Another day, another dad with a lot to say about the divorce and custody system. It’s amazing how the stories are all so much the same. Either there’s a vast conspiracy of fathers to paint family courts with the same brush or courts in the English-speaking world have an anti-dad bias.
In this article the dad is Francis Knize of Wilton, Connecticut (Wilton Villager, 4/28/11).
Divorce is never an easy process, especially when children are involved, and Wilton resident Francis Knize says being a father makes it exponentially more difficult.
Knize went through a nasty divorce a few years ago, and, based on his own experience, he feels judges in divorce cases “have an inherent bias against men.”
“Basically the judiciary has worked hard to erode (father’s) civil rights on many levels. In my divorce case my person, property and papers were what I wanted protected, and they were all broken in the divorce. There was nothing I could make a free choice of in my life.”
Knize said the immediate reaction of the courts is to place children with the mother in the vast majority of divorce cases.
“Basically the child remains with the mother right away until further notice, and the father may not see the child for the first year after the divorce,” Knize said. “That’s unconscionable.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself. The anti-dad bias begins at the very beginning and continues until the court loses jurisdiction, usually when the child turns 18.
Typically, it’s mothers who file for divorce; over 70% of divorces are filed by women. That’s because they know they won’t lose their kids. Researchers Margaret Brinig and Douglas Allen found that to be the factor that “swamped all others” in determining who would file for divorce, i.e. who would get the kids. Mothers know they run little-to-no risk of not getting custody, so they have little hesitation about filing.
And indeed, that’s just what happens and, with a little creative testifying, they can be sure that dad won’t get to see them at all, at least for a while. Even the barest allegation of domestic violence or child abuse against the dad will mean that, although she’s the one asking for the split, he’s the one to be tossed out of the family’s house.
Add a claim of DV to that and he likely won’t even be able to access important personal belongings. If he’s a peace officer or member of the military, he can kiss his job goodbye because the DV claim means he can’t possess a firearm.
Meanwhile, he’ll be ordered to avoid contact with his wife and kids. Thus are the “facts on the ground” created. Since she now has the kids for the pendency of the divorce, perhaps a year or longer, she’s become the “primary parent” by judicial fiat.
And of course that means she’ll be given custody and child support while he’ll get some form of modest visitation. As we all know, the court will zealously enforce the child support aspect of the order while largely ignoring the visitation thing-y.
In short, Knize’s right. The judiciary has worked hard to erode fathers’ rights and continues to do so to its everlasting shame. Custody law and practice to an astonishing degree is an exercise in separating fathers from their children despite the wishes and well-being of both.
Knize’s got another point too. He notes that the lower burden of proof in family courts allows charges of abuse – even unfounded ones – to hold sway over child custody decisions.
“I know lots of men who have serious problems seeing their children because women take the stand claiming severe abuse,” Knize said. “They make a criminal kind of charge without having to support it with any kind of evidence… Women are making claims without any corroborating evidence or proof.”
That’s eerily reminiscent of the Jeffrey Ruggiero case in which an assistant District Attorney offhandedly said something very similar. Ruggiero’s wife Kristen had lied numerous times in family court to separate Jeff from their daughter. The ploy worked there, but when her claims were scrutinized in criminal court, she found that the judge there cared about things like perjury. She was convicted of 12 felony counts stemming from her lies and the ADA commented that she didn’t realize she “wasn’t in family court anymore.”
That pretty much says it all. Most courts require real evidence, not falsehoods; family courts are pretty much satisfied with either.
So now there’s a bill before the Connecticut General Assembly to try to make claims of abuse real as opposed to fabricated. Here’s the bill itself.
That the general statutes be amended to: (1) institute a presumption of a parent’s or guardian’s innocence in any proceeding alleging child abuse or neglect by the parent or guardian; (2) require the petitioner to prove a parent’s or guardian’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt in any proceeding alleging child abuse or neglect by the parent or guardian; (3) require the protection of a parent’s or guardian’s constitutional rights, as afforded to persons charged with criminal offenses, in any proceeding alleging child abuse or neglect by the parent or guardian; (4) require the dismissal from employment of any municipal or state employee found to have violated the constitutional rights of a parent or guardian in any proceeding alleging child abuse or neglect by the parent or guardian; and (5) ensure that any such municipal or state employee not receive immunity.”
The bill passed the Judiciary Committee and now awaits action in the House. Will it pass? I’ve got my doubts. But whether it does or not, it’s a sure sign that people are starting to take notice of the continuing disgrace that are our family courts today. That children should be deprived of their fathers on the basis of trumped up allegations of angry or merely calculating mothers is not an acceptable. It’s not morally or legally acceptable.
And in a country in which almost half of all marriages end up in family court, it cannot be allowed to continue.