In days long past, women were legally the property of their husbands, along with the children and all property in the marriage. Nothing was done to protect women or children against beatings, which were presumably deserved. In the 1960's, though, women worked hard to get laws passed to protect women from domestic violence. Domestic violence, stalking, and sexual harassment laws were passed and enforced, to protect women who were truly victims. So the pendulum swung radically in the opposite direction, resulting in the gender bias against men that is now largely the norm in the family court system.
While certainly there are many cases where these laws are laudably enforced to protect women who truly need it, there is sadly also an increasing tendency on the part of women to use this bias to gain an unfair advantage in family court by falsely claiming they were assaulted. In my practice, this is most common with single parents. Due to the presumption favoring marriage in Michigan law, when an unmarried couple has children the mother is presumed to have custody, and the father is given the right to pay child support. If the parties break up while the child is an infant, certain counties in our state provide for NO overnights for the father for the first year of a child’s life, making a broad statement that a father plays only a marginal role in his child’s life! This is unbelievable, and sad.
If the father goes to court to fight for a place in his son or daughter’s life, all the mother needs to do is claim that he assaulted her and that she is deathly afraid of him. Personal protection orders (PPO’s) are handed out too easily to women in many courts, because no judge wants to be seen as politically incorrect, and understandably no judge wants to be the one who denied a PPO to a woman who later ends up injured.
Some unscrupulous mothers take advantage of this bias, knowing that even if their lies are found out, absolutely nothing will happen to them. Technically they could be prosecuted for perjury, but in 29 years of practicing law, I have never seen it happen. In the meantime, they cheat their child out of his or her right to have a father, leaving dad as little more than a visitor, and a paycheck. Vindictive moms using this technique may think they are only hurting the father, perhaps as punishment for breaking up with or cheating on them, while at the same time eliminating the father’s overnights so they can get more money for child support. (This is because child support is based on the number of overnights each parent gets with the child.) The father becomes a steady, tax-free paycheck and little more.
But such tactics hurt the child even more. Studies have shown that children in America living in homes without fathers are 5 times more likely to live in poverty than children who live with both their mother and their father. Fatherless children are also 2 to 3 times more likely to develop an emotional or behavioral problem requiring psychiatric treatment. Studies have shown that children who grow up without fathers are also more likely to commit crime, and do worse in school. Perhaps most tragic of all, children who grow up fatherless are more likely to commit suicide than those who grow up in a home with both their mother and father.
I have represented fathers who love their children enough to fight these false charges in court, and/or to get more parenting time over the mother’s strenuous objections. We have had significant success, because they are willing to go the distance and I am experienced in dealing with these issues. But it is always at significant cost of time and money. Courts don't award attorney fees in family court for having to defend against false accusations (they are too common), yet they do often grant attorney fees to the woman on the basis of need, which means that the man actually has to finance the case against him! The wheels of justice turn slowly, and as a father tries to combat the falsehoods, his child is growing up without him. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. So leave, the minute things start to get physical. Don't defend yourself, don't restrain a woman who is attacking you. The bruises on her arms will be proof that you are the aggressor, and any injuries you have will be laughed off unless they are major. The point is, this is a lose-lose situation for men. Take this one piece of advice and you will be thanking me for the rest of your life.
Today, more than 50% of children are born to single parents, where the odds for men in a staged domestic violence situation is even worse. Knowledge is power. Be smart. Avoid this situation in the first place, and take proactive steps to secure your custody rights when things are going well. (Click "no parent left behind" in the search box for more on this.) My practice is based on the bedrock belief that children need their parents, both of them, if they are to fulfill their true potential and become the best that they can be. I have been very successful at helping loving fathers secure their place in their child's life, post-divorce or post-breakup. If you find yourself being pushed out of your child's life in the aftermath of a divorce or breakup, I can help you. Call our office and schedule a free phone consultation.
Mindy L. Hitchcock