Family Courts Fail Young Victims of Abuse Fit Parents Are Losing Custody to Abusive Ones in Flawed Systems

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In the July issue of LadybugFlights online magazine, Karen Anderson recounts the details of many attempts of mothers to protect their children from abusive fathers. The shocking fact is that courts are heavily weighted in favor of fathers, at the expense of mothers and their children. In case after case, she shows how the rights of loving mothers were ignored while custody was turned over to the fathers, in spite of compelling evidence that the father abused the child.

Everyone wants to protect children from abuse. Sometimes the family court system fails our children miserably in this regard.

Karen Anderson is the director of California Protective Parents Association (CPPA), which is based in Sacramento, California. In her article, “Judgment Pronounced – Sentenced to Life – With an Incest Offender” she describes case after case of judgments by the family courts in California where judgments were rendered that favored fathers to an unconsciable degree. Fathers who have abused their children, who have battered their children’s mothers, get custody.

In one case she describes, a mother was beaten and her child was sexually abused, but after a divorce the father obtained custody and the mother was vilified and restricted to limited supervised visitation and told her protective behavior was damaging her child. When she went public with her pain, the result was that all her contact with the child was cut off.

“These cases are examples that show a cultural shift in attitude toward incest and maternal protective behavior. How did we go, in such a short time, from punishing perpetrators of incest, to re-uniting children with their known offenders, to punishing parents who attempt to protect their children from incest?”

She answers this question with a history of the family court system in California. It reflects a cultural shift in attitude, a dysfunctional overemphasis on “the fatherhood initiative”, and many other factors in society at large and within the court system that militate against mothers in their desperate efforts to protect their children. In subsequent articles of this series, Anderson will examine these factors and provide suggested solutions.

She leaves us with a vitally important question: “When children are taken away from safe parents and placed in the custody of abusers, what effect will this societal betrayal have on these children’s lives in the long run?” The problems are not limited to the state of California. This is a question that all of us, in every state, must ponder seriously.    

Author Bio

Karen Anderson is the director of California Protective Parents Association (CPPA), based in Sacramento California. CPPA advocates for the safety of abused children in family court litigation through research, education, and advocacy. CPPA has been instrumental in the enactment of family law statutes and rules of court to protect the safety of children and the custodial rights of non offending parents.

In addition to her position with CPPA, Karen works as a domestic violence and sexual assault counselor.

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