Jennifer Moston was about seven months pregnant when, she said, her husband grabbed her by the arms, picked her up and threw her against the staircase. Each time she tried to get up, he pushed her down again. Such abusive episodes continued for several years, she said, until 2016, when he allegedly tried to strangle her. She went to the police and filed for divorce.
It seemed obvious to Jennifer that her husband, Ryan, shouldn’t get custody of their 3-year-old son, as Ryan now faced felony charges of domestic violence. How could someone with a violent history be trusted with a child? How could she stay out of harm’s way if she was interacting with him for drop-offs?
Jennifer assumed that the family court in her Wisconsin county would make her safety and that of her son a priority, and that the system would help her cut off contact with Ryan.
But it didn’t.
Wisconsin is considered a “leader” in the movement to give fathers equal rights as parents, with its percentage of shared custody cases among the highest in the nation. But a ProPublica investigation has found that the state’s family court system has been unable to adjust to protect domestic abuse survivors. ProPublica reporter Megan O’Matz explores how the complexities of domestic violence are often overlooked in the Wisconsin court system. Advocates and experts say the lack of reforms puts mothers and children at risk, often leaving women facing legal barriers and forced to co-parent with their abusers.
Read more here.