People often think that when a parent leaves an abusive relationship they will gain primary custody of the children. But many family courts don’t consider domestic violence a reason to deny the abuser partial or full child custody.
Survivors often face an uphill custody battle. This is partly because abusers are more likely than non-abusers to challenge child custody decisions. And 70% of the time, abusers succeed in getting partial or full custody of the children.
Even though she’d left him, Amira’s abuser kept coming back. He forced and intimidated his way into the home that Amira shared with their five-year-old daughter Hana. He regularly followed her to work, harassing Amira in front of her customers and coworkers. Things became so bad, the 25-year-old Sudanese immigrant was forced to leave her job. Pregnant with her abuser’s child and unsure how to support two children on her own, Amira reached out to LifeWire.
With the help of her advocate, Amira connected with local resources to help meet her basic needs. She began meeting with a LifeWire mental health therapist, who helped Amira process some of the traumas she experienced after years of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. Amira worked with her advocate to create a safety plan, which included seeking a protection order. LifeWire’s legal advocate connected Amira with a pro bono attorney who helped her obtain a protection plan and set up a parenting plan.
Since Amira obtained her protection order, her abuser stopped contacting her. Instead of worrying about her safety, Amira now has time to raise Hana and her infant son Abdi. Amira is working hard on her long-term goals of raising healthy and safe children, having stable housing, returning to the workforce, and becoming a U.S. citizen.
Renata was both relieved and afraid to learn her husband was behind bars. She felt safe, but knew that wouldn’t last. He could be released at any time. Renata wanted to protect herself and her two daughters, but she didn’t have any place to go. And without immigration papers, the Mexican-born woman didn’t have may options. Sensing Renata’s distress, the police officer assigned to her domestic violence case referred her to LifeWire.
With her housing advocate’s help, Renata and her kids relocated to My Sister’s Home, LifeWire’s emergency shelter. My Sister’s Home provided the family with the space and resources they needed to begin healing. After meeting with her legal advocate, Renata learned that she was eligible to apply for a U Visa as a survivor of a violent crime. If awarded, the visa would allow her to live and work legally in the U.S. LifeWire connected her to a pro bono immigration attorney, who helped Renata apply for and receive the temporary visa.
As Renata prepared to leave the shelter and move into her own apartment, she learned that she had to provide a higher security deposit due to her limited rental history. LifeWire used flexible funds to assist with her move-in costs and her first month’s rent.
Today, Renata and her kids are healing. She still attends group therapy sessions and social gatherings with other survivors. Renata wants to help other survivors the way LifeWire staff and volunteers helped her.
For 20 years, Anna lived under the abuse and control of her American husband, who refused to allow her to become a U.S. citizen. Despite her efforts to obtain a Green Card, she needed her husband’s approval. Instead of signing her paperwork, he held the threat of deportation over her head as a method of control.