Maloney-Meehan Measure Affirms Importance of Child Safety in Custody, Visitation Adjudications

Jul 26, 2017
Press Release

WASHINGTON – Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-Pa.) and this week introduced H.Con.Res. 72, which expresses the sense of Congress that child safety is the first priority of custody and visitation adjudications, and that state courts should improve adjudications of custody issues in instances where family violence is alleged.

“In child custody cases the safety and wellbeing of the child should always be the first priority,” said Rep. Maloney. “It is unacceptable that any child be placed in a home with an abusive parent. This important resolution will give state courts the encouragement and guidance they need to resolve all claims of domestic abuse before turning to the issue of custody.”

“An estimated 58,000 American children are ordered by our courts into the custody of abusive parents, in many cases over the objections of another parent,” said Congressman Meehan, a former local and federal prosecutor. “As a result, too many kids face trauma, injury or even death that could have been prevented by improved custody and visitation adjudications. This resolution makes it clear that the top priority in any such adjudication is the safety of the child involved and it will encourage states to develop standards that will help keep our courts from inadvertently delivering children into the hands of abusive parents.”

The resolution earned praise from a wide array of victims’ advocacy and domestic violence prevention organizations.

“The National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) supports the Child Safety Resolution introduced by Representatives Patrick Meehan and Carolyn Maloney,” said Kim Gandy, the NNEDV’s President. “Child abuse and domestic violence are often inextricably linked, with children being some of the most vulnerable victims of and witnesses to domestic violence and sexual abuse. Despite the severe consequences to the future health of child victims and witnesses, state family courts often fail to hear and evaluate reports of child abuse and domestic violence. NNEDV supports the adoption of this concurrent resolution, which encourages states to adjudicate family violence claims and protect at-risk children. This resolution, if adopted, will help protect and save lives across the country,” Gandy said.

“More than 580 innocent children have been murdered by a parent in the midst of a divorce, separation, child custody, or child support proceeding in the U.S. in the past decade, according to our organization’s child homicide data,” said Kathleen Russell, Executive Director of the Center for Judicial Excellence. “Many of these were preventable murders - with parents repeatedly warning family courts about life threatening danger to their children - but they were ignored. This resolution is crucial to shining a light on a serious judicial crisis that can be remedied if state courts listen to Congress and prioritize child safety above everything else."

Seven of  Maloney and Meehan's colleagues, from both parties, have co-sponsored the resolution. The full text of H.Con.Res. 72 can be found here.