There are a few giant flaming elephants roaming around our communities. Some have been recognized for what they are, yet they continue marching about in flames. Some are reluctantly seen from a safe distance through a dirty window, and appear to not be having an immediate impact, so they are dismissed as illusions. Some are blatantly ignored, as they go stomping about smashing and burning everything in their path.
Abuse is a giant flaming elephant in family law.
No one wants to admit abuse’s disgusting infestation of custody and divorce cases, much less face up to it, acknowledge it for what it is, and provide a platform for true health, safety and personal responsibility.
Abuse in marriage is rampant in this world, country, state, county, neighborhood. You don’t think it is in your neighborhood, but I assure you, it absolutely is. Abuse doesn’t go away with socioeconomic or educational status. Why this is true is a topic for another time, and does not change that it is true and it is affecting our entire culture, especially children.
Are you aware that there are programs in your community, which exist to promote healthy relationships between parents and children?
Doesn’t this sound like a wonderful resource for families in need of support?
Are you aware of how this translates to an abusive family situation?
Father abuses mother (raping her, punching her, threatens to kill her with a weapon, removes financial resources from her to gain power and control, verbally assaults her – you know, the usual). Mother calls domestic violence center to get help after years of trying to work things out and comply with whatever she believes is provoking her abuser, in order to please him so that he will not be triggered to be abusive anymore (yes, I KNOW this does not work, but when you are in the situation, you do not know this. You do not even know that you are being abused – another topic for another day).
Domestic Violence center provides services including a counseling session for mother, safety shelter for immediate threats, coordination with other agencies (police, child protective services etc), and sometimes legal services. Even if the abuser is seen as a threat to the mother and children, the children will be ordered to visit with their father in a supervised situation – with the helpful people who promote, encourage and support developing healthy families.
How is it okay to force children to sit with the human who abused their other parent?
How can we expect someone who feels that they have the right to abuse another human, will not abuse other humans?
Why do we allow children to be counted as property of marriage, rather than as humans?
Why do we not believe women when they report abuse?
Less than 2% of women are found to have falsely claimed abuse.
Are we saying that a woman being abused is okally dokally do, and has NO impact on any other areas of their lives?
Or, perhaps, we are saying that children are not affected by an abusive person abusing their mother?
The abuser will become even more angered that he is unable to be in control, and possibly files for divorce from mother. Abuser also files for immediate sole physical custody of children because HE has the home, HE has the family income, HE is being cast out of his children’s lives by his “crazy wife” who is making false allegations of abuse and requires counseling and therapy for her anxiety. Guess what? The court grants him at the very least, 50% custody of the children, and threatens mother that if she doesn’t have her own adequate home and income to take care of the children during her 50% custody, father will be granted more custody until she can get herself straightened out. Also, father claims, mother is traumatizing the children by subjecting them to being removed from their home and father.
The court agrees. Father has no criminal record. Mother has no hospitalizations from suspected abuse. The court has no professional evidence or proof that father is abusive, so they rule as if this is a “regular divorce,” and tell the father and mother to go to mediation and work everything out like adults.
Even if mother has some proof of abuse (Dr reports, photos etc), father hasn’t abused the children, so 50% custody and mediation it is. Mother is forced to negotiate the terms of her custody and divorce with her ABUSER, who is abusive to her.
How can you negotiate with someone who fundamentally feels the need to abuse you?
You are not on even ground and by that very nature cannot negotiate.
Why do we expect that a difference of opinion can be mediated when one party has all of the power and control?
Our custody laws do not make any sense for abusive situations.
The laws are the laws and the court has a responsibility to uphold the laws.
I do understand that. I also understand that laws are not entities unto their own. They did not create themselves, nor do they interpret themselves. Humans are making laws. Humans are interpreting laws. Humans are often doing this on behalf of very vulnerable other humans.
Abuse in divorce and custody cases is so incredibly rampant, that it has become marginalized, causing laws to swirl around and enforce the ultimate legal system drive of power and control.
Guess what abusers want? Power and control.
Guess who wins in legal battles? Power and control.
Too frequently, custody morphs into institutionalized abuse by lawmakers and courts who blithely absolve themselves under the auspices of upholding ‘fundamental parental rights.’
Only in the very rare case, are children and mothers protected from the abuser by court order. Ironically, the abuser is the one who helps them the most by his concrete abusive/criminal actions which physically prevent him from having responsibility or contact (he is in jail, in rehab, in a mental illness facility etc.). However, even then, a judge may, and usually will, order some kind of contact between the abuser and his children.
This may include forcing the mother to drive her children (at her emotional, financial and time expense) to jail/rehab/mental illness facility every week in order to spend time with their father. If the mother indicates that she is unwilling to, or unable to, comply with that suggestion, the judge will order that a social worker come to her home, remove her children and transport them to visit with their father. Especially after the abuser’s attorney argues that the mother’s extreme anxiety is harming the children and frightening them, as evidenced by her bizarre dependence on her therapist and domestic violence shelter support, and therefore she should not be involved at all with the care and support of her children as they rebuild their connection with their father.
You know, because fathers of any kind are better than no father at all… WTF … because studies show that children who have the (safe and healthy) influence and (safe and healthy) support of two (safe and healthy) parents, they are statistically proven to do better in school and as functioning adults. Except when this is quoted to you as a reason for placing your children into contact with an abuser, all the “(safe and healthy)” bits are turned into the disregarded flaming elephants, because “
property parental rights” trumps all.
In my case…
In my case, we have a temporary reprieve (which on the surface appears permanent), due to the father’s serious mental illness combined with dangerous behaviors, which have led to him being placed in the State’s custody for a few years. And while in their custody, he still managed to violate court orders, which resulted in him having additional restraints on his ability to be responsible for himself, much less a child.
Even given all of that (and the lethal threats he made), there was continued talk of him obtaining at least 50% legal custody of our son, right up until the last few weeks before the final divorce. This would not have been unprecedented, unfortunately. This could have been a disaster. I would be in the same position as countless other women, and be forced to co-parent with an abusive person – which is probably in my future anyway.
To me, our current orders are a temporary reprieve, because at any time, father can appeal the court to modify custody, when his “treatment is successful,” and the State has fulfilled its commitment to be responsible for him. I can assure you, the judge will change the order, should that come to pass.
In the meantime, I have to bring my son to a reunification therapist so that she may facilitate contact between son and his father. I truly respect her opinion and understand she is obligated to provide some context for contact.
I do not understand WHO, outside of the legal system,
thinks that physical contact between my son and his father is okay.
Inside the legal system, they have this ability to make it seem like an awesome idea only because it fulfills some legal obligation which has nothing to do with keeping a child safe and healthy.
I am also ordered to send weekly updates about my son to father. At this time, to us, father is a stranger – and a dangerous stranger. He weighs about ½ of what he did when we knew him, his thick black hair is gone because he shaves his head. Yet, I am supposed to willingly and obligingly, send information about my young child to this person every single week, who, for all I know, still intends to murder us.
My story is just one of many.
Even here in our community, my story is one of many.
I am one of many flaming elephants.
According to my attorney, who has 25+ years of experience, my story is one of the scariest she has encountered (um, I would rather not be special in this regard), yet, in terms of the relentless abusive power and control tactics used in custody cases, I am, sadly, not at all unique.
Justice, as seen by rational reasonable humans, is rarely served in custody cases. If you are seeking human justice, go to a religious entity. Power and control are always served in custody cases involving domestic violence. When abuse is involved, the children and abused spouse, ultimately ALWAYS lose. The best you can hope for is that you are a strong enough parent with a strong enough child, to survive until that child is an adult and makes healthy choices for themselves.
Children are manipulated by the abusive parent. Children are silently abused by the abusive parent. The abused spouse is never ever allowed to not be connected with her abuser, unless they want to abandon their children to the abuser.
What message are we sending to victims of marital abuse?
Don’t report it, or you’ll lose your lifestyle/money/house/much of your children’s time/any ability to potentially protect your children from the abuser/dignity/privacy/etc? (why abusive men get custody link here)
What message would you send to a mother in an abusive marriage?
Are you prepared to support the consequences of your advice?
What are you doing right now in your community to help these mothers and children in need?
How can we help prevent our daughters and sons from entering into these situations?
Can you see this giant flaming elephant?
What do you do once you see it IS there?
Love, Ms Herisme