The United Nations has several “Special Rapporteurs,” independent experts chosen by the Human Rights Council to consider a variety of human rights issues and present their findings. There are more than two dozen Human rights topics for which there is a special rapporteur, covering everything from immigrant rights to the right to food.
Given my profession, I make an effort to keep track of what the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women and Girls investigates. The current Special Rapporteur, Reem Al-Salem of Jordan, has prepared an investigation a report In June, on in her words’, a “massive miscarriage of justice, mostly against mothers and their children,” which was largely invisible because injustices are administered in family law courts by formal “judges” working for the state.
And what I found is important, because this is happening in many countries, including the United States.
A worrying trend
The injustice that Al-Salem found was in the detention procedures. While courts around the world have historically, even in the West, favored the father’s right to child custody in the event of divorce (and still do in many countries), in the West this default has been reversed and then settled into a general trend toward joint custody. Guarantee. The current assumption is that maintaining contact with both parents is in the best interest of the children.
It can be argued that this is true, except in cases where domestic violence and/or sexual abuse occurs. such cases Not rarely; For example, in the United States, 1 in 15 children experience domestic violence each year. Children who witnessed one parent being hit by the other are four times more likely to be directly abused by the abuser as well. Half of young children who are sexually abused are abused by a family member. Daughters of abused mothers are 6.5 times more likely to be sexually assaulted by their fathers.
While women are also perpetrators of child abuse, note that these offenses depend heavily on gender: between 75% and 95% of those offenses Arrested for male domestic violence; in Kill the family94% of the killers are male.
There are cases, then, in which the child’s best interest may not be served through joint custody, or even through contact with an abusive parent. That seems obvious, right?
Al-Salem found that it was not easy at all. investigate her a reportwith reports from dozens of countries, found a “pattern of ignoring intimate partner violence against women in child custody determinations[and]mothers making such claims are penalized by the law enforcement and/or judicial authority responsible for custody determinations.” .
How can it be domestic violence less important issue In determining the best interests of the child? Salem explains:
“Protective mothers are put at a disadvantage, as insisting on evidence of domestic violence or child abuse may be seen as attempts to remove children from the other parent, which may result in a loss of primary care or contact with their children.
“Once a parent is judged to be ‘alienating’, ‘stubborn’ or ‘not listening’, their actions or inaction can be biased. As a result, allegations of domestic violence remain sidelined, turning domestic violence into a minor conflict .
“The consequences of biased custody decisions can be catastrophic, leading to specific incidents when parents with violent histories are contacted, children dying, and women and children being held at gunpoint. In some cases, women have been imprisoned for violating custody rights and have been revoked,” she continues. Protective restraining orders.
The experiences are devastating: Al Salem notes that when paternal alienation is charged, mothers are twice as likely to lose custody as fathers; When mothers are accused of being isolated, they are stripped of custody in 44% of cases. Furthermore, she points out that in one study, more than half of mothers in custody battles were accused of parental isolation.
However, the concept of parental alienation makes a lot of sense Sketchy history. Richard Gardner, a psychologist, developed this concept in the mid-1980s, insisting that the greater a child’s resistance to one parent, the greater the incidence of parental alienation by the other parent. The idea that a child might have a very good reason to be away from a parent is ignored. It is worth noting that parental alienation is a syndrome not known by the American Psychiatric Association, the American Medical Association, or the World Health Organization, and it is not listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Some have called itUnwanted science“.
Gardner’s legacy (died by suicide in 2003) was devastating. Imagine a situation where the child’s father actually abused her. The mother is trying to take the allegation to court with evidence. This claim is seen as evidence of parental alienation, and sole custody is awarded to the father on this basis. Further, the judge may order a “reunion campAnd the children are taken away that very day by police officers, loaded onto a plane, and flown to a remote location, under orders not to be touched. no contact With their mother for several months, maybe more year. The mother may have to acknowledge in writing the estrangement as a condition of seeing her children again. If the mother is a citizen of another country, she may have to return the child to the abusive parent’s country and to custody of the abuser by law. The Hague Convention on Kidnapping.
experts Describe How the whole thing is Kafka, in an article in The Bristol (UK): Cable:
“Prior to separation, the non-abusive parent is expected to protect their child and may even be told that they may lose the child if they fail to leave the abuser. After separation, the same court and welfare system may tell the victim that failure to facilitate contact could result in the loss of the child.
In one case, the newspaper reported that “when Tanya’s ex-partner tried to contact their child, in violation of a court order, Tanya’s attorney told that if her child expressed concerns about the father, Tanya’s response should be dismissal.” those fears and instead tell the child that the father is not a threat. Anything else can be taken as evidence of the father’s isolation.”
Not only are mothers afraid, but children who have been abused themselves must feel the fear afraid and that the courts would hand them over to their abusers if they told the truth about the abuses they were subjected to, thereby effectively silencing them and forcing them to acquiesce in the abuses.
Is this all so far fetched? barely. This even happens in Utah. And sometimes the consequences deadly. And in one case from 2022, a former New York police officer Michael Falfa He gained full custody of his son despite the fact – or more likely because of the fact – that the child’s mother had provided evidence that Valva was a dangerous man. Valva accused the mother of parental isolation. Assuming custody, Valva abused the boy death. the cases We are countless, tragic And horrifying.
That is why it is imperative that Utah Sen. Todd Weiler make good on his promise to introduce a bill in the Utah legislature in 2024 that enshrines Pennsylvania-style federal principles. Cayden Law To better ensure the best interests of the children of Utah.
These principles include:
- Detention hearings must explicitly consider past and present abuses, and such allegations must be investigated by trained professionals.
- Protective orders must also be taken into consideration.
- A court may not remove custody from or prohibit contact with a parent who is “competent, protective, and non-harmful physically or sexually”; and with whom the child is related or with whom the child is related.
- The court may not order any reunification treatment that breaks contact with that parent.
- Judges, magistrates, ad hoc guardians, attorneys, and others must conduct at least 20 hours of professional training on the effects of domestic violence and coercive control on children.
The best interests of the child must be protected. The judicial process aims to ensure that the outcome fails our children. It is time for lawmakers in Utah and across the country to rise to the occasion and fix this. Meanwhile, judges are to honor these wise principles as if they were indeed the law of the state.
Valerie M. Hudson is Distinguished Professor at the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University and a contributor to Deseret News. Her views are her own.