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A sad and cautionary case of domestic abuse in Minnesota

Divorce and child custody cases that involve abuse accusations need to be handled with special care. In cases in which one party in a divorce is skilled at manipulating the judicial system, the other party is at an increased risk of being victimized, especially if there is a history of domestic abuse. Divorce attorneys can help their clients understand how to behave during a child custody dispute, especially if the opposing party is manipulative.

With these issues in mind, our readers may take heed of a sad and cautionary tale that unfolded recently in Minnesota. The case illustrates some of the dangers that orders of protection and other court-ordered actions are designed to prevent or mitigate.

An Apple Valley woman was allegedly murdered on July 15 by her ex-husband, who then took his own life. The couple had two children, and the mother had recently been awarded full custody after a lengthy court battle. During the case, the mother had been accused repeatedly of abusing the husband, and she was the subject of related criminal proceedings.

Nonetheless, the guardian ad litem of the couple's two children advocated strongly for custody to be awarded to the mother. The guardian asserted that the mother was the victim of an abuser who was skilled at manipulating the court system.

Though child custody litigation frequently ends in a settlement, a small percentage of cases do result in a lengthy trial. When going through a custody case, be prepared for the emotional strain that can accompany seeing the other party during visitation and at court. It is also important to choose an attorney with whom you feel comfortable to help you during this difficult period.

The guardian ad litem in this case noted that the ex-husband often recorded his former wife making threatening statements, but only after his own provocations. The woman's statements were thus taken out of context.

Reportedly, the woman was afraid to confide in police and rarely, if ever, defended herself when her husband called 911 to report abuse. Though the woman received assistance for abuse, she did not file police reports to document it. Such documentation can help a court make a clear decision about who should have custody of a child.

Other Minnesota parents who are dealing with a domestic violence situation should be fully aware of their rights as parents and as victims.  

Source: Star Tribune, "Tangled lives preceded two shooting deaths in Apple Valley," Heron Marquez Estrada, July 16, 2012

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