Courts Study Neglect Cases Against Battered Women

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New York State’s highest court may rule on whether women can be considered unfit as a mother if they share a home with an abuser. Women’s eNews reports that the New York Court of Appeals may offer an opinion on state law to guide Brooklyn federal judge Jack Weinstein, who ruled in a class-action case that New York City had illegally taken children away from women who were charged with neglect for allowing the children to witness domestic violence.

“This is an important ruling for women and children,” says Carolyn A. Kubitschek, lead counsel in the class action. “Charging a battered woman with neglect means she’ll always have that on her record, which can negatively impact her chances for employment, which can actually make it more difficult for her to leave her abuser. And it forces the [city] Administration for Children’s Services to take a more comprehensive approach to dealing with the complexities of family violence instead of just blaming the victim.”

Lawyers for the city insist that in some cases it is in the child’s best interest to be removed from a violent household. The city does not keep statistics on how many children were taken from their mothers because of domestic violence, but Kubitschek says that between 80 and 400 families are affected annually.


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