Georgia Criminal Law Review

Document Type



When civil family issues intersect with criminal acts, the civil and criminal systems fail to effectuate a complete remedy. Specifically, there are few effective protections for victims of domestic violence during the pendency of domestic relations proceedings. Given the complicated gender dynamics and inequalities that have developed throughout history, it is unsurprising that the criminal and civil systems have failed to prioritize prosecution of crimes against women. Current criminal laws fail to treat domestic violence and parental kidnapping as serious crimes and instead adopt the view that domestic disputes are private issues to be handled within the family. In turn, the criminal system attempts to rely on the civil system to address these issues, but abuse victims cannot find proper remedies there either. This gap in the law leaves victims helpless.

The criminal justice system must reform to fill the gap. State parental kidnapping statutes, and law enforcement and prosecutors, currently fail to diligently investigate and punish acts of domestic violence and parental kidnapping. Likewise, the civil system leaves victims vulnerable during domestic relations proceedings. Judges have broad discretion in adjudicating custody, and this latitude leaves room for judges to award custody to abusers, especially when claims of parental alienation by one parent take precedent over claims of abuse by the other parent. The consequences of awarding custody to unstable abusive parents can be fatal. Because the civil system is ill-equipped to protect victims and punish perpetrators of domestic crimes, reform must come from within the criminal justice system through aggressive prosecution of parental kidnapping and domestic violence. These issues are not private family issues, and state intervention is required to ensure adequate protection and prevention.

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Criminal Law Commons