GENDER BIAS CONTINUES
by: Mace H. Greenfield
I am truly sick of the continued gender bias in the Courts of this State. When I was awarded sole custody of my daughter over 11 years ago (she was 3 years old then) in the State of Virginia, the Judge said to me: “Hey, Mr. New Yorker, if you were back in New York, you would have lost.” I later moved back to New York with my daughter, became a lawyer, and found out his words are true.
I have heard, or heard about, Judges saying such statements as: “I am not taking a 28 month old girl away from the Mother!” (Even though in that case, the forensic expert recommended custody to the Father.) “Isn’t a daughter better off with the Mother?” “The Father should not begin visitation Friday evening because a child of only two years old should not be driven after dark.” (But did not order the Mother not to drive with the child after dark.) “Why does a Father want to be involved in his child’s life? I was not involved in my children’s lives until after they were over 30 years old.” All such statements are made off the record, and should a Judge slip and say it on the record, it never appears in the transcript, in its place is usually the word “inaudible” or “incomprehensible.” I have a transcript which mostly says, over and over, “inaudible.”
When the forensic expert’s report recommends custody to the Mother, the Court says to the Father’s lawyer: “Well, will your client settle now giving the Mother custody?” But, when the forensic expert’s report recommends custody to the Father, the Court, who appointed the forensic expert, says: “Well the report is not that good, it is not even close to a done deal.”
Too often law guardians just recommend with the Mother, only speaking with the Mother and only seeing the children when brought by the Mother. Expert reports show that a child’s story is different based which parent drives them to the interview, even if not in the interview room. Too many law guardians will say: “This is really about visitation isn’t it?” Then when told it is about custody, they laugh.
Too often, when a Mother accuses a Father of drugs or alcohol, the Father is given supervised visitation only. This too often continues even after the Father tests negative. Most of the time when the Mother is accused of drugs and alcohol, she is sent home with the children, sometimes even after she tests positive for drugs.
I have seen Fathers not given visitation due to outstanding warrants until they are cleared up. I have seen Mothers with outstanding warrants in more than one State allowed to leave Court with the children.
Too often the Courts just assume the Father’s interest in custody is money related, to save child support. However, many Mothers are driven by receiving child support, receiving the house, and more importantly, not having to pay child support herself. This is why, too often for a Father to get custody, he has to waive child support from the Mother, even when the Mother earns as much or more than he does. When a Mother gets custody, the Father has to pay child support even if earns very little and the Mother earns a very good salary.
I have seen a Mother get custody, even though she worked 60 hours a week, and the Father had been on disability raising the child and taking care of the house for the past 8 years. I have seen a Father ordered to pay support based on his former wage of $80,000.00 from two jobs, even though he cannot work both jobs due to depression from the divorce to a Wife who needs more support because she can no longer work her one job earning $30,000.00 per year due to depression from the divorce.
I will not even address orders of protection herein, the most abused vehicle in the law to merely get the “upper hand,” and the Judges who have said (off the record of course): “But counselor, I realize what is going on, but the truth of the case aside, you know I have to worry about my face being on the cover of the newspaper.”
I am disgusted and offended by the above. Gender bias erodes the fabric of our judicial system and diminishes its integrity.
After the above was printed in several local papers and other publications, the responses by others were predictable, and this I responded as follows:
Interestingly, responses to my letter about gender bias in the Courts, such as the one from “B. Weinstein,” embodied exactly what I was complaining about. A belief that Mother’s are all things, and Father’s are not much. A Father who stays home to care for the children and home while the wife works is viewed as he should get a job. A woman stays home and she is viewed as caring for the family. A woman who has children is believed to not be able to work or better herself, but a man has no excuse.
Presently there are over 2 million at home dads who care for the children and home, because their wives earn more than them. There are over 3 million custodial fathers, who work, care for the children and the home. They are both father and mother and bread winner because they have to be. Many woman with custody have gone back to school and then to work, while earning money and raising the children. Too many women just complain, and too often the Courts act as though women should not have to work or better themselves. After being awarded sole custody, I went back to school, earned my BA, then went to law school, while raising my daughter and working.
Motherhood is special, but so is Fatherhood. The view of the courts, and society as shown in Weinstein’s letter, seems to think women are more special than dads, need more protection, and can do no wrong. This attitude is wrong and perverse. I pray my daughter grows up to have an attitude of responsibility rather than one of helpless victim.