At this point *Emma was eight. I went downstairs, and I said, “Em, you know the judge, and everything we’ve talked about?”
“Yeah, what are you gonna tell me?”
“The judge said you don’t have to go back [and see your father for visitation] anymore.”
“Are you serious? Is this real?”
“It’s very real.”

She looked at me and said, “This is the best day ever.” And she just looked off, and that was the end of it."
- Survivor and DV LEAP Client


The DV LEAP focus on custody and abuse is our response to a well-documented trend in the family courts: giving unsafe parents access to their children. DV LEAP litigates cutting-edge cases in D.C. and across the U.S. on issues such as custody and abuse, child sexual abuse and domestic violence, “parental alienation,” and malicious prosecution claims wrongfully brought against protective mothers. This program includes consultations, custody trainings and presentations, custody law reform, and advocacy for embattled professionals. 


An estimated 58,000 children are court-ordered into the unsupervised care of an abusive father, each and every year


When the abuser invokes the “alienation” defense (accuses mother of merely trying to alienate children from the father)...
In cases where mothers and children report the father’s sexual abuse of the child, the court has sided with the father 81% of the time
When the court openly states they believe that the father had abused the mother, it still sided with the abusive father 62% of the time

Custody and Abuse Consultations 

DV LEAP provides consultations on custody at the individual and national levels, from the abused parent fighting to keep their children safe through the courts, to the federal government. To inquire about DV LEAP consultations, please complete this form.

Custody and Abuse Trainings & Presentations

DV LEAP conducts trainings and presentations around the country on custody, domestic violence, and “parental alienation.” To inquire about DV LEAP trainings, please email us at

Custody Law Reform

DV LEAP's staff are highly respected and solicited thought-leaders on custody law reform. 

Examples of Impact
  • DV LEAP provided comments to the National Conference of Commissioners on the Uniform State Laws Model Statute on the Representation of Children.
  • DV LEAP consults with the National Association of Juvenile and Family Court Judges on their development of judicial guidelines for custody and abuse.
  • DV LEAP collaborates with our allies in the District of Columbia to improve DC legislation for adult and child victims of abuse.
  • DV LEAP spearheaded creation of H. Con. Res. 72, Child Safety and Child Custody, introduced in 2017.
  • DV LEAP partnered with the Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women on a two-year cooperative agreement to improve the family court system’s ability to protect children in custody cases involving domestic violence or child abuse.

Advocacy for Embattled Professionals

DV LEAP provides advocacy and assistance for leading experts in the field (attorneys and mental health professionals) who are under attack by abusers and their advocates through challenges to professional licenses and standing.

I once represented a client who was living in a domestic violence shelter with her two children because she left home to escape brutal beatings from her husband. My client had a protection order from the court. At the conclusion of the hearing, the Judge remarked that he had spoken with the kids and was still torn about what to do.

He said, 'I talked to the kids and they are happy with their mother and prefer to stay with mom, but, that means living in a shelter and the father has this nice two bedroom apartment.'

I explained to the Judge that he had the ability to order child support as part of the protection order so the mom and kids could move out of the shelter. If I hadn’t also said, 'Give me the weekend to see if I can arrange for them to move into transitional housing,' the judge would have ruled to put the kids in their dad’s house.
- Susan Hoffman, Public Service Partner at Crowell Moring, Founding DV LEAP Board Chair