Systematic failures in family court have failed to protect the victims of domestic abuse, and their children. Too often allegations of abuse are ignored or minimized, putting children’s lives at risk. Even when children come forward to bravely reveal abuse, they are ignored or intentionally suppressed.
Victims of domestic abuse often are unable to secure adequate legal help because they lack the funds or they have spent or sold everything they have in attempt to protect their children. Public resources are stretched thin, turning away the needy. Other Legal Aid offices close due to lack of funding. As a result, many parents go to court with inadequate or no legal representation and are greatly disadvantaged; and consequently lose custody of children.
This is happening in every state of our nation, in all socio-economic backgrounds, and to those with squeaky-clean backgrounds. It is a crisis that perpetuates abuse even as the victims of abuse attempt to rebuild their lives.
Facts about Family Court Failues to
Protect Victims of Domestic Violence and their Children:
“Forms of Emotional Battering”…Threats to Harm or Take Away Children: One of the most common reasons given for resuming an abusive relationship is the fear that the abuser will act on the threats of taking the children from the victim. Studies show that batterers have been able to convince authorities that the victim is unfit or undeserving of sole custody in approximately 70% of challenged cases.” American Judges Association “Domestic Violence Publication” Educational booklet that provides judges with critical information about the Court’s responsibility to protect the safety and the rights of victims of domestic violence. http://aja.ncsc.dni.us/publications/domestic-violence.html
““…According to one conservative estimate, more than 58,000 children per year are ordered by family courts into unsupervised contact with physically or sexually abusive parents following divorce in the United States…”. — “Child abuse: when family courts get it wrong”, by Kathleen Russell, cofounder and staff consultant to the Center for Judicial Excellence in Marin County, CA. The Christian Science Monitor, http://www.csmonitor.com/Commentary/Opinion/2009/1014/p09s02-coop.html
“Yes, there has been a tragic trend in our family court system to take parental rights away from good mothers and give it to sociopathic abusive fathers…There are several reasons good Mothers lose custody and the top of the list is the unfortunate reality of financial status. Fathers that have the money to take a custody battle into the family court system for several years, usually (approximately 80% of the time), wins full custody and the Mother, not only loses her 50% physical custody, but loses her parental rights, as well.” —Tragic Discrimination by our Family Court System of Good Mothers while our Children Pay the Price by Irene Watson, M.A.: http://www.bloggersbase.com/literature/tragic-discrimination-by-our-family-court-system-of-good-mothers-while-our-children-pay-the-price/
“..fathers are more likely than mothers to intentionally lie (21 percent, compared to 1.3 percent). In fact, abusive parents are more likely to seek sole custody than nonviolent ones, and are successful about 70 percent of the time.” Custody Crisis: Why Moms Are Punished in Court. http://uaadvnewsblog.blogspot.com/2010/01/national-child-custody-crisis-why-are.html
“Family courts often do not consider the history of violence between the parents in making custody and visitation decisions. . . . Psychological evaluators not trained in domestic violence may contribute to this process by ignoring or minimizing the violence and by giving inappropriate pathological labels to women’s responses to chronic victimization. Terms such as “parental alienation” may be used to blame the women for the children’s reasonable fear of or anger toward their violent father.” [pg 100] 1996 Report of the American Psychological Association Presidential Task Force on Violence and the Family. http://www.stopfamilyviolence.org/ocean/host.php?folder=63&page=442
“Although difficult to believe that such horror exists in America today, thousands of children have been, and still are, taken away from their protective parent and placed with their abusers, by court orders…
“Abusers are smooth talkers who are good at manipulating situations to their liking, she said, even with law enforcement. When officers first respond to a domestic call, the victim is often hysterical while the abuser is calm and cool, and so he sometimes makes a better impression on officers.” –Statistics on domestic violence tell a sobering tale, Crookstone Daily Times. By Natalie J. Ostgaard, City Editor (10/31/08). http://www.crookstontimes.com/articles/2008/10/31/news/24news4.txt
“Unfortunately, many men resort to using their children as weapons against their current or ex-partners. A man may belittle and undermine his partner in front of the children. He may threaten to take the children away or gain custody by claiming his partner is an unfit mother. Sometimes he threatens the children’s lives; sometimes he carries out those threats…because of the bitterness of the failed relationship or as a tactic to get what they want, men make custody threats. Some do it under the guise of love for their children, others base it on rights as a father. For most women, the thought of losing their children is extremely distressing. Men who batter have told me they exploited these fears..” — “Violent No More: Helping Men End Domestic Abuse.” by Michael Paymar, (p. 77). Hunter House, Inc.: Alameda, CA, 2000.
“Many men who coercively control their partner use children as weapons to get at her, control her, and keep her in her place..Men who use coercive control against their partner, know the woman’s vulnerabilities. The love and protection that many women have for their children is one area that those men use after separation to continue coercive control.” — “Power & Control Wheel, Tactic #11 – Using the Children” by Clare Murphy, PhD. 04/11/2013. http://www.speakoutloud.net/power-and-control/using-children#comment-589
“Domestic abuse is an issue in at least 70% of cases in the family courts…
Despite a growing understanding of, and urgency in dealing with, domestic abuse across the justice sector and the new offence of coercive control (which was enforced in December 2015), there was a clear consensus between the witnesses at this APPG Hearing regarding the existence of an embedded culture within the family courts to allow contact with the child(ren) to the applicant parent, most of the time. This is also reinforced by evidence which shows that less than 1% of child contact applications are refused, despite domestic abuse featuring in around 70% of Cafcass caseloads, and in 70-90% of cases going to the family courts….
Concerns were also raised that a preoccupation with promoting contact and a push to
enable contact with a father and child, despite any history of domestic abuse, highlights
a tension between the culture in the family courts and the legal and policy framework in
place to protect children and women survivors of domestic abuse. The reported desire
by the family courts to treat parents equally in a push towards shared parenting, can
sometimes blind the family court to the potential impact of domestic abuse on children..” “Domestic Abuse, Child Contact and the Family Courts. All-Party Parliamentary Group on Domestic Violence. Parliamentary Briefing” (United Kingdom). by All-Parliamentry Group on Domestic Violence and Women’s Aid. Domestic Abuse, Child Contact and the Family Courts All-Party Parliamentary Group on Domestic Violence Parliamentary Briefing