A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

Family Courts and Systemic Abuse (and a fun song by one of our readers)

The poor kids don’t want to go on visitation at all. I really don’t understand why the courts think that a grown woman who can’t handle the abuse should leave, and the opposing attorney even berates her for not leaving sooner – but tender, defenseless children should be made to spend time with the very abuser that the woman shouldn’t have stayed with as long as she did. That just boggles my mind.

I totally agree with what this anonymous survivor says. The courts are sometimes getting it so very wrong. And a big part of the reason for this is because the abusers spread their lies and myths about abuse by continually, drip by drip, disseminating these myths to the public mind, so that many people think they ‘get it’ about abuse, but what they think has been conditioned by the myths that abusers promote.

The myths are many, but here are the major ones:

Myths about domestic violence

  • Just as many men as women are abused
  • Once she leaves him, the abuse ends
  • It’s a high-conflict divorce — They’re both to blame
  • It’s due to childhood abuse
  • The abuser looses control — when he snaps, when he flips out, he can’t control what he does
  • It’s due to drinking, drug abuse or mental illness
  • ‘Parental Alienation Syndrome’ (PAS) is depriving fathers of their right to see their children
  • She is just trying to get custody, so she got the kids to lie about him

And because abusers usually have more money than victims (and we all know the reasons for that, eh?), they can employ better quality lawyers to represent them, and many of these lawyers are quite willing to defend and uphold these myths that perpetrators spread (after all, they are just defending their client, aren’t they?). There are many ‘Institutes’ and ‘Training Programs’ that purport to teach professionals about the dynamics of domestic abuse, but a lot of these are just teaching some version of the myths, maybe a partial version, a watered down version, so that it looks like they are really on the side of victims and pro-justice, but as we all know, a partial understanding of domestic abuse is not good enough. Mix in a few little lies and you have a belief system that enables and colludes, wittingly or unwittingly, with abusers.

The influence of Fathers’ Rights groups

Some Fathers’ Rights (FR) groups put a lot of energy and money into influencing family values ‘c’hristian lobby groups — and in some cases senior people in these Christian lobby groups are also members of FR groups. By these methods, Fathers’ Rights groups influence legislators and thereby affect legislation and policies that Family Courts have to abide by.  Fathers’ Rights groups often have enough money and influence to directly or indirectly bully victims of abuse under the guise of advocacy. Sometimes FR organizations advocate in the courts on the side of the abuser, just as Lundy Bancroft might advocate and testify on the side of a victim.

Deborah noted in the comments thread on her post about PAS:

The Fathers Rights groups are very well organized and some are led by celebrities, which is how they gain traction in the media. It’s how the [PAS] theories of Gardner are believed. They advocate Gardner’s theories with the courts and even train court personnel in it. They are actively pursuing this agenda. Protective mothers are beginning to fight back but they need us all to speak out with the truth. There is hope. But it will take us not standing for this atrocity any more. The courts need to be educated on what abuse really is, just as our churches do.

Sadly, many professionals in the Family Court system are believing in a cleverly packaged tissue of lies, half-truths and misinformation. And some of the professionals, are, of course, abusers themselves; those professionals take special delight in helping a fellow perpetrator punish his victim.

I perceive that the Family Court system is often a racket: the custody evaluators, the Guardians ad Litem [UPDATE: see this comment from a GAL in Florida], the psychologists, the high-conflict divorce specialists, the mediators, the shared parenting experts, etc, all get their own slice of the money pie and it looks on the surface like all these experts are doing something worthwhile, but in actuality their collective efforts just prolong the abuse of the victim, impoverish her and expose the children to continued abuse from the perpetrator. So the abuse doesn’t stop, it just becomes systemic abuse: the abuser uses the system as a means to continue to hurt punish and control his (ex-)wife.

In my impression, this kind of systemic abuse is worse in the USA because the Family Courts often order the victim to pay for all these para-divorce services — the psychological evaluations, the supervised visitation, the high-conflict-divorce Case Managers, etcetera. It seems that some courts order these services until the victim’s funds dry up and there is no more water to squeeze out of the stone.

This is usually a tactic of the abuser, taught to him by fathers rights groups. Victims and victim-advocates have called it abuse by proxy of the courts. An abuser employing this tactic will keep the victim in court as long as it takes for her funds to dry up and then he wins by default, as she can’t afford to go on. He waits her out. The courts are more used as the vehicle and are not always directly complicit in the abuse, although some sure are! Most of the time though, the courts are like the weapon the abuser is using to do the victim more damage psychologically and to financially ruin her. The courts have failed to recognize and stop allowing abuse of the system to further abuse victims though, so they ARE complicit in that way or at the very least, ignorant.

Here is a song a reader wrote recently, and she’s given us permission to add it to this post.  It is sung to the tune of the Beverly Hillbillies.

Come and listen to the story about an unlearned Judge.
Poor man couldn’t make a right decision in his head.
Had to have a doctor and a GAL instead.
so we loaded up the shovels with the lies that he’d been fed.

Black lies
Devil’s mud
Y’all know what I mean

Now the next thing on the list the GAL said “he ain’t right”.
Next came in the shrink he’d hired and gave abuser’s plight
NPD, abusive, paranoid to name a few –
What’s this guy been doing taking up a place within a pew?

Abuser’s story
Gaslighting pro

Well the first thing you know now, his smile ain’t so bright.
He lost his kids and home in one big glorious swoop of Light.
But he didn’t really ever care, so “what the heck” he said
I used to wish her slimmer, but now I just wish she was dead.

Now the story ain’t quite over, no for years its just gone on
But I am all the wiser and this battle I have won
No money, no support, I got PTSD instead
But at least I sleep much better, I’m alone in my own bed.

Additional resources

Fathers Rights Organizations or Fathers Supremacy Organizations — a Thursday Thought post on this blog.

Separated Fathers and the “Fathers’ Rights” Movement. Research paper by Michael G. Flood, University of Wollongong. Michael Flood is a sociologist who is highly respected in the Family Violence sector.

Representing The Domestic Violence Survivor: Critical Legal Issues; Effective Safety Strategies. by Garry Goldstein, J.D., and Elizabeth Lui, J.D. Recommended resource for lawyers who are representing domestic abuse victims.


  1. Brenda R

    The court system and even Child Protective Services have way too much control over our children at times and certainly aren’t protecting them. Barbara, great post. Fantastic song. It should be out on YouTube.

  2. Mark Knutzen

    Be careful how you comment about the Guardian ad Litem program. Here in Florida we are not paid. We are advisory to the judge. We are the watchdog of the Children and Family Services and their case workers. Finally, we give our opinions to the judge who makes the final decision. We always ask, “what about the kids”? Your blanket statement that we are all against the woman is not even close.

    • Ellie

      Thank you for your response Mark. I have a friend who used to be a GAL in Florida. She took it very seriously. I wish that all officers of the court were as dedicated and committed to the children’s well being as my friend.

    • Okay, thank you Mark Knutzen. I take your comment on board. I do realise that the system in the USA varies from state to state, and therefore anything one says about the US system overall would be a generalization. I did not know that in some states, GALs are volunteers. And volunteers, being unpaid, would be far far less likely to be roped / sucked into the racket that seems to be in evidence in other parts of the system.

      Anything else you have to offer to this discussion would be most welcome. I’m sure we could learn more from you.

    • Also Mark, I am going to add an update to the post, giving a direct link in the body text to your comment here.

      • Anon in the USA

        I have a friend who is currently liable for roughly half of nearly $25,000 in GAL fees because the ex spouse dragged things out for nearly 18 months and the GAL did not report back to the court in 30 days that the ex spouse was 100% non compliant. The ex alleged PAS even though all parties agreed at the very first hearing that it was hogwash. The children are now at the mercy of the ex spouse roughly 30% of the time. Our family courts must be reformed and not by the “Mad Dad” (as they are referred to here) groups.

      • Thanks for sharing this, Anon in the USA, and welcome to the blog 🙂

  3. Anewanon

    Wow, did someone secretly just STEP INTO MY LIFE and WRITE ABOUT IT? Too funny!

  4. Round*Two

    I am so thankful no kids involved with my situation! My heart goes out to all of you who have children who are being dragged ‘needlessly’ through the court system and what THEY believe is best for them! When will their (courts, lawyers, churches) eyes be open? WHEN!?
    Prayers and hugs to you and your children who endure such horrible situations!!

  5. marriedtohyde

    As my attorney said, “the court is a blunt tool best avoided.”

    That blunt tool is used by the abuser to systematically dismember a wife’s rights in the dissolution of a marriage. THAT is what is falsely called justice in the family court system.

    So if the court is best avoided because it is not a tool of justice and the husband is a disordered monster who won’t fight fair, then who is left for suffering women and children except God? He must be so angry.

    • Abidenhim

      Yes, I comfort my self with the truth that God sees and someday Justice will prevail…I hope it’s sooner than later…

  6. cindy burrell

    I have been thoroughly disillusioned by court systems that presume that the abuse or “conflict” only exists between the husband and the wife. The wife has a right to separate from from the abuser, but the children do not?

    I was fortunate. The court mediator, after taking in all of my former husband’s lies, accused me flatly of keeping our children from him. She didn’t want to hear anything I had to say. So I said, “Talk to my children.” She did, one by one. They were between the ages of 7 and 14. Two weeks later the court granted me primary custody and gave my kids the right to see their dad if and when THEY wanted to. But, I know not everyone is as fortunate as I was. It is heartbreaking.

    So, exactly when do the children matter? When will the courts accept that children are only pawns in an abuser’s twisted game?

    • Not Too Late

      My evaluator did talk to the kids, but the kids were too scared to say anything. I told the evaluator they would be too scared to talk because they knew it would get back to their Dad. The evaluator proceeded to ask them whether they were afraid of their Dad, and they said No. The evaluator then reported to me that they were not afraid of their Dad, so he should be given more access. He did not accept that they were “only pawns in the abuser’s twisted game”, instead he believed that they were master manipulators to play one parent against the other! Oh, and did I mention that this evaluator had a reputation for being very child-focussed?

  7. KayE

    In my experience, the family court system relies on the assumption that both parties in custody or property disputes come into the legal system with equal power. Some lawyers and judges are sympathetic and well- informed. But they still have to work in a system that does little to protect someone from an abuser who uses the legal process to intimidate and harass their victim.
    Abusers know this, and it’s yet another reason why they feel justified in what they’re doing.
    I hope for a day when the people who write the laws become wiser about the dynamics of abuse. Until then, a victim just has to be prepared for possible injustice from the courts.
    Whenever I feel down about this I remind myself that there is a higher court and a greater judge.

  8. Faith

    I am thankful in my case my child was on his own and I didn’t have to go through such a mess. I know many that do not have a life because the abuser is still connected because of child custody.
    I have a situation that has arisen where someone has come to me with abuse in the home. A man and his two children are being abused by the wife. As one child told me “I live in hell”. The father stays with the wife for fear she will get the children and he would never see them again. One report was filed against her. I have told them do not be afraid of calling 911 if that happens again.

    [Eds. — rest of commment deleted as it might have been too identifying]

  9. Lisa

    Chalk this up as another reason I stayed so long in the home. Felt like I could not endure this form of torture for my children or myself.

    MarriedtoHyde you bring up a great point about how God views all this. Sinful men are so bold using God’s resources to further abuse someone they once vowed to love, cherish, and protect.

    • Annie

      This is also why I’m staying until my youngest goes off to college. I know my husband will do the meanest things he can think of if I were to leave him now. It’s only recently that I realized how he’s been subtly influencing his family against me for years (all his problems are because of me!)

  10. marriedwithouthusband

    I have a good friend who is a GAL. She is extremely dedicated to protecting the rights of the children who she represents and she is also extremely perceptive. She knows when someone is BS-ing her or the court and she is well aware of parties’ attempts to overlitigate cases. She also is married to an emotionally and financially abusive man. She is a paid GAL but in our state (as well as in many others, I’m sure), court systems and litigants are strapped for money, and the amount of work she puts into cases is rarely reflected in the amount she is paid.

    • Thanks for that marriedwithouthusband. It’s heartening to know that there are some very good GALS.

  11. outofzion

    Lord Jesus…..This is where I am praying for JUSTICE!!!! Owes me tens of thousands of dollars and that is not my share of our business he took my name off, six figure, while me and his four children live on less than $20,000 while he sleeps with his girl friend from high school she left her husband for him after he dumped her in high school. HELP my only HOPE is GOD bringing JUSTICE and JUDGEMENT.

    • Anewanon

      Praying for you tonight Outofzion. I stand with you in your prayer.

  12. Lette

    My ex-husband was addicted to pornography and would go on various website seeking out men to dominate and abuse him. I found out our last year of marriage that he has some serious problems due to abuse he has experienced as a child. When it came time to divorce our son was still a baby. I had serious concerns about my ex being able to care for or be around our son. I was told by my attorney that because my ex was doing nothing illegal it wouldn’t be a factor in our custody. Now several years later, my ex has visited our son less than a dozen times. I can not have his rights terminated nor have his visits terminated as I was told my attorney that as the father he has rights and may even though he isn’t exercising those rights now, he might want to.

    • Hi Lette, welcome to the blog. Thanks for sharing. Please check out out New Users Info page as it has tips for how to guard your safety while commenting here.

  13. Starlight

    I am just reading back-posts that are relevant to what I am going through.
    My child too is being labelled as a manipulator.

    He did not accept that they were “only pawns in the abuser’s twisted game”, instead he believed that they were master manipulators to play one parent against the other!

    This is [what] happened in my situation – I am flabbergasted that the child protection agency and my ex, my ex’s lawyer are saying this about my 6 year old. They say she is playing us against each other to get what she wants.
    What she needs is protection from abuse, but she is not [getting protection from abuse]. I was allowed to get away but she is not.

  14. Ettie

    Perhaps some good news on the horizon regarding divorce law reform in the UK.

    Baroness Butler-Schloss introduced a private members bill to attempt to force divorce law reform.

    Currently there is no such thing as a no-fault divorce. This means that blame has to be apportioned to the ‘guilty’ party which can lead to acrimony and make it a much harder experience for any children involved. It is rare for a divorce to be contended, but if it is, as happened recently and publicly in the case of Tini and Hugh Owens, where Tini was refused a divorce, the only alternative is to wait until a 5-year separation has been proved in order to escape her unhappy marriage. This scenario plays into the hands of an abusive spouse. It is high time the law was changed in the UK to bring it into line with other countries and I am praying for that to happen.

    • Thanks for this news, Ettie.

      As an Australian, I had not been aware of how the current UK divorce laws have a loophole that can be exploited by abusers, especially those whose abuse is covert, subtle, hard to identify and even harder to convince others that it was border-lining on coercive control by cold contempt and disrespect.

    • Ettie, I shared your comment on my personal FB page, and gave a link to an article in The Guardian about Tini Owen’s case [Internet Archive link].

    • Growing support in parliament for fault to be scrapped from divorce proceedings means that an overhaul of laws is certain to be promoted in a private member’s bill in the new year.

      —from this article in The Times: Family Matters: Overhaul divorce to protect children, say MPs and peers [Internet Archive link]

    • anonymous

      No-fault divorce is not a great thing, it [can] leave the abused wife in a much more vulnerable position than if it were not. No-fault divorce makes it that much more likely that the person with the power and money buys himself unconscionable, immoral, reprehensible, and often illegal ‘results / terms / outcomes’ at lightening fast pace. No-fault divorces leave the abused that much more vulnerable and destitute.

      One woman’s exceptional case versus practically all women and children made that much more exposed to poverty, vulnerability, etc. No-fault divorces allow for the abuser to offload the destroyed, decimated, disabled, abused wife for nothing, or worse yet, she is forced to pay him in truly perverse, criminal, fraudulently obtained orders and decrees (and no, courts don’t care about fraud as much as one might think and reversing things, even when criminally obtained is rarely done, thus rewarding criminality on the part of the abuser and his deviant, corrupt, criminal attorney) in little to no time.

      Abusers benefit from no-fault divorce. Sure, this one case is an exception and it is terrible for her, but at the cost of everyone else? No-fault divorce destroys what little protection abused women and children have from being offloaded with impunity, to go starve in the streets.

      • Hi Anonymous, I don’t think you adequately understand the current divorce law in the UK. It has several ‘fault’ grounds for divorce, one of which is meant to cover abuse. But the UK law also has a clause that allows for ‘no-fault’ divorce after two years of separation, so long as the party who did not apply for the divorce doesn’t object to the divorce. If the application for divorce is being made on ‘no-fault’ grounds, and the other party objects to the divorce, then the applicant has to wait five years before being granted a divorce. This means the applicant has to wait five years before getting a financial settlement (division of assets like the family home, etc.) For some applicants, this is pretty unjust, IMO.

        I do acknowledge that no-fault divorce is often ‘no justice’ for victims of abuse, because abuse is not considered to be one of the things which ought to have a bearing on the financial settlement that the victim receives in the divorce.

        However, no-fault divorce also has an upside: it gives victims of abuse a way of getting divorced from their abusers without having to prove that their spouse was an abuser. And, as most of our readers know, it is hard to prove that one’s spouse was an abuser, even if the standard of proof is simply ‘on the balance of probabilities’.

  15. Finding Answers

    (Very heavy airbrushing…)

    When one of my siblings divorced, he and his ex had shared custody, the children alternating between parents week by week. Major holidays alternated with each parent, year by year. Exceptions were negotiated through lawyers.

    This weekly “child swap” went on for years, and parenting issues were dealt with through lawyers.

    I was virtually No Contact with this sibling, as he was also one of my abusers.

    From the brief glimpses I saw, and in the light of recent knowledge, I suspect my sibling was merely using the children as pawns in a much larger game. (Early on, I had suspected he was trying to buy the children’s loyalty….a lesson learn from our “dad”.)

    I suspect the only winners in this “game” were the lawyers, and I suspect they made out like bandits.

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