Clare Scanlan
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How Domestic Abusers Get Custody in Family Court

How Good Mothers Lose their Children

Seven people are in court at the moment for spraying a three-year-old boy with acid as the father wanted to prove that the mother was unfit and unable to care for the child properly and he should have more time with the boy. This may seem very extreme—to hurt your own child to fabricate evidence against a woman to show how much you love the child. However, this is more the norm in Family Court than otherwise, with fathers doing anything they can to hurt the mother of their children.

When a woman leaves an abusive relationship, she is in more danger from her ex because he is trying desperately to keep control over her. He is outraged that she is becoming independent and feels that she has absolutely no right to leave him. This is when he starts threatening her with taking her children away from her to frighten her into returning to him and his control. Even if he doesn’t want her back, he will still want to punish her for what he perceives as her bad behaviour and ingratitude.

The abuser sees his partner and his children as his personal possessions. If his ex-partner starts a new relationship, he refuses to accept that “his” children may form a bond with this new man and so starts to work against them. He will make unfounded accusations of child abuse against the new man, threaten or attack him, stop maintenance payments, or suddenly decide to go to court for custody of the children.

Inequality

Abusers frequently win in a custody dispute as they have a number of advantages over the mother. The abuser will probably have more money and will be able to afford a better solicitor and barrister, though at the same time he will be pleading poverty so that he can’t pay child maintenance. He will insist on psychological testing and will do far better as his ex-partner will be suffering from anxiety or PTSD because of his abuse of her. Abusers are also extremely charming and will be able to get Judges, CAFCASS reporters, Social Services, and other professions to like and sympathise with him. He will also intimidate and manipulate the children into saying that they want to live with him.

A New Mum

A common tactic is for the abuser to get into a new relationship very quickly and treat her well. Remember, abusers are not driven by anger or loss of control. They can play the “perfect” partner and father for a long time if necessary. The new partner can testify that he is a lovely man and great dad. She believes that the mother must be lying to get back at this wonderful man who is missing his children so much. She is also stage dressing to show that he can provide a very stable home for the children and that he is not a risk.

Vindictive Mum

An abuser can also speak about how upset he is by the whole thing and suggest that the relationship was mutually destructive. Maybe he can say, I got angry at times and did some shoving or throwing things, proving that the mother is exaggerating. He can admit to some errors he made in the past and how he is really trying to change just to show that she is being vindictive and won’t even try to forget the past.

She’s the abuser!

The abuser will frequently claim that he is actually the victim and not his ex-partner. He will use domestic violence laws to get his victim arrested, prosecuted, and even sent to prison for abuse of him. How many of the statistics for men being victims of domestic abuse are actually abusers who have managed to convince people that they are the victim, not the abuser? Abusers are great at acting. When the police arrive, he is calm and she is visibly upset. Easy for him to say, "Look how crazy and violent she is."

This is not the only reason for accusing his victim. It is also to show that she is actually the one who is showing a pattern of violent behaviour and so is the danger to the children. Somebody with a conviction for domestic violence will not be able to work with children or vulnerable people. If the mother works in a hospital or a school or another caring profession, she will be unable to work. The abuser will be able to ruin her career as well as taking her children.

Get her in debt.

Abusers are great at this. They will get credit in their partner's name or coerce her into signing for a debt. Leaving a relationship where you have been kept short of money and then finding you are responsible for a large amount of debt you either weren’t aware of or didn’t realise the extent of can be a great obstacle to setting up a home for yourself and your children. It could limit the sort of work you can do and it definitely means that you can’t afford legal representation in court.

Vexatious Litigation

The legal system allows the abuser to drag his victim through court for many years. They will take her to court for contact with the children or custody of them. If they get contact, they will then take her back to court quickly to get more contact, maybe shared care. Once the case has finished, they’ll be back applying for something else, over and over again. The more success he has with this tactic, the more times he will file and the more control he has over her. There are other things he can apply for to keep control over her life, such as Prohibited Steps Orders where he can prevent her moving away from him or taking the children on holiday.

She’s turning the children against me.

The most popular abuser tactic is to accuse the mother of brainwashing the children so they don’t want to see them. PAS or “parental alienation syndrome” or just parental alienation is a bogus theory invented by psychiatrist and paedophile, Richard Gardner to explain why children who had been sexually abused by their father didn’t want to see him and to force them to live with the father. Mothers who bring up legitimate concerns about abuse to the children and children who are scared of seeing their father find themselves being labelled “hostile,” of coaching the children to hate the father and of “future emotional abuse” by not letting the children see the father. This is very effective in court and frequently causes mothers to back down on their allegations of abuse because residence is frequently transferred to the father if she doesn’t. This often means that the children lose their protective parent as the father, once he has custody, often stops all contact with the mother.

The idea that a mother could influence a child into hating their father is of course very difficult to believe if you have ever tried to influence your children to do anything!

Sex, Drugs, and Mental Health

Lies, exaggerations, and unsubstantiated allegations are the abusers' stock in trade. If the mother has a history of mental health problems, he will use this against her. Any anxiety, depression, or PTSD that has been caused by his abuse and the Family Court process will be used to prove she is an unfit mother. If there isn’t any, the abuser will make them up and even fabricate evidence. They will also accuse the mother of adultery, excessive drinking, and drug taking. If the mother requests that the abuser has alcohol and drug testing, he will insist that she has the tests too.

Social Services are also used to harass the mother. The abuser will report “worries” he has about how she is treating the children, accusing her of neglect or abusing them, causing her stress and worry whilst she investigated by authorities and the fear that the children will be taken into care or handed over the abuser.

The abuser has many weapons in his war against the mother of his children, a woman who he should be supporting to the best of his ability. The children, of course, will be the main victims in this campaign against their mother. They will suffer abuse at the hands of a person who they should be able to trust. At its extreme, fathers are even prepared to kill their own children. In all this, the Family Courts ethos that “children need both parents in their lives” enables and facilitates the abuser in his quest to punish this woman for daring to leave him.

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