"Ms. Zubko-Valva provided the defendants with overwhelming, irrefutable evidence of the graphic, horrific abuse, including documentary proof, audio recordings and transcriptions, photographs and medical reports."
From lawsuit filed by Justyna, Tommy's mother
Little Tommy’s mother, Justyna, filed a $200M lawsuit this week against the Family Court judge and other officials involved in her custody case, 5 months after his death at the hands of his father.
Tommy’s father was enabled by three Family Court judges to severely abuse him for many years, despite Justyna fighting hard for his protection and submitting substantial evidence of physical, sexual and emotional abuse. But, as usual in contested custody cases, the judges deemed his mother a liar and restricted her to supervised visitation, giving the father complete power and control to use and abuse his son at will.
Unfortunately, the media is failing to put Little Tommy’s death into the context of systemic sexism operating in family courts, and some outlets are spreading false narratives, which harm the movement. It is important to ask MSM to print the truth about Tommy and the Custody Crisis [see below].
One local New York outlet, Newsday, quotes the mother’s attorney, saying the judge “failed to review evidence” and that the father was given custody because he was a police officer. In fact, there were three judges who DISREGARDED substantial evidence in Tommy’s case, not “failed to review it”. This is an important distinction in getting to the crux of the matter: Family court judges are not just negligent or untrained, they are deliberately ignoring damaging evidence about fathers and fabricating damaging evidence about mothers to justify switching custody to the father.
And Tommy's father may have been a police officer, but this is an exception to the rule of most fathers getting custody regardless of occupation. Reporting only that position misleads the public into thinking it is rare for abusive fathers to be given custody.
Research shows that judges are switching custody from primary nurturing mothers to fathers in approximately 82% of cases, with 70% involving abusive fathers; and that women have never had the power to keep custody after divorce, thanks to discriminatory systems men put in place as soon as women gained the power to live independently of them.
Research also confirms it is in children’s best interest to live primarily with their primary attachment figure after divorce (and visit the other parent regularly), especially when the parents do not get along; and, of course, to restrict visitation with abusive parents.
This research and the fact that THREE judges in this one case, and thousands of other judges around the world are empowering fathers at the expense of women and children, support that it is entrenched, systemic male entitlement causing women to lose custody. The incredible devastation caused to millions of women’s and children’s lives around the world is incalculable.
As a result of this case, legislation for cameras in the courtroom and on court-affiliated officials are being promoted as a solution. It is unclear this solution is being proposed when judges ignored “mountains of evidence and can simply ignore video evidence as well.
The problem, said best by law professor Wendy Murphy, is “Family Court judges can do whatever the hell they want.” And what they want, in way too many cases, it to entitle and empower fathers, regardless of the harm it causes women and children.
What is needed is not band-aid reforms like cameras, more training or more child abuse laws, but profound structural change: a new system that removes custody cases from Family Court.
Want to help get the truth out?
ASK THE MEDIA to report on the real cause of Tommy’s death: the Custody Crisis.
[You can refer them to The Women’s Coalition for more information and interviews with a link to this post.]
Nicole Fuller: email@example.com
[If you know of any other reporters who may report on the crisis, please have them contact TWC and link them to this post or on FB: ]
NOTE: If anyone knows how to contact with Justyna, please tell her the real reason she lost custody was systemic sexism, not negligence or lack of video evidence, and have her contact TWC for more info and support from women from around the world.
The Women's Coalition: https://www.womenscoalitioninternational.org
Join your local coalition to help raise awareness about the crisis and fight for change: firstname.lastname@example.org
Previous TWC article:
Previous TWC post:
Thomas Valva's mother files $200 million lawsuit in 8-year-old's death
“People in the system failed her and us. Her death was preventable…Red flags and warning signs were ignored.” Jennifer, Keira’s Mom
Although the investigation is ongoing, Jennifer is sure that her her ex murdered Little Keira and took his own life by jumping off a steep cliff with her.
Despite Jennifer’s attempts over the years to protect Little Keira in Family Court, the systemic agenda to entitle the father, as usual, prevailed over the law: the best interests of the child. The judge allowed regular, unsupervised, overnight visitation with the abusive father.
Hence, the judge entitled the father to murder his child.
In one abusive incident, the father had shoved a rat into Keira’s mouth. Another time he kidnapped Keira and said he wouldn’t return her unless he got equal parenting time. And there was much verbal and emotional abuse.
Jennifer appealed the judge’s ruling permitting unsupervised, overnight visits, but lost. Appellate Courts almost always defer to the discretion afforded Family Court judges.
Unfortunately, Jennifer thinks the problem is that judges and custody evaluators need more training in domestic violence, and that since the abuse was emotional, it wasn’t taken seriously. So that is what the media reported along with the fact that this is a "custody battle" implying blame is more or less equal between parents.
The truth is that even if the court officials had training in domestic violence and Keira had been physically or sexually abused, she would not have been protected, because the core cause of the custody crisis is systemic male entitlement. No matter the particulars of each individual custody crisis case, most end the same, with the father getting what he wants, be it equal time or sole custody.
The only thing that will stop judges from taking and endangering our children is to end the systematic and methodical entitling and empowering of fathers, and for this we need to educate the public about the true cause of the crisis and unite to demand a new system.
If you'd like to join your local coalition and engage in activism to help end the crisis, email: email@example.com
For more information on why the Custody Crisis is occurring:
Girl found dead at bottom of Ontario cliff was murdered, family says
Family struggling to make sense of four-year-old girl’s sudden death
NOTE: For mothers who think that not having money for a good lawyer: Jennifer is a doctor and had great representation and even some good court officials reporting the father's abuse. Bottom line: it does not matter how much money you have, the agenda prevails.
[Pictured: Jennifer and Little Keira]
Link to post on Facebook: https://bit.ly/2LaITty
In a new Guardian article that attempts to shine light on the custody crisis, reporter Sonia Sodha exposes a couple of “dangerous” family court fallacies, while unwittingly propagating other false narratives that are much more harmful. It’s important to recognize these, so women can begin to educate each other, the public and the media about what is really going on in family courts around the world.
Sodha exposes the “dangerous fallacy” propagated by fathers’ rights activists (FRA’s) that family courts are biased against men. However, Sodha misses the FRA variation that claims the family court crisis is gender neutral—caused by generic corruption—that harms both men and women. This is much more damaging than the older, biased-against-fathers fallacy, because it confuses, diverts and divides women. This renders women incapable of uniting as a class to fight the crisis—which is the only way to end it.
And that is why these covert FRA’s spend so much time and resources creating and infiltrating family court and social services reform groups, alienation and child abuse prevention groups, as well as parent, children and grandparent rights groups. Beware of all of these groups!
The other fallacy Sodha exposes is that this biased-against-men narrative is based on men not automatically getting equal parenting time, which they claim is their “right” and which, not coincidentally, reduces their child support. But this is not just a FRA fallacy. It is law in many places and is a direct result of the Family Court agenda to entitle and empower fathers.
Sodha goes on to say, “Evidence shows that the disproportionately male judiciary is more likely to rule against abused women and children.” There are two false narratives in that one statement. First, there are plenty of female judges who discriminate against women, apparently to keep a warm seat at the old boys’ table. And the problem is not that judges are ruling against “abused women”. They are ruling against “women”, abused or not. By continuing to identify the problem as of abusers, it covers the true patriarchal nature…
Sodha inadvertently spreads another false narrative that stems from the idea that judges are just getting “abuse” cases wrong. She states that “women who have suffered domestic abuse…face an uphill battle” because “some judges have no understanding of domestic abuse…” This implies that training judges will fix the problem, when the facts, evidence and thousands-of-cases refute.
Sodha talks about cuts to legal aid, but the truth is, even women who have money for the best legal help, usually lose. She discusses how parental alienation is mainly being used against mothers, which is true, but does not make clear that alienation is the number one male entitlement tactic, and that after custody is switched, the father is allowed to alienate the children from the mother.
Sodha concludes that the “balance of evidence points to a system that is biased against abused women and children, not innocent, falsely accused men.”
The truth is: the system is not just biased against abused women and children. It systematically and methodically discriminates against all women and children.
PLEASE share widely to help educate moms and the public and dispel the false narratives.
The idea that family courts are biased against men is a dangerous fallacy
Sonia Sodha is chief leader writer at the Observer, and deputy opinion editor at the Guardian
ACTIVISTS: Please tweet @soniasodha! The FRA’s are inundating the reporter’s feed with their BS. Let’s start getting our voices heard. You can link to the FB post or the TWC blog or the The Custody Crisis powerpoint. You can also email the reporter and ask her to write another article dispelling the false narratives: sonia.sodha [at] theguardian.com
[Pictured: Sonia Sodha]
IN A HORRIFIC SCENE, Hannah’s ex ambushed her on the way to school, doused her children and her with gasoline and set them on fire. The children died at the scene, but Hannah was taken to the hospital where she died 12 hours later. The father killed himself at the scene after stopping a bystander from helping Hannah, saying he wanted to see her burn to death.
Hannah had left the marriage in November due to her husband’s violent behavior. It is believed she was granted a restraining order, but the father was allowed to battle her for custody of their three young children.
And therein lies the problem. A father who is violent to the mother or the children should automatically lose his right to custody. Instead, family courts are minimizing violence by fathers and granting them custody, deliberately endangering children.
OUTRAGE at MSM
MUCH of the mainstream media is portraying the father sympathetically saying he was a “good bloke” “a fun-loving ex-NRL star,” and a “dedicated dad” who was upset because he was in a custody battle for his kids. This shows the patriarchal influence over mainstream media.
But fortunately there's an outcry about this compassionate portrayal of a woman/children murderer on social and alternative media:
“#HannahClarke and her kids were murdered by a violent man. Australia’s patriarchal mainstream media spins it as him being a top bloke who was good at sportsball. When are they going to tell the truth about domestic violence?” @DamienWise tweeting outrage at MSM
“You would think that by 2020 people might understand that if a custody battle could lead a man to kill his own children, then there is a reason his ex was trying to keep him the f**k away from them…”
Claire Boland tweet
“#HannahClarke and her kids were murdered by a violent man. Australia’s patriarchal mainstream media spins it as him being a top bloke who was good at sportsball. When are they going to tell the truth about domestic violence?” @DamienWise tweet
'Goodnight my babies’, read a news.com.au headline, as though Rowan was simply tucking his kids in bed instead of brutally setting them on fire.
By leading with a quote from the murderer, this headline centres Rowan as a loving father.
By constantly mentioning the killer’s hobbies and former job – and failing to name Hannah and her children – these stories attempt to soften Rowan’s actions.
By focusing on the custody case and describing Rowan as a dedicated father who was driven crazy after being separated from his kids, these pieces justify his despicable actions and place a degree of blame on Hannah for leaving her clearly dangerous husband and trying to keep her children safe.”
FROM: Stop Calling Murderers “Good Blokes”
“…[T]he media reporting to date fuels the narrative that we know is so damaging. It focuses on the man who fell from grace, as though this act was in isolation.
Time and time again, history has taught us that entitled men kill the women in their life and her children to exert power, control and dominance.
And yet, we hear so little about Hannah and her children. Instead, the narrative implores us to empathise with a “troubled” man or to demonise the killer as some kind of “monster”. This is an exercise in othering.
Overnight, I’ve been contacted by friends of Hannah and they describe her in the most beautiful of ways: A woman with grit, resilience, determination and a wonderful mother and caring partner.
And in spite of all of her life’s achievements, the Australian media has, almost collectively, wanted for us to feel for the person responsible for the deaths of a woman and her children. No thank you. Not today, not ever.
Hannah, I am sorry we failed you. I hope that if there is a life after this world, you’re reunited with Aaliyah, Laianah and Trey where he can’t hurt you anymore ❤️
Post by Tarang Chawla
TWC NOTE: It is a good thing that people are recognizing media bias towards fathers and voicing outrage at the sympathetic portrayal of a killer father, but we also need public outrage at Family Courts for routinely endangering women and children after divorce.
WHY is this happening?
To understand why there is an epidemic of Family Court judges giving custody to abusive fathers, watch this powerpoint video:
The Custody Crisis: Why Women Are Losing Custody & Unable to Protect Their Children
WANT TO HELP?
Want to help end the crisis? Join your local coalition to help raise awareness and fight for a new system where women have the power to keep and protect their children after divorce: WomensCoalitionIntl@gmail.com
*If you appreciate the work of the Women's Coalition, please consider contributing in one of these ways:
Facebook donate button: https://www.facebook.com/TheWomensCoalition
Host a Facebook fundraiser.
Use Amazon Smile: https://smile.amazon.com/
[Pictured: Hannah, Laianah, Aaliyah and Trey]
"I kept telling the judge, if you're not going to remove the children, they are going to die under his care and custody."
Justyna, Thomas’ mother
Little Thomas died of hypothermia after being forced by his father to sleep in the garage in 19 degrees weather without a mattress, blanket or pillow. His father was caught on tape the next morning pouring a bucket of cold water over Thomas’ head while he was unable to even walk due to hypothermia, and then suffocating him with his hands over his mouth.
New York Family Court Judge Hope Schwartz Zimmerman granted sole custody of Thomas and his brothers to their father two years ago and kept them in his sole custody, despite ongoing severe abuse and neglect documented by his mother and many professionals: counselors, doctors and child protective services workers.
And, as usual, the judge allowed the abusive father to keep all three boys away from their loving mother, Justyna.
Judge Zimmerman disregarded all the evidence of abuse and Justyna’s pleas for protection. Her only concern was keeping the father in power over his children, and over Justyna through her children.
Now Little Thomas is dead, after years of enduring horrific pain and torture, enabled by a biased family court system that routinely grants custody to abusive fathers.
The father has been charged with murder and imprisoned without bond, which is the only reason Justyna has been granted temporary custody of her other boys.
Mother of slain 8-year-old says father was abusive for years
Officer Charged in Murder of Son, 8, Kept in Freezing Garage, Police Say
TWC NOTE: Don’t be distracted by the media’s focus on child protective services’ failure to protect. It is the family court judge who makes the ruling in a contested custody case, so that is who is responsible for the child’s death.
Be Part of the Change: Be part of your local Coalition!
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org [Subject: local coalition]
*If you appreciate the work of the Women's Coalition, please consider donating on Facebook or Paypal: http://bit.ly/DonateWomensCoalition
[Pictured: Justyna and Thomas]
“I cannot live with [my father] anymore. I can’t take any more of his abuse and the courts forcing me to live like a prisoner with [him]. PLEASE HELP ME! I am afraid for my life and will keep running away until I am safe at home with my mom.”
12 year-old Avery
“Clint is sadly still living with his abuser…but not for long. The deviant is being exposed for what he is and the community is rallying to help my children get to safety.”
Kassia, protective mom
12 year-old Avery ran away from her reportedly abusive father 5 days ago in Austin, Texas. The Amber Alert got much media attention, with law enforcement falsely claiming she was in danger with her mother so that the public would turn her in.
A warrant was issued for her mother, Kassia, even though she insisted Avery ran away on her own. Kassia has posted bond and awaits trial.
Avery turned herself in two days ago, and apparently was not forced to return to her father—yet.
Kassia is not allowed to know where her own daughter has been taken, but it is feared that Avery has been forced into “reunification therapy”, which is where children often go when they will not stop reporting abuse. That is where they are tortured into recanting abuse by fathers.
Avery and Kassia have been trying for years to get protection for her little brother, who reported ongoing sexual abuse by his father.
As usual, Family Court covered up the abuse and gave sole custody to the father.
The publicity from Avery running away and bravely writing her letter exposing her father's abuse is gaining public support for her and her brother.
“My sister and her children have been in a nightmare since November of 2016 when my niece made an outcry of sexual abuse to her brother by her father. Many outcries were made by my niece and nephew and investigations…After countless people failed to help/protect Avery and Clint, the children were forcibly removed from Kassia’s custody in July 2019…They have been with their abuser with absolutely no contact with their mother since then.
Avery ran away because she is being tortured mentally for sticking to her guns and stating over and over that she doesn’t want to live with an abuser…Here is Avery’s account, in her own words and writing. I am begging you, for the sake of my niece and nephew to PLEASE SHARE THIS POST. SOMEONE HAS TO HEAR THESE CHILDREN AND HELP THEM!!!”
For more info on the Custody Crisis: https://www.womenscoalitioninternational.org/
To join a local group to help end the crisis: email@example.com
[Pictured: Kassia & kids]
“[Avery] absolutely knew that something bad was going to happen and nobody would believe her unless she had it on film…I would hate for justice not to be served and the system again fail my precious daughter."
Protective Mom Allison
A brave Florida teen, taken away from her mother at a young age and placed in the sole custody of her abusive father, resorted to secretly recording the abuse in the hope of finally being protected.
The teen’s wealthy father was arrested earlier this month after the video surfaced, but was immediately released on a paltry $4,000 bond. The teen was placed temporarily in the custody of her father’s best friend, where he threatened her to stay silent about his abuse of her dog and her or she would be thrown into foster care.
Allison, the teen’s mother, has filed a domestic violence injunction on behalf of her daughter. The father is fighting the injunction, saying a minor’s counsel should represent the teen’s interests. But, as most protective mothers know, children’s attorneys often side with abusive fathers, especially wealthy ones.
Allison has been fighting unsuccessfully for her daughter virtually her entire childhood. The judge apparently made false findings that she was mentally ill and a drug addict in order to justify giving sole custody to the father.
Although it is being portrayed the reason the girl was not protected is that she was not believed. However, that is implausible as she has been reporting abuse for years.
The truth is she was systematically discredited and silenced, just like millions of other children around the world, where systems function to maintain the father’s control and entitlement, regardless of how abusive he is.
Hopefully, since this case is getting international attention, the teen will be spared the usual outcome—forced to continue to live with her abusive father—and instead be returned to the loving arms of her protective mother.
Watch this page for updates.
FOLLOWING are excerpts from:
Mother of teen who captured video of alleged abuser: 'She is absolutely my hero'
Tringas said she and her daughter tried reporting the abuse for years, but she said authorities did not believe them.
That's when the teen installed a Nest camera to capture the actions of 47-year-old Damon Becnel.
“Nothing was done. Nothing has ever been done to help my daughter," said [Allison] Tringas.
“She absolutely knew that something bad was going to happen and nobody would believe her unless she had that on film," added Tringas.
In the videos, you can watch Becnel scream, point and headbutt the girl.
The video also shows Becnel hitting the dog, holding an object to its neck and threatening to cut the animal's throat.
His arrest report states that the object was a knife.
“What he did in one night is going to probably take years to undo," said Tringas.
Becnel was arrested and charged with one count of child abuse and one count of animal abuse.
Tringas is thankful her daughter took matters into her own hands.
“She is one strong and one smart little girl and I couldn’t be more proud of her. She is absolutely my hero. She is my hero. I would hate for justice not to be served and the system, again, fail my precious daughter," said Tringas.
Becnel was released on a $4,000 bond. He's scheduled to appear in court on February 4.
FOR MORE INFORMATION on the Custody Crisis:
[Pictured: Protective Mother Allison]
Jennifer Dulos, mom of five, disappeared last May, and her ex was finally charged with murder on Thursday. There is considerable physical evidence that supports her ex murdered her, and he being held on $6 million bail.
Jennifer feared for her children’s and her lives after filing for divorce, but, despite credible evidence her ex was a serious threat to her children and her, Judge Donna Heller denied a protective order and kept her embroiled in a custody battle with him for over two years.
Domestic violence advocates and legislators are being interviewed by the media in regards to Jennifer’s case, and are insinuating that judges are making “mistakes” giving custody to “abusers” (male or female), and they are proposing more training, "tools" and laws.
The truth is judges know exactly what they are doing when they deny protection to women and children and give custody to controlling and abusive fathers. The system is designed so judges can violate the law with impunity, but the larger problem is that judges are falsely finding women to be liars, alienators, mentally ill or emotionally abusive to justify switching custody to fathers. No amount of training, tools or new laws will stop that from occurring.
Family Court was created by men, for men, after their power in the family was threatened by women gaining the power to leave a marriage. So it should not be surprising that men created a system which perpetuates male control after divorce.
This is the dirty little secret that women don't know about until it is too late—until after they lose and/or are unable to protect their children. Then they are gag ordered to not speak about their case, which helps keep women and the public in the dark about this epidemic.
The Women's Coalition is now forming local activist groups for the purpose of forming a coalition powerful enough to demand and achieve an end to the custody crisis.
If you would like to be part of your local group, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Put "local group" in the subject line.
[Please be patient: we’ve received hundreds of responses already and are processing them.]
When Fotis Dulos was arrested, police and advocates had a message: ‘It’s a case of domestic violence’
Previous TWC post:
For more information on the custody crisis: https://www.womenscoalitioninternational.org
[Pictured: Jennifer and her children]
Caroline Brehat was arrested and jailed in Italy, where she was vacationing with her new husband during the holidays. Police arrested her under an Interpol “Red Notice” that was generated by the FBI and stemmed from a New York Family Court custody case, in which the judge endangered her daughter by giving custody to her abusive ex.
After spending a week in jail, an Italian judge, under intense diplomatic pressure from the French Ministries of Health and Justice, declined to extradite Caroline to the U.S. She was released from jail and allowed to return home to France. Caroline is safe for now because France does not extradite nationals, but she cannot leave France again for fear of being extradited to the U.S. for prosecution.
This constitutes a rare victory for a mother who has to flee to protect her child, and it likely only occurred because of Caroline’s ties to the French government. Most mothers would not be so lucky and Caroline is acutely aware of that. So she is writing an article on women who have been jailed to help raise awareness about the crisis. If you have been jailed and would like to be interviewed, comment here or private message her.
Caroline, an author and translator for the United Nations, had fled home to France in 2013 with her young daughter after fighting unsuccessfully for many years to protect her daughter from her abusive father in a New York family court.
After some years, a French court granted her sole custody on findings the father had sexually abused her daughter. After more years, the international Hague Court upheld the French court’s ruling.
She thought her battle was over and that she and her daughter were finally safe. But, no.
Despite the evidence of abuse and the solid support by French and Hague courts, the FBI got involved and convinced Interpol to issue a Red Notice. A Red Notice is generated to alert law enforcement internationally to dangerous fugitives, typically rapists, murderers, child abusers and armed robbers for the purpose of extraditing them back to the country where the crime was committed.
Shamefully, the FBI used this otherwise valuable tool to catch and prosecute a protective mother. As in so many cases where American mothers flee with their children, the FBI and U.S. Marshals help locate them,ignoring the evidence of abuse. Notably, it is almost exclusively cases involving sexual abuse that warrant this high-level government involvement.
Had Caroline been extradited to the U.S. for prosecution, she would likely have been found guilty and gone to prison for many years and her daughter returned to the abuser. That’s because most criminal court judges exclude evidence of sexual abuse by fathers and/or don’t allow mothers who have fled to use paternal abuse as an affirmative defense. Criminal courts and law enforcement often aid and abet family courts in covering up abuse and punishing women who dare challenge male authority in the family, the ultimate patriarchal agenda.
Caroline’s case was one of hundreds submitted to the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women by The Women’s Coalition. They subsequently wrote a report acknowledging the systemic discrimination against women in family courts around the world. [Linked below.]
Caroline will be writing an article about women being jailed for running away to protect their children from an abusive ex. If you have been jailed and ould, you can pm
from the jurisdiction where a Family Court judge orders a woman to give her child unsupervised to an abuser. escaping abusive men.
French woman arrested in Italy on the basis of an American international arrest warrant has been released https://www.europe1.fr/faits-divers/info-europe-1-la-francaise-interpellee-en-italie-sur-la-base-dun-mandat-darret-international-americain-a-ete-liberee-3940688?fbclid=IwAR3FpBMQwHeqhUkfw6NIbNS1niP5M3hiExDzgOux3R7PIoBo8CB0qWEQgNE
The call for Frenchwoman to be imprisoned in Italy because her violent ex has been heardhttps://www.nouvelobs.com/societe/20200102.OBS22988/l-appel-pour-cette-francaise-incarceree-en-italie-a-cause-de-son-ex-violent-a-ete-entendu.html?fbclid=IwAR3PzT3_PQo_ZM1n25_EGXcbeIczlHLucJmnWrQNaB4A_OOtQS89BOjuaHs
Original Story from 2014:
Rare Victory - Protective Mom Finally Wins Protection for Daughter!
8 Years and A Quarter Million Dollars Later - Nelly Gets Sole Custody
Complaint to UN: 1drv.ms/w/s!Aof0RIpSsZZCgfRf8RUnclNDGa0blg
“…The working group discerned the following categories in which communications had been most frequently submitted to the Commission:
….(i) discrimination against women resulting in the loss of child custody to abusive fathers.”
Women’s Coalition U.N. Petition: Success!
“God help us if [the Supreme Court justices] conclude that [the Hague Convention] did require that an 18-month old baby be ripped from her mother, her only caregiver, and sent to a country and parent she did not know, who the district court FOUND had been abusive to her mother.”
“Over the last 15 years at DV LEAP, and the many more years I have been in this work, we have observed biases in [family] courts that are specific to women; patterns that contribute to ongoing unjust court rulings.”
Joan Meier, JD, founder of DV Leap
An American woman fled home from Italy four years ago with her newborn baby to escape domestic violence by the baby’s biological Italian father. The descriptor “biological” is used because a man who commits violence on a child’s mother should not be considered a real father.
The father initiated a Hague Convention case, in which it was ruled that she had to return her then 18-month-old baby to the father in Italy. Mom has had only occasional short visits with her daughter, now 4, in Italy since then.
The mother filed in a U.S. district court, claiming the Hague ruling was in error due to the domestic violence (grave harm) exception. The district court made a finding that the father had committed domestic violence. The U.S. Supreme Court accepted the case and it was argued last month by pro bono attorneys (pictured) from DV Leap and the California based firm Gibson, Dunn, and Crutcher.
Since the Hague Convention stated priority is to protect the interests and safety of the children, and there is a “grave risk” exception, the Supreme Court ruling will reflect the fundamental question of whether a father who is violent with a mother represents a “grave” risk to their child(ren).
The Supreme Court justices appeared to be “all over the place” on this case, so the attorneys believe it may be a while before a ruling is issued. The Coalition will follow up on this important case, so watch this page.
Note that even if there is a positive ruling in this case, the core problem of family court judges making false findings to justify giving custody to controlling and abusive fathers remains.
MORE INFO on the Hague and DV:
The Hague Convention was implemented to ensure that the “rights of custody … under the law of one Contracting State are effectively respected in the other Contracting States.”
The overarching objectives of the Convention are to discourage international child abduction and to ensure the “swift return to the status quo prior to the abduction of a child.” More importantly, the Convention was instituted “to protect the interests and safety of the child.”
The Convention sets forth several defenses that the abductor may plead to prevent the return of the child. These exceptions include…article 13(b), where the child would be exposed to “physical or psychological harm or otherwise place the child in an intolerable situation” (i.e., the grave risk exception]. As a result, there is a tension between “discouraging child abduction and protecting victims of domestic violence.”
The term “domestic violence” is not mentioned in the Convention, and Convention courts have struggled with determining whether fear of future domestic violence should encompass a grave risk.
Domestic violence against the abductor and/or child should be an explicit or implicit exception to a parent’s Convention petition because of impact the abuse has on the abductor and the child, even if the child is not physically present to witness the abuse.
...[C]urrent trend indicates that mothers have become the abductors in an attempt to return to their home countries with their children after living abroad in an abusive marriage. Mothers have resorted to fleeing their husbands’ home countries because they have found that these countries provide little, if any, assistance to address domestic violence incidents. Abusive fathers, playing the part of the left behind parent, use the Convention’s dictates “as part of their coercive control” to have their children returned to their country. In turn, mothers face the difficult choice of returning to the home with the children or allowing the children to return alone with the historically abusive father.
… [G]rave risk defenses are fact-intensive and require the appropriate evidence, which often includes direct evidence showing that “the existence of a grave risk that would expose the child to physical or emotional harm or otherwise place the child in an intolerable situation.” Legal scholars have noted that children’s exposure to their mother’s victimization to domestic violence does not typically give rise to a successful grave risk defense…
…Courts should ensure that the child will be safeguarded from further violence and will not be adversely impacted emotionally. This determination can be made without conducting a best interests of the child custody analysis, which is to be conducted in a separate family court proceeding. Otherwise, “[m]aking the abuse of the victimized parent irrelevant to an Article 13(b) defense often deprives the victim of the only defense available to her, making the victim feel powerless to protect herself and her children.” Additionally, the abusive father may continue to maintain control over the domestic violence victim by using the children as pawns with years of protracted custody litigation.
… The child’s interests and safety cannot be protected when the child is ordered back to his original country of residence, where signs of past domestic violence against the parent and/or child were likely present. Therefore, evidence of physical or emotional domestic violence against a parent or child should constitute an exception under the Convention’s grave risk exception.
ISSUES IN FAMILY LAW: DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AND THE HAGUE CONVENTION ON THE CIVIL ASPECTS OF INTERNATIONAL CHILD ABDUCTION by Michael Moran
The Supreme Court ruling in this case should be that since the father has committed domestic violence, it is automatically an exception to the Convention and the child must be returned to her mother; and the father shall be restricted to supervised visits at the discretion of the protective mother.
It is the Coalition’s position that any father who commits domestic violence on the mother or the child poses an unacceptable risk to the child. To allow Hague judges to decide whether or not the risk is “grave” simply makes it an extension of the Family Court system where judges have the power to minimize risk. With the long history of the Hague siding with fathers, it is obvious that the Hague Court is, in effect, working to entitle and empower fathers, just like Family Court.
It would be momentous if the Supreme Court would make the broader assertion that domestic violence terminates the right to legal custody and unsupervised visitation. But don’t hold your breath. Join The Women’s Coalition and help battle for our children’s well-being and safety after separation or divorce.
If you would like to join a local group, please send your county, state and country to: email@example.com
[Pictured: Joan Meier and BryanWalsh (left); DV Leap attorneys (right)]
Cindy Dumas, M.A. has been researching, writing, and raising awareness about the Custody Crisis since 2003, when she was unable to protect her children from their abusive father. She fled into hiding when Family Court failed her and was tricked into returning home, when her children were given to their abusive father.