Early this year Seattle Weekly's Nina Shapiro wrote a feature story and posted to The Daily Weekly about whether or not there's an anti-male bias in family court. Shapiro's pieces on the subject relied on the comments of attorneys who work within the system, many of them females.
A number of female lawyers, including those who call themselves feminists, are disturbed by the plight of dads, in particular. One attorney, Rhea Rolfe, describes sitting with a male client in a courtroom one day. The presiding family law commissioner "ruled against every single man," Rolfe says, "and two of them were unopposed."
One of the especially pernicious ways this bias plays out is for a domestic violence allegation to be leveled at a dad. This is not domestic violence as most people think of it--the horrible physical abuse and threats that present dire risks for many women. State law, and other definitions used by the court, define abuse far more broadly.
Says Jan Dyer, an attorney who often handles domestic violence cases: " It might be a shove or a head butt, or when they're so close to you, you can see spit." Or there might not be any physical component to the supposed abuse at all. One domestic violence "risk assessor" used by the courts recommended a dad for domestic violence treatment largely because of his "indifference" to his wife's "feelings and needs."
In the ultimate Catch 22, men are seen as all the more guilty if they attempt to deny the accusations against them.
So men try to get their head around being called abusers while at the same time facing the extreme consequences of such a label. Not infrequently, they will be immediately kicked out of their house and denied access to their child.
The courts, of course, are supposed to be the forum in which true allegations are separated from false. Unfortunately, there's not much time for that in King County's overloaded family court, where the most important relationships of a person's life are rearranged in all of 20 minutes.
Almost 10 months after it posted, Shapiro's blog entry is still garnering comments, including one from Daily Weekly commenter lunadatura.
Commenter lunadatura writes:
I work as a family therapist and parent consultant to the department of children and family services. I have been asked to counsel and coach single dads. By and large they are equally good parents as the single moms I work with. However when it comes to getting their kids back the state is hugely biased against them and are slow to place kiddos with dad and close the case. It one particular case a child was placed back with mom who presented a clear danger to the child and taken from dad when he appeared to be the safer option.