused me was also financially abusive so it made leaving difficult. I was very thankful for the women’s shelter in Chicago. I was able to work a temp job and save my paychecks. I was able to utilize all their services for everything I needed including legal help, resume building, job leads and counseling.

I moved back to Arkansas as I knew, if I stayed in Chicago, I would be subjected to stalking and to his non stop harassment, and I knew the cycle would never end. I knew that I had to leave and I had to leave right away. I lost many of my personal belongings but I knew they were just material things. My sanity and my daughter’s sanity were more important than things that I could replace later on. Upon my arrival in Arkansas, I called Peace at Home and asked if they had any programs I could utilize to get back on my feet, but that I did not need shelter.

They welcomed me with big open arms and offered me counseling that was priceless. I participated in the art therapy program which was instrumental in my own self – healing. I used their counseling services and I was blessed to see a therapist every week. With every therapy appointment I learned more about myself and how to love myself. I learned how to break the cycle, because even though I moved away from Chicago, that man was still trying to be in my life and control me. It took me a long time to fully break out of returning to that same cycle. The therapist was conducive in helping me turn my life around. She said that I was the one who did it all, but honestly – if it had not been for her – I’m not sure where I would be at this moment. Peace at Home saved me and my daughter, as did the Wings shelter in Chicago. Without these shelters, I know I would still be stuck in the cycle of abuse, because I know I would have not been strong enough to do it alone. Programs like this save everyday people like you and me. One thinks they will never be stuck in an abusive relationship, but it happens and it happens to the best of us.

My story does not end in abuse. My story does not end in being miserable and my story does not end up as another statistic. I decided to take control of my life and I am glad I did. With lots of therapy, I became me again. My life won’t end until God comes to take me. But my life has changed, and it has changed for the good that I had hoped to find. I asked God to put the right man in my life and that this time I wouldn’t do things on my own. I would believe in His higher power and that I would be patient. God put my husband in my life and he is a good man. He is patient with me, he treats me with respect, love, and kindness. My story has a happily ever after and that, my friends, is called having “peace at home”.

 

Expansion Grand Opening

On Wednesday, September 6th over 100 of our friends and supporters joined us for the ribbon cutting of our shelter expansion.

We were humbled to see so many of our community partners and neighbors at the event, including representatives from the Fayetteville and Springdale Chambers of Commerce, Springdale Mayor Doug Sprouse, Fayetteville Mayor Lioneld Jordan, donors, volunteers, board members, and staff.


Photo Credit: Denise Garner

Now that our expansion is open, Peace at Home Family Shelter will be able to provide safe shelter to 350-400 adults and children fleeing violence every single year. As our Northwest Arkansas community continues to grow, this expansion could not have come at a more needed time.

We are so grateful to all of the donors who made this expansion possible and to our donors and supporters who give to Peace at Home every day to make safety and a new start possible for families in crisis. Thank you.

To see more photos from our event, click here.