Wade v. Wade

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Challenged the distinction between minor, or “de minimus,” and “classic” incidents of domestic violence.

Full Case Title: 

Wade v. Wade, 101 Wash. App. 1011 (Ct. App. 2000)
  • Violence Against Women and Girls


  • Domestic Violence and Children
  • Parental Rights
  • Authored Amicus Brief


Summary of the Case

This case involves a custody dispute between a domestic violence survivor and her former husband that challenges the distinction between minor, or “de minimus,” and “classic” incidents of domestic violence.

Our Role in the Case  

Legal Momentum filed an amicus brief on behalf of twelve domestic violence advocacy organizations and an individual advocate in this appeal. Our brief, which we drafted with the assistance of White & Case, focused on the serious nature of domestic violence, and criticized the lower court’s distinction between minor, or "de minimus," and "classic" incidents of domestic violence. It presented social science data about the range of abusive behaviors, including conduct that might not be viewed as severely violent on its face, that can adversely affect children and put them at risk of harm. In addition, the brief argued that joint custody should not be awarded in domestic violence situations. 


In June 2000, the Washington Court of Appeals eliminated the geographic restriction that had been in the parenting plan, devised by the lower court, and held that a parent’s relocation can only be the basis for modifying a parenting plan if it will harm the child. However, relying on the specific facts of this case, the Court ruled against Ms. Wade on several issues. It upheld the lower court’s decree that the child split time between both parents and required mediation and court review of Ms. Wade’s parenting decisions. Moreover, the Court of Appeals upheld the distinction between "de minimus" and "classic" domestic violence, and ruled that there was insufficient evidence of "classic" domestic violence here to warrant court recognition.