Motherhood, Domestic Abuse and Family Court

I did not want to mar the good parts of Mothers’ Day so I waited to post this disturbing report.

Yesterday reports from Child Welfare Monitor said there is a Family Court crisis of placing children with abusive parents, some of whom die.

I am not including the horrible way some of the children were murdered by their abusive fathers.

The Center for Judicial Excellence has data on 707 children

murdered by divorcing parents since 2008.

The primary reason: courts do not believe the mother, usually the protective parent, in spite of documented abuse.

Mothers going to family court are advised by their attorneys not to mention their abuse. If so, they often lead to adverse custody rulings.

Immediately some raise what sounds like common sense objections. Fathers have been mistreated by courts. Mothers can be abusive too. On and on. This is known as false equivalency: treating every idea as if of it’s of equal weight and validity.

But just as in church arguments that a women “must have done something” to warrant abuse, there is no justification for courts awarding unsupervised visitation or sole custody to fathers with documented abuse.

Last year Texas courts doubled down on protecting parents accused of abuse. Federal monitors report Texas child welfare system exposed children to harm.

Texas is not alone. Kentucky is documented as the worst. In politically conservative states a backlash against women’s rights has doubled down by removing children from women seeking asylum from domestic abuse through family court rulings.

Some might say this is due to low educational levels or poverty. But a common denominator in these states is also a fundamentalist religion that argues against education outside the home, which leads to poverty. Women not allowed to work in a two-income society exacerbates this problem.

Rather than a chicken-egg dilemma, churches are responsible for the results of what they preach and teach to believers. When a religious leader enforces second class status for women through enforced motherhood and submission, the results are predictable.

The influence of the recent evangelical pressure on officials and candidacy for legislative and judicial offices shows a clear path to the increased weaponization of courts against mothers seeking protection for themselves and their children from abusive fathers.

Since statistics clearly show that most victims of domestic abuse are women, it is fair to say that this majority would translate to the number of women seeking divorce and custody in family court.

The hypocrisy of a religious view that sees women as only sexual or submissive has become fatal in these cases. The attempt to keep women housed and having children is couched in pious terms, but the reality of the treatment of mothers in systems administered by adherents to this misogyny counters this piety.

Mothers are in agony this Mothers’ Day from unjustly losing their children to courts influences by those who say motherhood is the highest calling for women and that they should stay home and be submissive to men.

Just as the abortion bans enforce motherhood, the family courts are enforcing submission to abuse for those mothers. The message is clear: submit or lose your kids.

It appears that male entitlement has no limits to what they will do to keep women controlled in the name of God.

Anyone familiar with domestic abuse knows that abusive fathers often use the children as leverage to stay in control of the mother. Their motivation is not concern for children.

Often they seek sole custody to avoid paying child support. As a school counselor, I have often seen fathers with sole custody using older daughters to take care of the home and siblings or worse. This prevents her from furthering her education or working.

Parents we  had to hotline would routinely withdraw their children to “homeschooling” and  move to a town in the state known by authorities to uphold abuse, and where their practices were reinforced by the evangelical church.

The application of misogynist religious ideas has become fatal in cases of unsupervised visitation or sole custody given to abusive fathers in family courts.

Weaponizing courts is not new. Racism and sexism have done it since America was founded. Women and children as a man’s property was common then. We were supposed to have outgrown this ignorance and evil.

But instead some states have regressed even further. States supporting misogyny in the name of God have officials removing children from a protective mother’s care. Happy Mothers day sermons are a mockery and children are dying.

Published by Fessup

A 30-year veteran educator and counselor, published author, lifelong student of religion and women's issues, educator with, mother, and lover of Far Side humor.