Blog & Criticize the Fatherhood Movement (Part VI)

Two major online publications– and–recently did articles criticizing the men’s and fathers movement. Whenever the fatherhood movement and its opponents clash directly, there is an opportunity for all on both sides to listen and learn, so I’m writing several posts on these two articles. My first two posts dealt largely with a misleading quote attributed to me in both pieces, and the two publications’ commendable agreement to clarify it.

In Part III, Part IV, Part V, and this post, we’ll deal more with the arguments made by Kathryn Joyce of Double X/ and Judy Berman of Both Joyce and Berman are feminist writers who consider themselves opponents of the fatherhood movement.

Joyce writes:

there are a rising number of custody decisions awarded to abusive fathers, as judges see wives eager to protect their children as less cooperative regarding custody. More than half the time, studies have found, wives” accusations of domestic violence are met with counter-accusations from husbands of “Parental Alienation Syndrome’–a medically unrecognized diagnosis that suggests mothers have poisoned their children into making false accusations against their fathers.

I doubt “half the time” is correct, since most fathers don’t have the resources to hire lawyers and go to court when false accusations are leveled against them. And how does Joyce decide that the men are “abusive” when no court has adjudicated them as such?

Joyce writes:

In one recent case, Genia Shockome, a Russian immigrant, was fighting for custody of her two children with her ex-husband, whom she charged had beaten her so severely that she suffered post-traumatic stress disorder and who had told her she “had no right to leave’ since he”d brought her to the United States. The judge in the case sided with her husband”s counter-claims of Parental Alienation Syndrome and awarded him full custody

Actually, Judge Amodeo bent over backwards to be fair to Shockome, who lost her children to her ex-husband only after repeatedly violating court orders. Moreover, there was no evidence that the ex-husband was an “abuser,” and the Court specifically repudiated this accusation. Shockome’s absolute refusal to co-parent with her ex-husband led the courts–eventually, after giving her many chances–to transfer custody of the kids from Genia to her ex-husband.

Unlike Joyce and Berman, I’ve actually read the court documents in that case. To read the documents in the case, click here. To read my analysis of that case, click here.

Joyce writes:

“[The Shockome judge] sentenced Shockome to 30 days in jail while she was seven months pregnant.”

To read the transcript of the May 5, 2005 court hearing where Genia was found in contempt of court, click here. Feminists portrayed Judge Amodeo as a bully for jailing Genia for contempt in May of 2005; however, the transcript of the hearing shows that Genia interrupted Amodeo on over 50 separate occasions. Amodeo bent over backwards to accommodate Shockome, and only held her in contempt after countless warnings. Shockome appealed Amodeo’s holding of contempt but a four judge panel of the New York Supreme Court unanimously upheld Amodeo’s decision.

Joyce writes:

When her attorney, Barry Goldstein…criticized the judge in an online article, the judge retaliated with a complaint, and Goldstein was given a five-year suspension. Goldstein says the sanction represents a chilling pressure on attorneys, who may now fear penalties for criticizing a court”s gender bias that will interfere with their duties to their clients and that could result in women deciding not to leave abusers out of fear they won”t get a fair trial.

Feminist attorney Barry Goldstein, Esq. of New York was Shockome’s primary attorney. The New York Appellate Division for the Second Judicial Department called numerous statements Goldstein made concerning the Shockome case “dishonest, false, or misleading.” The Court also criticized Goldstein for misuse of funds in another case he handled. In the Shockome case, the Court criticized what it called the “pervasive nature of [Goldstein’s] deceptive conduct”–conduct which it said included “false accusations” about the case and “noncompliance with multiple court orders.” The Court wrote:

On behalf of his client [Genia Shockome], he prepared and filed with this Court a petition for writ of habeas corpus and a petition in a proceeding pursuant to CPLR article 78. These materials contained sworn statements which were dishonest, false, or misleading.

One of Goldstein’s statements that the New York Court cited in disciplining him is his public contention that in the Shockome case “Without an evidentiary hearing or any written explanation, Judge Amodeo took the children from the mother who has raised them and sent them to the abuser.” This is false–Judge Amodeo actually bent over backwards to be fair to Shockome, who lost her children to her ex-husband only after repeatedly violating court orders. Moreover, there was no evidence that the ex-husband was an “abuser,” and the Court specifically repudiated this accusation.

To learn more, see Georgetown Law Center Ethics Counsel Michael S. Frisch’s write-up here. To read the Court’s decision itself, click here. My write-up of the Goldstein suspension is here.

Joyce writes:

If cases such as Genia Shockome”s are the fodder of mainstream fathers” rights advocates like Glenn Sacks–who ridiculed her claims and loss of custody as an incredible “cause célèbre’ for feminist family-law reformers–what Sacks calls the movement”s “lunatic fringe’ is more vitriolic yet.

What I actually did was something neither Joyce nor Berman did–I read through the documents of the case and found out what happened. Given the fraud Shockome tried to perpetrate, my analysis of it was, if anything, excessively polite. A sample:

The entire premise of the Genia Shockome story hinges on the notion that Tim battered Genia prior to 2000 and, in repeatedly violating court orders to allow her children access to their father, she was acting to protect them. However, Genia’s allegations of domestic violence and child sexual abuse have never been substantiated in any court proceeding, nor supported by any witnesses. Writing with admirable restraint, Judge Amodeo, whose decisions in the case have been repeatedly upheld by higher courts, noted:

“In [Genia’s] August 2000 complaint in the divorce action, no mention is made of the domestic violence which Genia later asserted. She claimed that she was unaware that she was the victim of domestic violence; however, such a lack of awareness would not have made her unable to recount historical facts, especially if the severity and frequency of the abuse she alleged were true. Why didn’t she mention the abuse earlier in the case?”

There were three independent custody evaluations in the case, none of which found anything negative of substance against Tim Shockome. The first one called him a good parent, and the other two went as far as to recommend he get custody because of his parenting and because of Genia’s relentless attempts to drive him out of his children’s lives.

The most recent of these evaluators, Dr. Meg Sussman, has a feminist background and worked for Pace University’s Battered Women’s Justice Center. Sussman, who specializes in domestic violence and child abuse cases, recommended that Genia have only supervised visitation until she could accept the children’s father’s role in their lives.

In two in camera (in chambers) interviews conducted with the Shockome children on May 27, 2003 and January 22, 2004, neither child recalled any physical altercations between their parents, despite Genia’s claims that her children had witnessed Tim’s alleged violence against her. Moreover, neither child expressed any fear of Tim.

Genia’s only support for her contention that she had previously been battered came from the FFLM domestic violence advocates who testified in her trial. Yet none of these “experts” had ever spoken with Tim Shockome, and had no evidence of Tim’s abuse except for Genia’s assertions…

Newsweek pictured Genia holding up a large drawing apparently drawn by her children, and explained:

“Parents like Genia keep fighting. ‘It’s so hard, having my children lost,’ she says, her voice breaking. ‘This was my life–my children.'”

What Newsweek ignores, though it’s right there in the court records, is that it is Genia who refuses to visit her own children, despite ample opportunities to do so. When asked during the trial why she had not visited her children, Genia claimed that she could not afford to pay the supervised visitation program’s fees. These programs were originally available to her free of charge, and later cost all of $25. At the same time, Genia had just purchased a new television set for her home.

In the type of exchange typical of Genia’s behavior throughout the case, Genia then claimed that she hadn’t paid for the television set–it was her boyfriend who bought it. However, the boyfriend, Aja Butler, later testified that he had no knowledge of how the TV set was purchased.

Genia refused to visit her children for two long periods prior to the May, 2004 decision, including the period which included her daughter’s birthday in November of 2003 and also Christmas of 2003. At one point, Genia refused to visit her own children for a stretch of nine weeks. The law guardian–another neutral party–said that Genia had explained that she didn’t visit her kids as part of her “strategy” in the case. Genia Shockome claims her children are “her life,” but apparently they weren’t even as important as a new TV set or a custody “strategy”…

Genia and her supporters, including Goldstein, contend that Genia has been the victim of “gender bias” and a judge with a grudge. This explanation fails to account for the fact that Amodeo’s decision was based on the opinions of many neutral experts, both male and female, some of them with feminist backgrounds.

The ample legal help Genia has been provided by domestic violence organizations allowed her to appeal the case, and apparently all of the justices on the New York Supreme Court’s Appellate Division are also biased against Genia, because they unanimously rejected her appeal in June. The court wrote:

“We discern no basis, on this record, to interfere with the Family Court’s findings, inter alia, that the mother lacked credibility…or that the opinions of her [domestic violence] experts were of little value, since none of them had ever spoken with the father…The Family Court concluded, among other things, that the mother’s animosity toward the father and her attempts to undermine the children’s relationships with him were harmful to the children and rendered her the less fit parent…Exercising our independent review, we find that the Family Court’s determination is supported by a sound and substantial basis in the record.”

In fact, though Genia’s bankruptcy case had nothing whatsoever to do with her family law matter, she even managed to annoy the bankruptcy judge, Cecelia G. Morris. Morris–no surprise–noted numerous contradictions in Shockome’s statements, and decried Genia’s “refusal to accept any order or ruling that is in conflict with her demands.”

Genia Shockome’s supporters expected Judge Amodeo–who was presented with no evidence of any violence against Genia beyond her own statements–to simply take her word for it, and allow her to destroy the bonds between the Shockome children and their father…Genia accuses Tim of all of the following: being a pedophile who got sexually aroused by changing his daughter’s dirty diapers; sexually abusing his children; masturbating in front of his children; taking his children to a sexual store; having a ferocious sexual appetite for women; having a ferocious homosexual appetite for men; being an abusive father who “beat the kids very often, 2-3 times a day” when Genia and Tim lived together; being a wife-beater; secretly beating his former wife who had a secret miscarriage; beating Genia so she almost had a miscarriage; intimidating five of Genia’s witnesses; insurance fraud, identity theft; immigration fraud; defrauding the federal government of $60,000; stealing; embezzlement; extortion; bankruptcy fraud; almost driving over Genia’s neighbor’s little son; and of violating a protection order over one million times…what judge in his right mind would take this woman’s word for anything?

My full co-authored piece on the issue is Shockome Syndrome. I’ve made the documents in the Shockome case available on my website since 2006–they are:

To read the Court Order from May 10, 2004 where the judge gives sole custody to Timothy Shockome and grants Genia visitation rights, click here.

To read the decision handed down on June 13, 2006 by the New York State Appellate Division, Second Department upholding the May 10, 2004 Court Order, click here.

Genia”s motion for leave to reargue an appeal from an order of the Family Court, Dutchess County rendered May 10, 2004, is denied by the New York State Appellate Division, Second Department on August 18, 2006. To read the court document, click here.

To read the Bankruptcy Court decision rendered by Judge Cecelia G. Morris on May 11, 2006 denying Genia”s request for a stay pending appeal, click here.

To read the transcript of the May 5, 2005 court hearing where Genia was found in contempt of court and sentenced to jail time after interrupting Judge Amodeo over 50 times, click here.

I’m writing several posts about the issues raised in the and articles–to read the others, click here. The two articles are Kathryn Joyce’s “Men’s Rights” Groups Have Become Frighteningly Effective (, 11/5/09) and Judy Berman’s “Men’s rights” groups go mainstream–Once seen as a lunatic fringe, reactionary anti-women groups are courting respectability (, 11/5/09).

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