Why women lose custody
- Category: Family Law Courts
- Created: Sunday, 26 January 2020 22:07
- Written by Naomi Cahn - Forbes
Why? The father claimed parental alienation, that Emma was alienating the children from their father by false claims that he was abusing them.
The term “parental alienation” comes from the work of child psychiatrist Richard Gardner in the 1980s to explain what he saw as a shocking number of child sexual abuse allegations in custody litigation. Gardner claimed that many of these abuse allegations were fabricated by vengeful or pathological mothers.
But his theory has been subjected to strong criticism, such as that from Jeffrey Edleson, former director of the Minnesota Center Against Violence and Abuse and professor and director of research at the University of Minnesota School of Social Work, who said in 2009 that, “PAS is essentially composed of unsubstantiated claims; there’s no science behind it.”
Nonetheless, it survives in a gender-neutral form as parental alienation. But, that too has been discredited, and as the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, explains, it “also diverts attention away from the behaviors of the abusive parent.”
For this first-ever national study, Meier and her research team analyzed published court opinions that were available online between 2005 and 2014, resulting in their data set of 4,388 custody cases. They coded the cases for differing types of abuse allegations by either parent: domestic violence against the mother, child sexual abuse, and child physical abuse. They also coded for allegations that one parent was trying to alienate the child from the other parent.
The study contains a wealth of data about cases involving abuse or alienation claims.
Here are some of the more important findings:
When fathers alleged mothers were alienating, regardless of abuse claims, they took custody away from her 44% of the time. When the genders were reversed, and fathers started out with the children, mothers took custody from fathers only 28% of the time. Fathers were overall much more likely to win than mothers by claiming alienation.
Meier found that, when mothers claimed any type of abuse, if fathers responded by claiming parental alienation, then the mothers were twice as likely to lose custody as when fathers did not claim alienation. In the study’s stark conclusion: “alienation trumps abuse.”
Even when the father’s abuse was considered by the court to have been proven, the mothers who were alleging the abuse still lost custody in 13 % of the cases. By contrast, fathers lost custody only 4% of the time when a mother’s abuse was considered proved.
Most stunningly of all, in only one out of the 51 cases in which a mother reported child sexual abuse while the father cross-claimed alienation did the court credit the mother’s claim of sexual abuse.
Remarkably similar findings have emerged from a recent Canadian study as well. Meier note that even conservative assessments find claims of child sexual abuse in custody cases to be valid at least 50% of the time. The power of alienation cross-claims to defeat child sexual abuse allegations echoes alienation’s roots in “PAS,” Gardner’s theory, which was aimed specifically at child sexual abuse claims.
Meier’s study also yielded some interesting findings regarding gender: While alienation is gendered when wielded as a cross-claim against abuse claims, the study found that when courts believed the claims of alienation, then mothers and fathers were equally likely to lose custody (73%). It also found that in cases without abuse claims (as reported in courts’ opinions), mothers and fathers’ alienation claims seemed to have a roughly equal impact on outcomes.
June Carbone, a family law professor at the University of Minnesota, finds the study highly troubling: “It shows the power of the shared parenting idea. An abuse allegation rejects the possibility of shared parenting. Parents who allege alienation by the other parent cloak themselves in the mantle of the shared parenting norm and judges reward them, even if the parent is an abuser.”
This reality creates an impossible bind for mothers: should they stay silent about the father’s abuse so as to avoid the alienation penalty? The study certainly supports the idea that it is untenably risky for mothers to report at least child sexual abuse.
Meier hopes this study will encourage courts and evaluators to take greater care in using alienation claims against abuse allegations, especially because this use of alienation labels has no scientific basis. She is also working with several states’ lawmakers and advocates to tighten custody laws to ensure that abuse allegations are addressed on their merits, and not undermined by alienation claims.
Source : https://www.forbes.com/sites/naomicahn/2020/01/26/why-women-lose-custody/amp/