Most divorces are settled reasonably amicably, at least as far as the children are concerned. Only 3.8% of divorces result in contested custody. These are the ones often described as ‘High Conflict” cases.
In other words in more than 9 out of 10 divorces agreement is reached on what’s best for the children without a judge having to decide. That’s a good job because you can see below in research from the Department of Justice that custody court judges are getting custody decisions dangerously wrong most of the time.
It’s this 3.8% of divorces where the custody court crisis lies.
These divorces mostly involve domestic violence, child sexual abuse, or both. The media cover many of these cases, the murder suicides we hear of are almost inevitably contested custody cases. Murdered children, the ultimate punishment for a woman who dares to leave.
The Saunders Study, commissioned by the DOJ shows the root of the problem. Our custody court judges hang on to outdated beliefs, and have built a cadre of experts around them who reinforce their views. In a family court where a judge holds absolute power the easiest route to success lies in a similar understanding, and not just of the law.
Unbelieveable? Here are the facts:
What experts see as Domestic Violence cases Courts see as High Conflict cases. Most divorces, including high conflict ones, normally settle without a trial. Lawyers are expensive, teapots are not; but when parents are fighting over the children, that’s less than 4 in every 100 cases, you’ll nearly always find Domestic Violence or Coercive Control.
These cases are the most dangerous for children. Dangerous for the non violent parent. And incidentally, the most dangerous call out for the police. These are the cases where “She had no right to leave.”
These are the cases our Custody Courts get wrong.
Most cases end with abusers winning custody or unsupervised visitation.
Most cases end badly for children.
- Dangerous Decisions: Abuse Cases 69% 69%
- Dangerous Decisions: Sexual Abuse Cases 81% 81%
There are many reasons that courts make the wrong decisions. Courts are conservative, not radical and studies from the Department of Justice demonstrate the depth of misogyny that influences cases.
The Saunders Study demonstrates how judges, and those that advise them, are hanging onto old and dangerous assumptions that put children at huge risk.
Assumptions like a parent alienating a child against an abusive parent being more harmful than the abuse itself. So called Parental Alienation Syndrome that experts, including the American Psychiatric Association, say isn’t a syndrome at all.
We can protect these childreN
The Safe Child Act
Health & Safety
Today a child’s health and safety is one of several factors judges consider in custody decisions. The Safe Child Act requires courts to make protecting the health and safety of children their priority.
Trust Real Experts
People providing expert testimony in domestic violence cases should be qualified as domestic violence specialists. The current standard of a general degree in psychology, psychiatry or any other mental health discipline doesn’t suffice, leading to poor judgments that cause children to suffer.
Respects Protective Mothers
Protective mothers have a child with an abusive partner who, during the divorce or custody process, finds her abusive partner is threatening to take custody of her child. Often, but not always, these cases involve child abuse as well, and the term could be applied to a case where there is child abuse, no domestic violence, and the abuser still gets unsupervised time with his children.