How Family Courts Punish Abused Women

“The dirtiest little secret in America” is that family courts, in deciding custody, often wreak devastation upon mothers and children.

So argue Mo Therese Hannah and Barry Goldstein, editors of the new anthology Domestic Violence, Abuse, and Child Custody, which brings to light what many familiar with the family court system have long known: Designed to dispense justice, the system has become instead “an instrument of oppression,” particularly in cases involving domestic violence.

To find a chilling example of what the editors mean, we need look no further than the recent murder of infant Wyatt Garcia, reported in the Daily Beast:

Wyatt Garcia was born in April 2009. Nine months later, he was shot and killed by his father, who then turned the gun on himself.

It might have turned out differently—if a family-court judge had listened to Wyatt’s mother.

Wyatt’s mother, Katie Tagle, had previously filed three motions in family court for an order of protection against the baby’s father, Stephen Garcia, alleging that he had physically assaulted her and harassed her and her family. Garcia was apparently jealous that she was dating again. In the last motion, Tagle charged that Garcia “had threatened to kill her and their baby.”

The San Bernardino County Superior Court Judge Robert Lemkau chose to believe Garcia’s denials over the evidence supplied by Tagle–which included emails, text messages, and voice messages, according to the Daily Beast. Tagle says she was treated like a “criminal” and “complaining woman.”

One goal of Hannah and Goldstein’s book is to convince judges, attorneys, and others who work in the court system that all forms of abusive behavior, whether physical, verbal, financial or legal, cause harm to women and children. On the legal side, men who abuse their female intimate partners have successfully used strategies such as false accusations, harassment, manipulation, and intimidation to win custody while often driving their victims into poverty. According to contributing author and lawyer Joan Zorza:

Abusive men not only harass their victims, many harass their partners’ lawyers and manipulate those in and connected with the court system who are supposed to insure that children are placed with their better parent in a safe, nurturing environment.

This makes it all the stranger that about half of the time batterers win custody in family courts. They are actually more likely to win custody than men who do not abuse their partners, according to Zorza. Over the past nine months, 75 children have been murdered by abusive fathers who used custody battles to get even with the mothers, according to the Daily Beast.

Yet Katie Tagle’s dismissive treatment by family courts is all-too-familiar. While there has been a growing awareness over the last 30 years of the harm domestic violence causes, courts are more and more ignoring women’s allegations of domestic violence and holding them responsible for their own abuse. This is largely due to courts’ reliance upon mental health experts who have inadequate training in intimate violence or child sexual abuse and who are easily manipulated by batterers.

Gender bias plays a large role in this backlash, according to the editors:

Compared to men, women are disbelieved more often, held to much higher standards, and judged far more punitively for failings such as drinking, use of drugs, adultery, or hostility to their partners. …Such behaviors are readily seen as grounds for giving the father custody.

Hannah and Goldstein hope to also expose two particularly harmful court practices that have evolved over the last several decades: Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS), and “friendly parent” statutes. PAS provides a handy–and utterly without basis–refutation to incest and abuse claims by blaming mothers for any hostility that the children feel towards their fathers, maintaining that children love and respect their fathers unless a “poisonous” mother has convinced them otherwise. Even alleged incest and violence are not deemed reason enough for children to independently turn against their fathers.

Since PAS has been deemed by the American Psychological Association to have no scientific backing, at least 32 states have incorporated the milder sounding “friendly parent” concept into their custody laws. This gives custody to the parent who will encourage the child to have more contact and a better relationship with the other parent. Often mothers are hurt by the friendly parent concept, since they can be deemed “unfriendly” for saying anything against the father, including alleging abuse. Zorza says that, ironically enough:

The unfriendly behavior of noncustodial parents (usually the father), such as not paying child support, physically or verbally abusing the mother, or stalking her, is not considered as meeting the definition of unfriendly.

With such an approach, Zorza says, family violence is discounted, and abusers are empowered while battered women are disempowered. Ultimately, children are harmed.

Domestic Violence, Abuse, and Child Custody will be instructive for policymakers, those working in the family justice system, and members of the media–which the authors say has by-and-large failed to expose custody court scandals. But it is a must-read for any mother involved in a child custody battle, and especially for mothers trying get free from an abusive relationship.

Photo courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/pinksherbet/ / CC BY 2.0

Comments

  1. Victoria Blessing says:

    Mothers from across the nation, who have experienced judicial retaliation for protecting their children from abuse, will be banner carriers for reforming our broken court system, tomorrow through Thursday in Washington DC at the capitol. Their message is a chilling one that has become a common cry heard in courtrooms around the country. Courts are giving children to known abusive parents and severing all contact with loving, non-abusive parents who have been the primary caretakers of the involved chilren. In the last nine months alone, 75 children have been murdered by a parent, their father, after allegations, threats and proof of abuse was ignored–not by the abused childrens mothers, by the courts. Even when they’ve been proved wrong, by the blood of dead children on their hands, judges insist they were right! Judges ignore laws regulating their conduct, and disregard hard evidence that to all reasonable people would require protection, have no accountability to anyone for their actions or failure to act where the law mandates certain action. Laws regulating judges conduct were established in large part through an initiative process, whereby voters agreed judges should regulate themselves in order to preserve “judicial independence”. But the judicial branch is not supposed to be independent of the checks and balances inherent in our system of government. Individual judges have a mandate to be independent –but judges can not be independent when they act and rule as a group. People were tricked into voting on an initiative that has allowed judges (not) to hold themselves accountable by establishing judicial commissions and organizations to regulate their performance. The failure of judicial oversight groups to promote the proper administration of justice, by focusing efforts instead on ignoring, excusing, concealing and improperly labeling judicial crimes “misconduct,” has confounded grand juries, law enforcement, government officials, and voters –who are authorized to investigate and take action against judges who violate the law into believing no judicial act constitutes a criminal violation of the law and that even if a judicial act does criminally violate the law only the Commission can make that determination. This attitude is contrary to settled law and judicial review committee rules (which state that the judicial oversight groups do not have authority to investigate or prosecute judges for criminal acts, including malfeasance), yet has allowed family court judges to attack the very core of public safety through unchecked and unauthorized tampering with public policy in cases involving child abuse and domestic violence. The abandonment of its intended duty to protect the public from errant judicial officers–allowing judges who put their personal policy objectives above the laws of the States because they can get away with it without risk to their position on the public payroll–is evidence of what little regard judges have for the safety, protection, rights and public funds of citizens.

    Together we must tell judges they have responsibility, not power.

    • jane doe says:

      Thought I would post what I have learned this morning. Oregon has just passed a law for false reporting of abuse.

      This is the last nail in the coffin for women.

      This to me is a message to the divorcing moms of oregon.

      Don’t tell the truth about abuse or you will be prosecuted.

      This is truly a tragedy

      • Amy Craig says:

        No, you are misunderstanding the law. Any woman who is abused should take the time to get a good digital recorder, cell phone for pictures, and take the abuser to the courts. False reporting should absolutely be prosecuted, but abuse should be documented and prosecuted. Abusers are cunning and manipulative. Two good books are “Why Does He DO That? Inside the minds of Angry and Controlling men” by Lundy Bancroft and the “Verbally Abusive Relationship”. Abuse should never be tolerated. Contact your senators if law enforcement officials refuse to prosecute.

  2. Victoria Blessing says:

    These courageous women, and their helpless children, need our protection and attention.

    We must demand, wherever these abuses are identified, effective, careful and immediate review of all cases where protection under the law has been withheld, and coordinated emergency protective, medical, legal, and psychological services delivered to affected children and family members –along with a thorough public outreach campaign encouraging victims to come forward to receive relief and assistance.

  3. i’m so scared to enter into all of these possibilities. since the police nabbed me and my broken arm instead of him and his unbroken everything, any custody fight would destroy me. my case was dismissed, but i was charged with assault with injury FV.

    i have a better chance of mothering my daughter if i stay right where i am. this all starts with training. police training, prosecutor training… there’s a fight on and it’s against women who have been battered. it’s so bad now that they take battered women to jail just to rock the boat. “let the court sort it out”, is clearly failing us all.

    • You nailed it, Jen “…this all starts with training. Police training, prosecutor training…” I’ve witnessed the exact opposite of your experience. I witnessed a woman who was NOT battered being catered to as if she was. Three Gateway Battered Women advocates surrounding my ex-wife with the arresting police officer leaning back from his seat by the county prosecutor’s side consoling a woman who was only upset because they didn’t haul me to jail right then-and-there upon vindication of a NOT GUILTY finding. I stood-up for truth and my right as a husband and father and found TRUE justice. There are women who truly need the services for guidance, support and protection in abusive situations. However, it sickened me to see these very same “professionals” overlook fact in a case to justify their role in an unnecessary witch hunt which seems to be all too common these days.

  4. R. Dianne Bartlow says:

    Thank you Melissa for your very poignant and thoughtful remarks. The fact that the public is bankrolling this activity makes it all the more atrocious.

  5. Bryn's Mom says:

    I’m not involved in anyway with the family court system but reading this makes me feel compelled to do something or say something on the side of justice. What can all of us Jane Q. Publics do? Is there a senator or group or activist who is trying to do get legislation passed to help these kids?

  6. Thank you for this important article. One of the chapters in the book speaks about the failure of the national media to expose the crisis in the custody court system. We wondered if the definitive research in the book and the discussion of the media’s role would encourage coverage of this critical issue. How many children could have been saved from unspeakable torture if the media had covered the Catholic Church sex scandal sooner. Of course who would believe respected clergy could commit such heinous acts and other clergy would cover it up. For years it has been hard for the media to believe respected judges could routinely force children to live with abusers, but now the research is overwhelming. The problem is that 30+ years ago at a time when there was no research available, the custody court system developed practices to respond to domestic violence. We now have a specialized body of research that establishes these standard practices are outdated and discredited. The problem is that judges and other professionals in the courts have heard the same misinformation their entire careers so that it is deeply ingrained. We hope the courts and the media will use the research in the book to take a fresh look at the subject and change practices that are working poorly for children. I appreciate your help in publicizing this new research and hope it will help protect the children.

    • Mo, Barry- great job getting the word out about the book. You need to get the word out about the BMCC too. The work you do is urgent and appreciated – we must uncover this immediately and do as much as possible to change it.
      Thanks for all you do!

  7. R. Dianne Bartlow says:

    Barry–thank you and Mo Therese in addition to all of the contributing authors for this much needed and rich volume of articles addressing a system so sadly and badly broken. Just wish I had more to offer Jen above who feels she has little options but to stay where she’s at. To Bryn’s mom–thank you for your post. Contact your legislators and even the white house. The CA Protective Parents Association is also involved in many activities to help save children.

  8. It is important to remember that not every case is the women the victim in that case of abuse. It sometimes, if violence has resulted, may have been the instigating-reason for such the event ever occurring in the first place. Just don’t immediately assume that the women is blameless in the scenario, because often, she may be culpable for the violence having had occurred, at least according to the facts.

    • No Abuse Tolerated says:

      Maybe Venice should learn more about domestic violence. In NO CASE is the VICTIM to blame for the VIOLENCE. Classic case of passive aggressive, avoidant behavior designed to create a smoke screen for the real issue, abuse.

  9. beach house says:

    which facts vince? the fact that she made him hit her?

  10. R. Dianne Bartlow says:

    Venice–nothing written here suggests women are perfect. Please do though get the book.

  11. Jennifer says:

    Thank you Ms Magazine for this important article. When women lose custody of their children, people think there is something wrong with her. When there is violence and she loses custody, people think she must be leaving something out.

    I am one of these moms and only due to a simple technicality did I manage to keep my child safe roughly 70% of the time. Am I selfish to want 100% for her and I?

    I don’t think so.

  12. Rochelle says:

    Venice,
    Thank you for your input, however, we are far beyond that now. It is your kind of thinking and sidestepping, including excusing abusers, which is the direct result of what women (and some men) now face in family law courts. It takes some women many, many years to find the courage to get out of an abusive relationship. People need to stop changing the subject. This is happening, and far too often. As a direct result of your and many other false beliefs, children are suffering daily.

    Do you want children hurt, because you feel that women lie? I doubt it. We all need to stop protecting abusive behavior. Whether its from a parent, or a stanger.
    Another horiffic story is that of Joyce Murphy a few years ago. Please research that story. (here is one video) http://www.mefeedia.com/entry/video-san-diegan-to-assembly-committee-family-court-system-broken/18727422
    Joyce tried to protect her child from abuse, but was ultimatley denied protection, becuase family courts refuse to look at real evidence. They appoint corrupt, and unethical people to represent children, and document the opposite as the child or the protective parent states. Again, believeing the abuser over the victim, Joyce lost custody completely of her daughter for six years. Now the frightning part, which people not involved in the court system need to understand. If you support abusive people, you are putting your own children at risk. This effects every person on the face of the earth. Bud Parson sexually abused THREE unrelated children, who were friends of his daughter, which is the only reason he was ever caught. He is now serving time in jail. (Now, just like John Gardner, he will be out, and someones problem…do you want him to be yours?)

    Abusers need harsher punnishment. Parent or stranger. We need to stop sugar coating their offenses. Bud Parson never admitted to abusing his daughter, however, she is scared for life and NO ONE but her mother believed her and tried to protect her.
    Society needs to stop protecting abusers, and start protecting victims.
    We need to stop giving abusers second chances. Victims don’t get second chances…

  13. Great article. Perhaps the next piece will be about WHY this is happening.

    There are tremendous financial incentives to family courts to mishandle abuse cases as custody disputes specifically when the father is the perpetrator and the mother and/or the children are reporting or attempting to escape abuse via divorce.

    Those who crafted PAS, i.e., a legal defense of child molesters, into the prevalent “custody” switching model, have worked with so-called fathers rights groups to promoting a misogynstic/pro-pedophile agenda, because they can capture government program $$$$ for doing so.

    Please contact me for further information nafcjcal@aol.com

  14. Jennifer says:

    @Venice

    Are you saying that a man is justified for hitting a woman simply becase she egged him on? That sounds to me like men have absolutely no control over their action, in fact are no better than wild animals.

    I hoep this is not what you are saying because it sure sounds like it to me.

    Please repeat this until you understand it:

    THERE IS NO EXCUSE FOR ANYONE TO HIT ANYONE ELSE – EVER!!!!

  15. I was jailed for contempt after my child refused to be further abused by her and my abuser…her father. Many Mothers have also been to jail for being a protective parent. This dirty little secret is now being exposed even with gag orders being put in place by the judges. What are they hiding?? Recently it was succinctly put…

    A cottage industry of mental health professionals and attorneys with cozy relationships with family court judges routinely bankrupt families with enormous court-ordered fees and often recommend that children be placed with their sexually or physically abusive fathers. Family court judges frequently ignore evidence of abuse, refuse to hear direct testimony from the children, and rubber stamp their cronies’ recommendations. Nurturing mothers are forced to pay costly fees to attend supervised visits with the children they raised, watching helplessly as their children continue to report abuse by their abusers to uncaring visitation monitors. Mothers who speak out about system failure often face judicial retaliation and lose what little time they have with their children. The unregulated cottage industry churns away, generating hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees to experts, while some of the worst cases settle only when the children turn 18. This is a national epidemic that is destroying families across America.

    • Lorraine, I’m sorry you & your child went through exactly what my son & I are currently dealing with. Its been 2 years now. The abuse first came out when he was 5 years old. Now he is 7. At times he tells me nobody can help him. Yet, he waits patiently to be a happy little boy. He told me he wants to come home so he can smile & laugh again. He’s told me I’m the only one he can trust. He’s losing a lot of weight. Also, he seems to be in another world sometimes. I’m so scared for him. I did what any mother should & told the judge & C.Y.S. It got us nowhere. Actually it made things worse. I’ve developed P.T.S.D. Once my son is home safe, I plan to attend college & do some volunteer work to help abused kids.

  16. “A woman may be culpable for the violence?” There’s almost no situation you can give me where that makes sense. I hit her because she hit me is something children say- not cohabitating adults.

    I’ve seen first hand a judge give shared custody to a man who beat the mother of his children for over a year. Now, surprise surprise, she’s in another battle as evidence rises that he’s beating the children.

    The courts excuse violence against women because there’s a belief they did it to themselves but how to you make that claim when they’re children?

  17. > “Over the past nine months, 75 children have been murdered by abusive fathers who used custody battles to get even with the mothers, according to the Daily Beast.”

    That article is here:
    http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2010-05-05/fathers-who-kill-their-kids/full/

    Yet, when one searches for a more “academic” study without the biases of the mainstream (if you can call Daily Beast mainstream) media, you find things like this:

    http://www.canlaw.com/rights/whokills.htm

    Which says that according to Canadian law enforcement 55% of children killed by a parent are killed by their mother.

    This article on Slate (mainstream?) cites without a link to the definitive source says that in the USA, according to the FBI, men and women kill their children at about the same rate.

    http://www.slate.com/id/2063086

    So, given my experience with the Gender Feminists as represented in Ms Magazine, I’d say Your Bias is Showing.

    BTW, I’m male, father of 3, 65 years old. I am an Equity Feminist in good standing. My wife and I together own a thriving business. She is the president of the company; I am VP and CFO.

  18. Marta Lopez-Garza says:

    thank you Mo Therese Hannah and Barry Goldstein for writing this book on the injustice taking place in our courts and thank you Dianne Bartlow for this insightful review.

  19. R. Dianne Bartlow says:

    Rex–you call Slate and CanLaw “academic” or examples of mainstream media??? CanLaw seems more fringe than anything else with one quote stating “false memory,” “false sexual abuse claims,” and “vengeance” are diseases of women. That’s unbiased Rex??? Suggest you also get the book “Domestic Violence, Abuse, and Child Custody,” by Mo Therese Hannah, Ph.D. and Barry Goldstein, J.D. There are several sections on the Father’s Rights movement which should be of interest to you.

  20. nancy lee grahn says:

    The article regarding family courts abuse of women and especially children is very much appreciated and true based on my own experience in family court. It was the worst experience of my life and my child is still suffering the trauma of it. It appears to be an impenatrable system, but I believe shining a big fat light on it will help expose it.

    best,

    nancy lee grahn

  21. I would suggest that people not get into circular arguments with fathers rightster types about which “gender” is more violent. It’s a waste of time and energy.

    It is important to understand that there are two separate, although related issues here.

    One is that domestic violence and child abuse are prevalent, very serious problems that are not being addressed properly within our society.

    However, Two is that WHEN there is abuse perpetrated against women and children by husbands/fathers, and WHEN mothers and children try to escape abuse via divorce, the courts have tremendous incentives to use PAS methods to obstruct prosecutions of offenders while suppressing evidence and shifting blame to the women involved because that’s how they tap into Responsible Fatherhood, Access to Visitation and other similar government grant programs.

    In my mind two is in some ways an even bigger problem than one, because it specifically calls not only for systematizing the abuse of women and children, but perverting the entire criminal justice system.

  22. Jennifer says:

    @Rex

    You write:
    “> “Over the past nine months, 75 children have been murdered by abusive fathers who used custody battles to get even with the mothers, according to the Daily Beast.”

    That article is here:
    http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2010-05-05/fathers-who-kill-their-kids/full/

    Actually the original article is on Dastardly Dads which pulls all of its material from MAINSTREAM media reports and supplies links to al articles. Academic research has shown that one type of child death – shaken baby syndrome – is perpetrated mainly by men and younger men at that. Go to http://dastardlydads.blogspot.com to see the assive amount of time and nergy this one blogger has put into this area. ONE BLOGGER!

    An excellent article concerning abuse/neglect of children and the sx of the offender is located at http://dastardlydads.blogspot.com/2009/09/another-look-see-at-nis-3-or-what-do.html

  23. CanLaw makes its money by referring clients to lawyers. Given its contents the market appears to be men involved in custody battles. For unbiased sources please cite scientific articles, not people providing the facts that sell their products.

    As CRoss says… the question here is not whether more men than women are abusive; the question is whether the courts hold a double standard that allows abusive men access to their children, because child abuse from men is somehow more acceptable or normal than that from women. I need to read the book, but it looks like that is indeed the case. Note that PAS applies specifically to the father — there is no corresponding statute saying that a child hostile to his mother has been “poisoned” by the father — and that the authors specifically state that drinking, drug use, and adultery are all judged more harshly when it’s a woman, not a man, and you see the issue.

    I suspect the ongoing myth that women are more manipulative than men plays a part here as well. Domestic abusers and sexual predators of both sexes tend to be very adept manipulators, but if the courts automatically suspect women of emotional and psychological manipulation and automatically assume men do not have the same ability (and a lot of people do think this) then they will be tricked, manipulated, and rendered impotent by those men over and over again.

  24. R. Dianne Bartlow says:

    One chapter in the book “Why Do Judges Do That?” by Mike Brigner who has worked for three decades as a family law litigator and a domestic relations court judge as well as a judicial educator says simply that some custody judges think like abusers. Brigner draws upon Sociology professor James Ptacek’s work that shows the similarity in thinking between judges and abusers. One example: “The abuser can berate the victim as unstable, stupid, and not credible; the judge can confirm her inconsequence by paternalistic demeanor, denial of protection, and by treating her claims as lies.” Compounding the problem, Brigner says judges erroneously believe violence ends upon separation, and wrongly believe violent husbands can be good fathers. He says judges also fail to recognize litigation abuse. There are more factors operating in the mindset of judges according to Brigner, but these are a few to help explain why the rulings get dispensed in the manner that they do.

  25. R. Dianne Bartlow says:

    Jennifer–thanks for your on-going research. I visited your website and a question I’m struck with in addition to the family court system being badly broken and, as some argue is operating as it should given its parameters, is— whose interest is really being served by this false divide between mothers and fathers ? Mothers are not happy, dads are not happy, and the kids are certainly not being served by the battles. The short answer of course is that we live in a patriarchal society that by-and-large services men and their interests yet, we do have examples of women and men working together in the historical record to counter injustice where it has occurred like Frederick Douglass and William Loyd Garrison working on behalf of women’s rights in the 19th century to help women earn basic rights like the right to vote, and sit in a classroom to be educated, and the right to keep her own property among other basic rights. I guess what I’m getting at is that the power elite in this country do NOT want us working together and, would rather see us divided–that way there’s no room for coalition building between us, and the false divide remains in place. With the recent Supreme Court ruling to allow corporations even greater power to influence the public’s imagination–we can clearly see what we’re up against.

  26. Believe children, please! says:

    Family courts are broken in Texas. I know of 25 women in Dallas family courts who lost all access to their children for daring to tell what was happening to them and the children. All they did was ask the court to protect them and the abuser got custody; mom loses access. Appellate court backs the corruption and there is nothing else a loving mother can do other than go public and articles like this really help! Thank you!!!

    Check out this article: http://www.thelizlibrary.org/liz/custody-evaluator.html

    It is one Dallas court ordered evaluator (John Zervopoulos) and 5 custody evaluations. 5 very different mothers all with one thing in common. Cookie cutter evaluations. Hmmm….. makes you wonder!

    Final thought: Who has more of a reason to lie? An innocent child or a man who is trying elude jail for molesting his child?

  27. Abusers never lie, yeah, right says:

    Please check out these links:

    1.) Abuse and custody disputes: Scientific and Legal Issues

    http://www.leadershipcouncil.org/1/pas/1.html

    2.) Andrew Vachss: attorney and huge child advocate who totally understands the abuse of women and children

    http://www.vachss.com/av_dispatches.html

    This is a national crisis and people put in place to protect children from abuse are enabling abusers at alarming rates. There is a new kind of abuse. Stalking through the family courts. Women once thought that IF they could get out and IF they could get divorced they would be safe and free from abuse. Not anymore. Dare to ask for help in family court and you just bought yourself a front row ticket to hell.

    It is common for a child to disclose abuse at the time of separation or shortly after divorce because they often feel safe to do it at that time. Also, often the abuse doesn’t begin until the father is able to have alone time. Children always tell the people that they are closest to, often this is mom. When mom tries to get protection for her child, the abuser comes back that mom is a liar. Excuse me, how is mom a liar when she never said it happened? All mom did was repeat what her child said. Mom doesn’t know, but she sure as hell is going to believe her child especially when that child should have no knowledge of certain sexual things at a young age.

    Don’t forget, it took the general public many, many years to actually believe a priest could molest a child. In time, the general public will also believe that a father could do this too and it is happening at alarming rates. These are not fathers, these are pedophiles who grow their own victims.

    As these kids age out of the system, more and more will be coming forward suing their “fathers” and other entities who have hurt them. Like Alanna Kraus of California who at age 18 with the help of attorney Richard Ducote successfully won a civil suit against her father and has never spoken to him again. Alanna is now about 25 yrs. old.

    I guess it is easier to believe a convenient lie than the disgusting truth….

  28. dads get special treatment says:

    What I want to know is why are these cases being dealt with in family court?

    If a friend, neighbor, teacher, coach, grandfather, etc… abused or molested a child it would be handled in criminal court. Why is a father any different?

    This is a criminal act, right? We have a victim, right? So….lets put these cases where they belong. Criminal court.

    If I were violated, sexually or physically, no one would ever force me to be in the same room with the monster who hurt me let alone force me to live with him, talk about how it made me feel, etc… so why does the child welfare system throw these cases into family court and force these young victims to have contact with the person they say hurt them?

    Thank you for this article Ms. Magazine!

    • Exactly right!!! Why does the victim have to prove their case? Why isn't it a matter for criminal courts? Why is it okay to abuse women and children? Not enough has changed in this society to see this for what it is – an epidemic. Women killed everyday when you open newspapers by spouse/former spouse and no one even thinks about it anymore. Even when tiny babies are shot, people are abhorred, then forget it. What kind of society doesn't protect it's citizens?

  29. victoria blessing says:

    National Sexual Violence Resource Center http://www.nsvrc.org/blog/bystander/2596

    Voices of Men (http://www.voicesofmen.org)

    These are links to groups of men who working today on behalf of women’s rights to help women earn basic rights like the right to live free from violence. Hurray! thanks guys :-)

    There is also a “Facebook Cause” group called “Ten Thousand Men Supporting Women’s Anti-Violence Groups”.

    Find links at facebook, Victoria Blessing <3

  30. R. Dianne Bartlow says:

    The cases don’t make it out family courts because the mothers are thought to be complaining and delusional and in other words, not credible.

  31. R. Dianne Bartlow says:

    Thanks “Abusers never lie, yeah, right says” and “believe children please says” for your additional research.

  32. @ Dads get special treatment:

    For insight into why dads get special treatment, perhaps you should look to some of the archaic laws regulating marriage and divorce, such as California’s “Conciliation Court Law” (which is essentially the basis for custody switching programs used across the country).

    CCCL (CA Family Codes 1800-1852)specifically gives the family court jurisdiction over abuse cases, as the same time it identifies a child’s primary “right” to both parents. It also authorizes government funding, especially for Responsible Fatherhood and Access to Visitation programs, to the family/conciliation court (mediation) to use specifically in cases where abuse victims to forced to “share” the child with the perpetrator, “or else”.

    Add to the mix the anti-feminist “fathers rights” agenda — which ironically is seeking to give men the upper hand in the one area even misogynistic societies have “allowed” women, i.e., child bearing and raising — and which specifically relies on “sexperts” for advice on parenting and custody, and the scheme (scam!) makes sense:

    A woman reports her child has been molested, the courts label her a vindictive alienator, they cite experts who say she needs to be jailed and the child needs to live with the perp (PAS “threat therapy”). Then they work together to suppress evidence and shift blame to the mother using PAS methods, so that they can justify involving evaluators, mediators, minor’s counsel, GALs, etc., to capture moneys for mishandling the case as a high conflict custody dispute (mom’s fault, of course), rather than the criminal case it should, and would be if the offender wasn’t the father.

    BTW, there have been some people who have criticized our group in the past for focusing too much on the “pedophile” angle. However, they don’t seem to realize that one of the primary groups setting the custody agenda, the CRC, had among its founding officials WF, of Penthouse “Family Sex/Genitally Caressing Children” fame, as well as Richard Gardner and sexologist JM (John/Joan)as advisors, and RU (of Paidika fame) and his wife HW as members.

    Do you really think that these folks serve a legitimate purpose for an organization purporting to promote shared parenting and children’s rights?

    If you doubt me, please contact me via email (nafcjcal@aol.com) and I would be happy to forward you links.

    Please note too that this is especially relevant to Marin County CA family court. Mambers of the mediation group and the Marin based CFIT were also founding members of CRC and have served as experts and advisors. These folks have reorganized and reallied their group as the Northern CA Task Force on the Alienated Child. They are the primary people involved directly in the most egregiously mishandled cases, AND they have use grant funding to set up custody switching programs, train special masters, and teach PAS methods across the country and around the world…

    BTW, check out the Town of Fairfax’s Resolution 2466: http://www.nafcj.net/fairfax.htm

    It could serve as a template for revisions in state law and the VAWA, which would lead to proper adjudication of abuse cases.

  33. Cusodial Step parent says:

    Maybe it’s worth saying, that some people DO lie about the abuse.

    When a person, man or woman, decides to make up lies about the other side, it junks up the system and makes it harder for people who need the help to get it.

    In our situation, that is exactly what happened. My husband was being accused of all kinds of stuff. In the end, the mother completely walked away from her own children to get remarried. She accused my husband of many things, only to stop once she found someone else.

    We have now been custodial for three years, and mom has only been bothered to visit once. During that visit she hit the oldest so hard it split her lip open – just for saying she wanted to go home.

    Abuse can happen from both sides, and it’s wrong in all cases. We need harsher punishments for people on both sides that abuse the system and other people.

    • DVMartinEsq says:

      It is worth saying. Thank you. There is no question that women are the primary victims of domestic violence and we need much more protection to prevent it; but we must not be blinded by gender alone. Children are also victims and it is sometimes at the hands of the mother. (Sometimes the man is actually the victim of domestic violence, but people don't much care about that because she usually can't do him that much physical harm unless she uses a weapon.) Each case should be judged on its own facts. There are women who make a mockery of real abuse victims by lying and playing the system while abusing their children and keeping them from fathers who are trying to save them. These women should be "screened out" by advocates for violence against women. Advocates opposing domestic violence should not end up in court "protecting" the parent who is the actual abuser simply because that parent is female. This representation actually furthers, rather than prevents domestic violence by shielding the perpetrator while she harms her children. It also wastes resources and hurts the credibility of the organization trying to do good for the many real victims who deserve the help.

  34. R. Dianne Bartlow says:

    @Custodial Step Parent–It was mentioned earlier that women are not perfect, and certainly neither are men. Having said this, the book “Domestic Violence, Abuse, and Child Custody” which has helped to spur this blog discussion suggests that women are punished more often in issues of child custody. CRoss aptly pinpoints the significant role the father’s right’s movement has in custody cases and, the influence of early law. These two factors are taken up in the book in quite detail. Marvin Timmothy Gray, J.D, M.A., C.D.S.V.R.P. explains in his chapter “Historical Legal Context in Domestic Violence Custody Cases,” that”it is important to see that, in the written law of ancient civilizations, women and children were generally treated as property in most if not all ways.” Moreover, Gray says the ruler used judges and laws to govern human activities and behaviors including custody of children, and divorce among other things including marriage. Gray argues these laws and customs are still influencing family courts today even though they are invisible to many participants in the court system. These early laws and customs were created to place fathers in clear positions of power over their wives, slaves, and children in the household according to Gray, and considered the fathers the general manager of the property and wealth of the family. The overwhelming majority of posts here point to what happens to mothers and children when this invisible power is challenged. It’s pretty much like being at the guillotine.

  35. I know Katie. We belong to a exclusive mother’s club, one where our children were shot. My son lived, but he will have the bullet hole the rest of his life to remind him. When I tried to bring it up in court, Judge George C Fairbanks looked at the GAL and the 2 snickerd at each other. My abuser was allowed by the Williamsburg VA police to go back to the scene and clean it up before they sent a patrolman to talk to him over 20 minutes later and the investigators never came to the scene until the next day, after he spent the night in the house.
    Judge Fairbanks also allowed and endorsed my son dropping out of school in 10th grade, after having failed it twice for truancy.
    Judge Fairbanks granted a court appointed lawyer, though my abuser had $600,000 in the bank and Fairbanks even mentioned the money in court on more than one occassion.
    Fairbanks had my son going to 2 seperate phychologists at the same time. Clearly a violation of ethics.
    Fairbanks ordered both parents into counseling and than accepted my son’s counseling as counseling for my ex.
    Fairbanks allowed the sealing my abuser’s record of abuse a few days after I filed for divorce on grounds of violence.
    Fairbanks allows his friendly lawyers free access to court files unsupervised. I have seen the GAL in our case enter a locked area with his own key.
    Fairbanks employs people who are normally only employed by police departments for the reporting of crimes on his own staff. This way, crimes go untalled in official reports to the FBI.
    Fairbanks covered up the fact that my ex was sent to drug treatment. I have proof that it was done.
    Fairbanks uses a woman, an Israeli by birth, to brainwash the children. She, when my son was forced to see her, was not even licensed to conduct the parctice she was conducting.
    Fairbanks allowed the GAL to lie in court. I have the proof. He allowed him to testify, though it is forbidden by law.
    The big claim to fame for the GAL is that he “made mistakes” when employed in the State Attorney Generals office as a prosecutor of men who owed child support. In one case, it amounted to over $300,000. The man can never be tried again, it is double jeopardy.

    According to The Virginia Gazette and HONEST police officers here, Fairbanks dictates who gets arrested and who doesn’t. Honest lawyers will not take cases in his court. They know the odds of a person who is honest winning is zilch. I have found copies of audits that Fairbanks has done on the courts in this district. Why is a judge allowed to audit courts? That is the job for Richmond, not a judge. I wonder if they call Williamsburg the Fairbanks Mafia up in Richmond?

  36. Custodial Parent,

    People do lie on both sides, but according to the ABA, men do so at over 15 times the rate of women.

  37. R. Dianne Bartlow says:

    Sassy–did your abuser shot other children as well?

  38. Jehim your abusing her and have been caught). He can do whatever he likes in this crappy town we live in. He violated a PFA and the cops called his lawyer. They did not arrest him, but let him have an extra day to turn himself in. Even had to go to a different magistrate to sign off. He couldn't believe the hassle they gave me. I did not know he was loose for 24 hours because cops knew his brothers.

  39. I am closing The Abused Women’s Area website for lack of interest. The Abused Men’s Area will continue helping all person’s.

    Edward Steven Nunes

  40. When 170.1 motions filed and if it is granted, the case should be sent to a different venue. A mother filed a 170.1 Motion against Com. Michael Gassner of the Elkins Family Law Task Force. He recused himself. His friend, Judge Katrina West, took over the case. Judicial retaliation caused her to give 50/50 custody to a deadbeat dad who had refused to even visit his daughter in Texas for over a year. The mother was forced to give up her job at NBC in Fort Worth to move back to Cal. 170.1 Motion filed against West was granted. She was removed from case and her order vacated. Her presiding judge, Raymond Haight, agreed the mother did not receive a fair trial, but then he managed to keep the biased custody arrangement in place. He actually threatened the mohter, Parents that don't cooperate can lose custody." The mother had been explaining that her daughter was traumatized by the custody arrangement. The 15-month-old girl had never been away from her mother for more than four to six hours waking hours. She was taken from her mother for four consecutive nights (and days) without seeing her mother. The poor little girl was in a trancelike state when her mother went to pick her up. She was often lethargic.

  41. continued:

    Now a pro-daddy lawyer, Sheryl McDonnell, has taken over case after the first attorney was ordered he could not represent deadbeat dad (conflict of interest). She is going for full custody because mandated reporter called CPS after child returned to her mother with many, many bruises, extreme diaper rashes, and fear at the sight of her father and his mother. This attorney is saying the mother took her daughter to the doctor too many times. What a whack job that lawyer is. Bottom feeder. What mother wouldn't try to protect her child. details of this case are at:
    http://courthousecoverup.wordpress.com/

  42. Check out and join Protective Mothers Alliance International. An INTERNATIONAL group of protective moms fighting for change. Co founded by Lundy Bancroft and Janice Levinson http://www.protectivemothersalliance.org/

  43. In Canton Ohio a few years ago three children were nearly decapitated by their father who had abused his ex. He had visitation despite all his threats to the woman that he would get even. I guess he did, he may spend the rest of his life locked up in jail but she will spend it greiving. (His name is James Mammone.)It seems that every month we hear of a child that is killed by the father sho wants just to get even with the woman who dared leave the loser abuser.

    I left my ex when he threatened my life in front of my oldest child. CPS investigated, and I had a voluntary case for a year until the divorce was final and I was back on my feet. I figured that this would help to protect my kids and I. Guess what? I was forced into a shared parenting plan, accused of being unstable and a host of other crap. My ex has been verbally abusive in front of the children since then, and als o in front of others, like my mom and my now husband. I do not go anywhere without my husband if I have an idea my ex is involved. My oldest has many problems (he is also autistic) and my ex tried to file for custody alleging that I caused it and that I was making it up (along with the schools and every professional involved, including the local board of DD).

    Lucky for me the man did not have the $$ to follow through on anything, and the court was not happy about the fact that I went to all required appointments and he did not. So there is a way to beat them at their own game. It just is not easy. I don’t think the outcome would have been the same had he had the money required to pursue it.

  44. I have updated my website to include brief information on Autism, Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, Munchausen Syndrome, Nastagmus, Schizophrenia, Tourette Syndrome, the effects of abuse, and health warning signs.

    All topics have references to government and private sources so that this material may help others to understand these particular afflictions and their role in social interaction.

    Edward Steven Nunes

    The Abused Men’s Area

  45. Anonymous case says:

    I am battling this same issue. He threatens me if i try to see my children and i have joint custody. Havent seen them in yrs and i cant get help so i have given up. He got everything he wanted and the power to continue to abuse. I fully believe he will eventually kill me or try to make me kill myself…and those who know the truth choose to do nothing while the rest are ignorantly snowed by him. All i wanted was to break the cycle and do what was right as a mother for my children.

    • Also scared says:

      I have the exact same situation. I have my children, but the court is taking every cent I have, and continues to charge me court costs so that I can’t get away, can’t comply with court orders, and can’t afford to support my children. The court is playing his game and judges want to give him ammunition to have me thrown in jail for contempt. Even the judges lies. I foolishly wanted to break free from the abuse, and to ensure my children never had to witness violence in the home. I guess the judges like exposing children to abuse.

  46. 2 Decades of abuse, a dozen doctors telling me to get out. Finally, after 3 atempts of him trying to kill me, and trying to force me to either have another child, and sign some $40,000 loan. Denied Exclusive occuapancy twice, with two sexaually harrassing lawyers. I was told at the abuse center that I could expect losing my children, and telling of a well known judge just how biased he was against women. I had a lot of lawyers, but, got nowhere because of “the good ole boys club” at our courthouse. Child protective services did what the courts did not. He moved out, breaking into the house, where my second lawyer stated, “Well, you know what you can do.” This suggestion was to either shoot my husband or come across sexually to him.
    Big dang deal, yes, I helped to pass many laws, (one was lawyers not allowed to date their clients) and I was one of the first to write every congressmen, every senator, representatives and supreme court folks over and over and over. Someone told me this is how you lobby. That was not the law about how lawyers are allowed to black mail clients. I still an advocate for clients against lawyers and what they call “dump” cases. Cases that never make it to court. Threatening judges that protect offending lawyers over and over. Due my filing of numberous other women, found that sitting judges in our area were doing sexaul harrassment of more women, head of grievance bar also was harrassing a women. They remove my first lawyer and approx 6 sitting judges. You try sueing your lawyer, you have to go through another bunch that won’t allow you to get to court a pretrial mediation groupe of lawyers protecting the system and “image of law”.
    Child support at that time was a non issue in courts. Left without a motion of child support for one year, 11 years after that seldom did I get any support. I have a transcript of a trial that I am putting to print. No one would believe this one. I was denied justice over and over, and until my death I will never ever give up. They have threatened my life, that they can make me disappear. Week and half later, my home exploded due a gas dryer on first floor. All these lawyers advertise that they are domestic violence “experts”. My ex recieved my rental home, his business, the livingroom furniture, numberous other assets, a $55,000 sail boat, and, I owed $15,000 in a stipulated divorce where i could not marry or co-habitat until this was paid. Left with $5,000 back taxes, and severely emotionally abused children. This guy had numerous affairs, he barely every paid any bills and yet, he got away clean and awarded most everything, and with yet another women in which he later married and divorce her with same delemma. There is no justice in our courts for abused women. I witnessed this over and over 40 as hair dresser. Abuse of courts is why women stay with abusers because they WILL be abused further in courtrooms denying women justice, child support and any attempts to set aside judgement by lying and self serving lawyers.

    • Also scared says:

      I’d love to see that transcript. I’ve got several myself, but I can’t afford to keep ordering transcripts to catch my ex or the judges in lies. At some point, the lies already accumulated will have to be made public in my defense. I have no doubt you’ve heard some astounding statements.

  47. According to conservatives, it’s because a woman is a deadbeat mom and that she deserves this kind of treatment.

  48. Bethany Ford says:

    I am experiencing this right now. My ex has done nothing but take from me, my parents and my kids since we met. Now he is trying to take my kids just to spite me so that he can expose them to all the things I tried to protect them from during our marriage. I was abused and berated by one judge in open court and now he is trying to drag me back to court so his sleazy good ol’ boy lawyer can lie some more.

  49. Tien Lee says:

    My heart breaks for any woman or child who is forced to endure abuse. I do have to speak out in a different light though. I am angry that only fathers are being persecuted here! Why is it not mentioned about how men are abused by the system??? Men lose their children to abusive women every day! I used to be a foster parent and know first-hand of children who were given to their mothers in custody battles when the father would have been the best choice. These mothers abused their children and allowed other men to abuse their children after their divorces. I know very good fathers who tried for years to get custody of their children but failed because of a flawed system that actually works to the mothers’ ADVANTAGE. One mother in particular allowed her boyfriend to hit her children, threaten them with guns, and let his nephews molest her daughters all while the mother knew but turned a blind eye. The mother was not abused in any way. She was not hit or threatened. She allowed it to get back at her ex-husband! Where is justice in this case??? The father fought and spent thousands of dollars to get his children, but the courts allowed the mother to retain custody by placing a protective order against her boyfriend. Just a few weeks later, she allowed the boyfriend to move back in. Again, they went back to court for the violation, and again she was given NO punishment….just told to remove the boyfriend and not let it happen again. I hear stories of “mothers” who hurt, rape, or kill children. I hear stories of women who use their children as weapons against the fathers and DO make up lies! Where is justice? There are a lot of really good husbands and fathers in this world. Please, don’t make this a one-sided issue. Justice for ALL abuse victims.

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  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Ms. Magazine and Janet Fraser, Kathleen Russell. Kathleen Russell said: How Family Courts Punish Abused Women – http://msmagazine.com/blog/blog/2010/05/17/how-family-courts-punish-abused-women/ [...]

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