In a recent episode of “This Is Life” entitled “Divorce and Child Custody: Men Cry Foul”, Lisa Ling pushes propaganda straight out of the fathers’ rights playbook and promotes their agenda of mandatory equal parenting, which is extremely harmful to women and children.
This segment depicts the Custody Crisis as Family Court judges routinely discriminating against MEN, believing women’s lies about abuse, unjustly granting primary custody to vindictive women and restricting or eliminating visitation with their children, and allowing women to alienate their children from them. Mandatory equal parenting time, in which children are automatically split in half after divorce regardless of circumstances, which reduces or eliminates child support, is claimed to be in children’s best interests.
The true Custody Crisis is that judges are routinely discriminating against WOMEN, falsely deeming them liars and alienators, unjustly granting sole or joint custody to self-serving or violent men, eliminating contact or restricting visitation with their children, and allowing men to alienate children from them. Forcing equal parenting time on warring parents is not in children’s best interests and children do better living with primarily with their primary attachment figure. These laws also make it harder than it already is for women to protect children, since judges often disregard abuse by fathers.
And it’s not like Ling was unaware of this opposition. The Women’s Coalition and many of its followers contacted her during filming in March, alerting her to the research and countless horrific case studies, many involving children forced to live with their rapists. We asked her for a voice.
But she ignored us.
NOT JUST A HUMAN INTEREST PIECE
Ling tries to justify broadcasting this one-sided piece by deceptively presenting it as merely a human interest story in which she is “just trying to understand what a messy divorce looks like for dads”. However, it serves essentially as a political argument claiming men are the ones discriminated against in Family Court, not women, while spreading fathers’ rights fictional narratives. Worse, it promotes a special interest group’s controversial legislative agenda which benefits one gender and harms the other. As such, Ling did a huge disservice to women and children and violated journalistic ethics.
Therefore, The Women’s Coalition is submitting a complaint to the president of CNN, Jeff Zucker, asking him to take down the offending episode and fund a Women’s Coalition documentary on the truth about the custody crisis to compensate for the damage this piece caused to women and children.
It is such rich irony that Ling begins the episode with clips of her protesting at the Women’s March, stating women are demanding their voices be heard, while she precludes women from having a voice in that very segment. Ling contends that while women still have to fight for rights outside the home, we “may have the upper hand at home”, insinuating, of course, that we do. But that is false, like so much else in her piece. In fact, the one place women still have almost no power is keeping or protecting their children after divorce.
Ling’s first highlights men’s rights activists who “bash” women, in a transparent effort to make the men she subsequently interviews look good, since they supposedly don’t overtly bash women. However, calling women liars and alienators on international TV is arguably a worse form of bashing.
Ling declares first thing that 80% of mothers have custody, misleading the public into thinking women are winning 80% of custody battles, which is false. The reason women have primary custody 80% of the time is because most fathers agree to it—no need for a judge. In cases where fathers fight for it, they win sole or joint custody most of the time regardless of past parenting involvement. Approximately 75% of custody cases involve domestic violence and/or child abuse, but fathers win in over 75% of those cases. When sexual abuse is reported, fathers get custody 85 - 90% of the time, even a small fraction are false reports. That means an awful lot of children are being forced to live with abusers and rapists.
FATHERS #1, 2 & 3
The first father she interviews had a Protective Order issued against him, with detailed incidents of domestic violence and child abuse. However, Ling minimizes the abuse and discredits the ex-wife, without ever asking the father if he perpetrated the reported incidents or speaking with his ex. Ling leads the public to feel sorry for this father not having his children half-time, but that is apparently because he works and lives far away, not because of a biased judge.
Perhaps the most damaging part of the interview with father #1 is that Ling suggests the restraining order was wrongly issued since the evidence of his abuse did not meet the criminal burden of “beyond a reasonable doubt”. The criminal burden is high because the accused faces prison, so it is not applicable to protecting children in civil court. It has always been the societal consensus that the civil “preponderance of evidence” burden is appropriate in Family Court cases. For Ling to support that fathers’ rights ideology endangers children.
The second father Ling interviewed complained about how he was so depressed he attempted suicide, but admitted that was caused by the failure of his marriage, which was due to his affair, not by a biased judge barring him from his children. He said everything had gone great with his children for years after the divorce, until he was jailed for not paying child support.
The third father, who was never married to the mother of his baby son, has regular visitation—every other Wednesday and weekend. There was no indication the baby was being harmed by this parenting arrangement as Ling portrayed. He didn’t like paying child support and was fighting for equal parenting time, which would have eliminated the child support.
NONE BARRED FROM KIDS
So, despite Ling’s portrayal of judges regularly barring children from good fathers, not one of the three men Ling interviewed are. And it would not have been unreasonable if the father with a DV restraining order had been restricted to supervised visitation, but he was free to visit with his children as long as he informed the mother in writing. However this was portrayed as a terrible thing.
Although some of the men at the beer-guzzling get-together claimed the courts had taken their children and their exes had alienated them, there was no way to know for sure since Ling did not provide backstories or input from the exes.
All three of the men were unhappy about the child support they had to pay and the loss of control in their family. The fathers’ rights core agenda is to enact mandatory/forced equal parenting legislation, which they euphemistically call “shared” parenting. This legislation not only gets men out of child support, it gives them more control over their children and over their women after divorce.
So it comes down to men trying to keep power and control over women, while women are trying to do what is best for their children. The truth is that judges are routinely empowering men and disempowering women. The family is the last great frontier of women’s empowerment, unlike what Ling claims as the mouthpiece for fathers’ rights activists.
Shame on Lisa Ling for betraying & harming women and children.
NOTE: The full episode is not yet available on CNN’s site, but can be viewed on a men’s rights youtube page: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ITN0ABmtck4&t=543s
LINK to COMPLAINT
Cindy Dumas, M.A. has been researching, writing, and raising awareness about the Custody Crisis since 2004, when she had to flee into hiding to protect her children from their father.