Preventing a child custody dispute from turning violent

In rare instances, a divorce and subsequent child custody battle can become violent. A recent, very tragic case involved a father who threw his young son off of a roof then proceeded to jump himself. The boy was 3 years old. It is thought that the horrific act was seen by the father as a way to hurt his ex-wife after not getting everything he wanted during the divorce. It is now known that the father was sometimes verbally abusive, but the young boy always seemed to be happy after his visits. No signs of physical abuse were ever present either, so it would have been difficult for the mother to predict that such an abhorrent event could unfold.

A professor at Purdue University commented on the case and provided some warning signs for anybody who might suspect an ex-spouse could turn violent. She stated that it would be impossible to predict and prevent every bad thing that could happen to a family member, but there are some signals that a parent could be abusing a child. For example, if the parent often uses physical punishment, he or she may be more likely to become violent.

Also, if the parent was abused as a child or endures incredibly high-stress levels, these may also be warning signs. A parent who expects too much of a child too early in his or her life or a parent who struggles with feeling attached to a child may also be more likely to turn to violence.

The professor stated that the father who threw his son from a roof may have been trying to prevent anyone else from having the child if he was not allowed to have him. The father may also have been using a religious justification, thinking that he could exist forever with his son in an afterlife.

Whatever the reason, the professor suggests that warning signs can be seen even more clearly in how the ex-spouses interact during child custody proceedings, rather than how an individual parent treats the child. Sometimes, parents will try to use a child to get back at their ex rather than focusing on the best interests of the child. This is why it’s so important to work with a family law professional and seek mediation in an attempt to reduce the chances of a violent event.

Source:, “The Most Important Warning Signs a Custody Battle Could Turn Violent” Lisa Fogarty, Dec. 24, 2013