Journal of Family Violence

, Volume 28, Issue 6, pp 547–560 | Cite as

Post-Separation Abuse of Women and their Children: Boundary-Setting and Family Court Utilization among Victimized Mothers

  • April M. Zeoli
  • Echo A. Rivera
  • Cris M. Sullivan
  • Sheryl Kubiak


Continued abuse of themselves and their children is a concern for many mothers leaving intimate partner violence (IPV) perpetrating husbands. This research examines women’s responses to abuse committed by ex-husbands with whom they had undergone custody disputes. In-depth, qualitative interviews were conducted with 19 mothers who had divorced IPV-perpetrating husbands between 1 and 3 years prior. Participants were located through publicly available family court divorce records and interviews were examined using analytic induction. Women’s strategies to protect themselves and their children from abuse involved setting boundaries to govern their interactions with ex-husbands. Mothers often turned to family court for assistance in setting boundaries to keep children safe, but found that family court did not respond in ways they believed protected their children. Conversely, when women turned to the justice system for restraining orders or called the police for help against IPV, they generally found the justice system responsive.


Intimate partner violence Child abuse Child custody Family court 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • April M. Zeoli
    • 1
  • Echo A. Rivera
    • 2
  • Cris M. Sullivan
    • 2
  • Sheryl Kubiak
    • 3
  1. 1.School of Criminal JusticeMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA
  2. 2.Psychology DepartmentMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA
  3. 3.School of Social WorkMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA

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