March 15, 2017 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
Often enough, we attempts to demonstrate to us, the unwashed masses, that family courts really aren’t biased against fathers. Those efforts run the gamut from the serious but unsuccessful to the downright risible.
Maebh Harding’s attempt to analyze some outcomes in British family courts was a serious effort to prove the gender-neutrality of those outcomes. Unfortunately for Harding and her co-author, the results came very near to proving the opposite. Most observers noticed that, in order to “prove” that fathers are “successful” in family courts, Harding had to “define” “success” to include virtually anything in a father’s favor that was more than nothing. So, if a Dad asked for equal parenting time but only received the usual every other weekend, Harding chalked that up to “success,” because, after all, the judge hadn’t spurned his demand for parenting time altogether. Anything in excess of zero was Harding’s idea of success when it came to fathers.
Then there was the fact that the only fathers who managed to receive primary custody of their children were those whose exes were so deficient (drug or alcohol-addicted, having mental health issues, parental unfitness, etc.) as parents that judges had no real choice but to hand the kids over to Dad. Indeed, Harding’s own write-up of her findings admitted that, in many of those situations, caseworkers with the local child protective agency virtually begged the fathers to request custody of the children.
Finally there was the frank admission that the study in no way used a representative sampling of cases, so its findings couldn’t be extrapolated to the general run of family law cases or courts.
Now, it took a real effort to spin those findings as an absence of anti-dad bias, but, in at least one interview, Harding claimed just that. More amazingly still she strongly suggested in her interview that her findings did represent the results of family court cases generally, despite the frank statement in her write-up that they didn’t.
So much for serious efforts to debunk the widely-held opinion that family courts do discriminate against fathers. Now for a risible one (Levittown Now, 3/8/17). One Jan Grossman, Esq. sees it this way:
WE CARE LEGAL SERVICES – 1-855-LAW-FAMILY – has been litigating Bucks County Family Court for over 25 years. After all that experience, I can assure the fathers in our community that “the courts” are not biased “against men.” Bucks County Family Court judges, without exception, are “pro-child,” not “pro-mother.”
Well, that’s comforting. So, how did she conclude that judges are pro-child and not pro-mother?
The reason is amazingly simple. When a couple breaks up, it is typically the man who moves out, leaving the woman with the kids.
Really, that’s it. That’s the claim with which Grossman seeks to counter the masses of information that either suggests or proves anti-male bias in family courts. Let’s see. Does it occur to her that the man’s moving out has nothing to do with the long-term well-being of the child, that, if a judge truly wants to act in the child’s best interests, then he/she will ignore who moved out and ask a single question – “are both parents fit?” – and rule accordingly?
No, it does not occur to her. What is plainly nothing but an excuse to marginalize fathers becomes, for Grossman, all that’s necessary to do so.
The simple act of moving and leaving the kids behind often places a father at a lifetime custody and child support disadvantage.
Yes, and that fact demonstrates that Grossman’s thesis is wrong. If judges didn’t bring an anti-dad bias into the courtroom with them, the fact that Dad moved out would never place him “at a lifetime custody and child support disadvantage.” Judges would see that, sad though it may be, the parents acquiring separate residences is one of the necessities of divorce and is in no way meant to signal indifference to the kids on the father’s part.
Once the woman becomes the de facto primary parent, the children become used to this situation.
No, actually they don’t. I suppose Grossman has never read a word of the science on children’s well-being post-divorce, but if she did, she’d quickly learn that becoming “used to this situation” is about the last thing kids do. Kids suffer when they lose a parent. Sometimes they suffer long after they’ve become adults themselves. Some take the pain to their grave. That Grossman believes that, after a few months without their dads, kids are simply used to the situation and everything’s hunky-dory is not only absurd, but a clear indication that she harbors anti-dad sentiments herself. Beyond doubt she hasn’t the least notion of what promotes children’s best interests.
That said, at least she’s got some good advice for fathers. Primarily, she tells them not to move out of the house, even though it may be uncomfortable to remain. That at least avoids the problem she sees that arises from fathers leaving the family home.
Of course what she doesn’t consider is that, if Mom wants him gone, a single allegation of domestic violence, including that his presence makes her feel unsafe, will be sufficient to do the job. Grossman claims to have spent 25 years in family courts. Has she never seen a mother use that tactic?
Given what is an apparent absence of pertinent information about her chosen topic, I suppose I shouldn’t even ask whether Grossman’s read the studies in which considerable bias on the part of family judges is revealed, including admissions by judges themselves and the lawyers who practice before them. For my part, I trust those a lot more than I do absurdities like Grossman’s.
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