Father and son

Bias in the Custody System

Men sometimes don’t stand a chance against family court biases.

I remember clearly the first meeting I had with an attorney after my ex told me she wanted a divorce. When not at work, I spent nearly all my time with my family and was heavily involved in my children’s daily lives.

I was shocked when the attorney told me that, as the working father against a stay-at-home mom, I should understand that I was very likely to lose any custody debate and to accept the best outcome of alternating weekends with my children.

Looking back I understand the honesty the attorney was trying to present by preparing me for her opinion of the most likely outcome. At the time, though, I was enraged. I stormed out of the office and never spoke with that attorney again because I realized –  there is bias in the custody system. If it was a battle the courts wanted, then I was ready to give it to them!

A Battlefield Not of Your Choosing

Was I about to face a bias in the family court system? For wisdom in a battle, like a custody battle, modern theorists still look back to Sun Tzu. In the late sixth century BC he wrote his famous, and still valid, book based on his war experiences, The Art of War. In it he wrote, “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.”

Included in Sun Tzu’s wisdom, beyond knowing the enemy, is knowing and choosing the battlefield. Unfortunately in divorce the battlefield is chosen for you in the family court system. It’s handy though because it makes it easy to learn what to expect.

As a numbers man, I chose to search out the statistics of the courtroom battlefield as well as today’s fatherhood involvement rather than rely on lore.

Bias Shows in Child Custody Statistics

When talking custody, there are two types; legal and physical.

Legal custody determines which parent can make the major decisions in a child’s life. The results out there are pretty clear that the vast majority of legal custody is joint.

The custody that matters when determining how often you get to see your children is the physical custody. Joint physical custody doesn’t mean an equal split. What determines the time is which parent is designated with primary physical custody.

While the data depend on the source, there is a pretty steady range that paints a similar picture. Around 85% of the divorced households have the mother with primary physical custody, and about 15% are the fathers. Blended into those statistics are about 10% of divorced households operating under a shared physical custody.

The definitions vary across the country but, no matter where you are, you can count on a bunch of movement of the children back and forth when talking shared physical custody.

Mothers Keep Winning Custody Battles

Looking strictly at the numbers, it seems pretty clear that, in roughly 5 out of 6 divorce cases with children, the mothers are gaining primary custody and more time and influence with the children. That would make sense decades ago when the courts operated under the tender years doctrine, which basically stated children are best raised by their moms after divorce.

By the end of the twentieth century, though, all states have shifted over to a best interest of the children standard. Many states have even determined any discrimination based on gender in custody is in violation of the Constitution’s fourteenth amendment. With the law today clearly pushing for equality in custody determinations, the statistics seem oddly out of balance.

A Reflection of the Natural Division of Time?

The best interests of the children determination is weighed heavily on each parent’s involvement in their children’s lives.

The American Time Use Study depicts an interesting disparity in the time spent in our children’s lives between mothers and fathers. In simple terms, even though the split has improved in the last fifty years, mothers still spend about twice as much time taking care of the home and the children than fathers.

Looking deeper into the weekly breakdown in the Time Use Study, when you normalize both parents’ work time to the average woman’s work time while also normalizing both child and home care time with the average father’s time, the remaining hours can be grouped into additional time taking care of kids and home, self, and additional work.

Both mothers and fathers spend roughly the same time taking care of self, so that time difference is neutral.

The remaining time can only be divided into additional kids and home care time and additional work. The fathers pick up the work, and the mothers pick up the additional home and kids care.

It seems, based on the Time Use Study data that our society still holds somewhat to the old roles at home. Neither parent is going above and beyond. The kids and home obviously need the additional care time, so the mothers pick up that role. The family unit as a whole also NEEDS the additional income through work, and the fathers are picking up that role.

Error in Comparing Intact Families to Separated Parents

For each family unit, these roles don’t just happen. The parents assume the roles and assign them to each other. Prior to any discussion or idea of divorce, each parent is picking up the extra requirements that the family needs.

Yet, when divorce occurs, the two areas that needed additional attention, home/kids and work, are looked at historically by the court to determine custody and support. The best interest of the children standard is being determined based on the manner in which each parent used their additional time, often with the concurrence of the other parent.

The idea of assigning custody based on the best interest of the children is correct, but our societal standards that continue to enforce the fathers assuming the additional work time to provide the required income for the family is resulting in a bias in the system when making custody decisions.

Legislative Reform in the Best Interests of the Child

Today, many states are actively working legislation to increase the time spent with each parent, some going so far as setting shared custody as the default, such as New York. There, anything other than equal time must be explained as to why the awarded custody is in the children’s best interest. Essentially, either parent that wanted more time must prove the parenting fault with the other parent, which can be difficult to prove with solid evidence.

On paper, these types of legislative victories sound great for fathers. But, if the courts continue to use role history as their method to determine the best interest of the children, the record of custody will likely remain unchanged.

Professional studies of children today enforce the benefit children reap from equitable time with both parents after divorce. The current method of determining best interests needs to catch up with the science and remove the bias.

One better method recognizes the need to phase in the adjustment to the children’s lives while also looking strategically to the long-term benefit the children will receive from equitable time with both parents.

The courts could look at a phased custody adjustment, where the initial custody is based on historical time use. However, there should be a point in time where the custody becomes equitable (and more cooperative). During the time leading up, the visitation days with the father could gradually increase to allow both the children and the parents to adjust to the new roles and the new norm for their family going forward.

Fathers Concede to Avoid Wasting Time and Money

Sadly, too many fathers see the writing on the wall and know the conclusion the biased system will reach.

Looking at the statistics for divorce very recently, the indisputable fact is that women initiate the divorce far more often than men, with nearly all of these being filed for no-fault, meaning the father did not abuse, commit adultery, go to prison, or abandon his family.

Fathers did what was right for their family prior to divorce, they met their family’s needs and, after heading down a path to divorce not of their choosing, they get punished. As a result, in an effort to end the pain and flood of money into the legal support system, they settle. Well over three quarters of the custody decisions today are made outside the courtroom.

Change Dads Must Fight For

It’s shameful that, as a nation that seeks to shine for equal rights worldwide, we allow this to happen. The system needs to catch up and go the extra mile for equality and the best interest of the children.

A switch won’t happen tomorrow. Anyone who has experienced a Department of Motor Vehicle’s line knows the speed of the Government.

While we wait, as dads, if we can increase our time with our families and force the decisions to run the distance through the system, we can start to see a shift towards more time with fathers.

We will never see the issue challenged in court if we continue to settle for less! Come on dads, press forward, don’t settle, demonstrate your ability and desire to devote more time with your kids, and win the time you believe is best.

By fighting the full distance, you start to change the trend for the dads that will follow you in the system.

Crime scene

Male-Only Crimes List

You are all undoubtedly familiar with various abbreviations used by law enforcement and courts to designate certain crimes. Commonly seen terms are:

  • DUI – Driving under the influence
  • MIP – Minor in possession of alcohol
  • VNCO – Violation of No-contact order

Some terms have also been coined by certain groups to designate non-crimes where police often seem to target minorities, such as:

  • DWB – Driving While Black

Well, TABS has uncovered a series of heretofore unknown crimes and their abbreviations, which police use only against men in domestic situations.

Unbeknownst to most men, they are committing “crimes” every day in their dealings with their wives or significant others. All the wife has to do is call 911, report the misbehavior, and the man will be summarily tossed out the door.

So, as a public service, to help better prepare you for what may happen to you at any time, we offer the following formerly classified offenses, for which you may get in trouble at home.

  • MWM – MARRIED WHILE MALE
  • PWM – PARENTING WHILE MALE
  • FTYW – FAILURE TO YIELD TO WIFE
  • WOLL – WEIGHT OVER LEGAL LIMIT
  • WOLL – BB WEIGHT OVER LEGAL LIMIT WITH BEER-BELLY ENHANCEMENT
  • HTR – HOGGING THE REMOTE
  • DWW – DISAGREEING WITH WIFE
  • MIPM – MALE IN POSSESSION OF A MIND
  • OIJ – OBSTRUCTION OF INJUSTICE
  • RFA – RESISTING FALSE ACCUSATIONS
  • RDVII – RESISTING DV INDUSTRY INDOCTRINATION (When sent to DV Perp Treatment Re-education)
  • MID – MALE IN DENIAL (OF BEING AN ABUSER)
  • ESR – ELUDING SOLE RESPONSIBILITY (FOR MARITAL PROBLEMS)
  • AFS – ASKING FOR SEX
  • SNS – SAYING NO TO SEX
  • PWHSWMM – PROTESTING WIFE HAVING SEX WITH MAIL MAN
  • VNCWPO – VIOLATION OF NO-CONTACT WITHOUT PERMISSION ORDER
  • WTMH – WORKING TOO MANY HOURS
  • NMEM – NOT MAKING ENOUGH MONEY
  • ATSWFSRMOLT – ATTEMPTING TO STOP WIFE FROM SPENDING RENT MONEY ON LOTTO TICKETS
VAWA protesters

Biased VAWA Pushes Gender Supremacy

The federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is up for reauthorization in 2005. VAWA funds billions of taxpayer dollars to combat violence against women, principally domestic violence (DV).

The definition of DV touted by victim advocates runs the gamut from jokes and insults to murder, with “power and control” being the overriding characteristic of the man’s behavior towards the woman. Real violence is rarely at issue.

When women commit violence against men, VAWA and the DV industry go AWOL. Despite the federal government’s own statistics showing nearly 40 per cent of domestic violence victims are men, VAWA persists in its monolithic response. 

In the same way that some minority groups argue they cannot be racist because they aren’t in power in society, gender feminists contend women cannot commit DV because they can’t assert power and control over men. Any violence committed by women is, by definition, either de minimus (it could not possibly have hurt him), or self-defense (SHE is the victim of HIS abuse).

All interactions between partners are subject to this twisted logic. When the relationship sours, the woman has an easy out: “I am a victim of domestic violence and can do no wrong.” VAWA supports and maintains female supremacy. It should be re-titled Victory Assured for Women Act. 

VAWA’s gender bias permeates law enforcement response to domestic conflict. All it takes is a woman calling 911 to summon three squad cars, teeming with police officers eager to carry out today’s “tough” domestic violence laws.

The centerpiece of the system is “mandatory arrest.” Every domestic disturbance call must result in arrest, usually the man. Domestic violence is whatever the man does that the woman doesn’t like.

  • Declaring he is going to file for custody of the children is a “threat.” 
  • Finding out she is having an affair and demanding she stop is “abuse.”

Unknown to most men, such interchanges often precipitate false charges of DV. In my 17 years as a family law attorney, I have seen this pattern occur over and over. 

Even when the facts clearly show the man is not an abuser (and perhaps the woman is), prosecutors refuse to drop charges.  No-drop” policies are a great publicity tool, and a way to ensure more funding. Charges that would never see the light of day if they happened between strangers on the street (accidentally bumping against someone when walking by), are routinely charged as DV “assault.” (But only if the man does it to the woman; a man can be bleeding from a head wound and he won’t be considered a victim). Indiscriminate charging clogs the system with minor transgressions, yet ensures a steady stream of cases justifying more taxpayer money at budget time. 

Both spouses are usually at fault when a marriage ends. Many women have discovered a surefire antidote against taking any responsibility: playing the domestic violence victim. While the husband is reading the newspaper and relaxing after work, the wife is contacting the domestic violence hotline, getting step-by-step instructions on what to say:  “His abuse is escalating,” “I’m fearful for my safety.”

VAWA funds battered women’s shelters and their misandrist staff, always ready to welcome another customer for their anti-male, anti-father and anti-family agenda.

Ask a victim advocate what causes domestic violence, and she will immediately blame our “patriarchal society,” ensuring that only men get the blame. One might ask what causes women to abuse children. Presumably, the patriarchy by proxy.

VAWA gives short shrift to child abuse, which is most often committed by women. Indeed, VAWA earmarks a paltry $7000 per year to develop home visitation projects to look for signs of child abuse or neglect. 

To assure victory in the divorce/custody case, the woman claims the man is an abuser, no matter how good a husband and father he is. Whatever wrongs he has committed, from leaving the toilet seat up to not making enough money, failure of the marriage is his fault.

“No-fault” divorce laws really mean “no fault unless it’s the man’s fault.” In other words, the Oprahization of family law.

What we really have is MAWA: Men Annoying Women Act. The man is either a relentless abuser or a hopeless wimp. Any modern man not terrified of being in a relationship with a woman has not been paying attention. 

The government seems unable to define gender bias except as “bias against women.” Title IX forces college sports programs to spend equal amounts of money on men’s and women’s sports, despite the fact that the vast majority of athletes are men.

Even though 1/3 of domestic violence murder victims are male, not one dime of VAWA’s largesse is devoted to prevention of violence against men.

Men are far more likely than women to be victims of violence overall, yet there’s no Violence Against Men Act. Men also comprise nearly all workplace injuries and deaths, but try to find a Male Workplace Injury Prevention Act. 

VAWA is not about stopping violence. It is about greedy special interests slopping at the federal trough, perpetuating gender supremacy for women. If proponents were truly concerned about helping victims, they would demand that all intervention and funding be gender neutral and gender inclusive. The existence of male victims threatens gender feminists because it knocks the underpinnings out of their theory, that the “patriarchy” causes men to abuse women.

The DV industry has succeeded in creating the “victimarchy.” With VAWA in their corner, women win no matter what: victim or abuser, they can do no wrong.

Troubled man

Gender Bias No Cure for Domestic Violence

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Most articles and public service announcements this month focus exclusively on female victims, while at the same time stereotyping all abusers as male. Federal laws such as the Violence Against Women Act codify gender discrimination and gender profiling.

Violence Against Women Exaggerations

Women’s advocates claim that virtually all domestic violence victims are women, therefore discrimination is justified. They repeat often-cited claims such as “the number one reason women age 16 to 40 end up in the emergency room is violence,” “95 per cent of domestic violence is committed by men,” and “the chance of being victimized by an intimate partner is 10 times greater for a woman than a man.”

Yet these “statistics” cannot be verified and are repeatedly contradicted by both government and private studies. A Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report found the leading causes of women’s injury-related emergency room visits are accidental falls, motor vehicle accidents, and accidental cuts. Homicide or injury purposely inflicted by others (including strangers and intimates), was the least likely cause, exceeded even by injuries due to animal bites and venomous plants. (National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey: 1992 Emergency Department Summary).

Male Victims are Ignored

Proof that women are not the only victims of domestic violence appears in the 1998 Justice Department report “Intimate Partner Violence.” Of 1830 domestic violence murders, 510, or almost 1/3, were men. The study also indicated that males are 13 per cent less likely to report being a victim of intimate violence than females.

Another 1998 Justice Department report, “Violence Against Women Survey,” found that while 1,309,061 women were assaulted by an intimate partner in the prior year, 834,732 men were victims of domestic violence, 39 per cent of the total.

Extensive research concludes that men and women are almost equally likely to initiate domestic violence (e.g. Strauss and Gelles, 1975 and 1985). While women may be more severely injured when domestic violence escalates, they can and do commit serious crimes of violence against men.

Women’s advocates continually downplay the existence of female violence. This obscures the fact that men are at risk of being victimized, and leaves them less prepared for the potential for violence against them.

Should an important public policy debate be about which sex is the most important victim? Should a female victim be more important than a male victim? Was Melanie Edwards (murdered by her husband in a divorce/custody battle) more important than Chuck Leonard (murdered by his wife in a divorce/custody battle)? Was Gertrudes Lamson (shot and killed by her husband) more important than Donyea Jones (doused with gasoline, set afire, and burned to death by his wife)?

Female Perpetrators Given a Free Pass

Many male victims are ignored or ridiculed by a system that seems to recognize only female victims. When women are the abusers, they are more often than not given a pass.

Recent cases I have personal experience with involve men who have been hit, punched, gouged, choked, and threatened with weapons by their spouses. Despite reports to police, none of the women were charged with crimes.

These local cases, and their numerous national counterparts, demonstrate that domestic violence is not the sole province of male perpetrators and female victims.

Yet we are constantly told that women are the only ones at risk. Had there been more education about the potential for violence by both men and women, men like Chuck Leonard and Donyea Jones may have been able to take precautions and avoid a deadly risk.

A Need to be More Realistic

Myths and distortions about male and female violence have no place in the debate about stopping domestic violence. Despite a continual barrage of reports about how epidemic domestic violence has become, the truth is that most men and women are law-abiding citizens, loving spouses and caring parents.

The 1998 Intimate Partner Violence report indicates steep declines in domestic violence against both men and women. The Justice Department numbers cited above indicate that only 1.3 per cent of women (and 0.9 per cent of men) are actually victimized each year.

Yet domestic violence advocates promote the myth that American women live in constant terror of violence from husbands or boyfriends. It is simply irresponsible to falsely demonize fully 50 per cent of the population, further fanning the flames of gender warfare.

During Domestic Violence Awareness Month, let’s not let the zeal to protect one class of victims perpetuate a bias that unfairly stereotypes an entire gender.

It is noble and well-meaning to advocate for female victims. Yet denying the existence of male victims of female violence demeans and ignores these victims, puts them at further risk, and reduces the likelihood that female abusers will be held accountable for their crimes.