Following last week's publication of the feature "Illegal Guardians" [Feature, Peter Jamison, 3/2], we received a large number of comments and letters. We are dedicating a full page to readers' response to the story.
Thank you for this article: The scandal in family courts that leads to the tragic outcomes reported by Peter Jamison is a larger and more insidious problem than the Catholic priest scandal. The research of the Leadership Council, our nonprofit clearinghouse for research on child abuse, suggests that 58,000 children a year in the United States are placed in the unsupervised care of abusive parents.
Congratulations to SF Weekly and Peter Jamison for this fine reporting. Only when public outrage reaches a tipping point will the necessary system reforms occur.
Executive Vice President
Leadership Council on Child Abuse & Interpersonal Violence
Fathers are often wrongly accused: This article sounds the alarm about a rare problem — abusive fathers winning child custody — and ignores a huge one: Tens of thousands of decent, loving California fathers have been driven to the margins of the lives of the children who love them and need them because of false accusations of abuse.
Many prominent California family law professionals are cautioning that the system is being widely misused by false accusers, and that there are scant protections for the falsely accused. In an article in the Family Law News, the official publication of the Family Law Section of the State Bar of California, family law attorneys Lynette Berg Robe and Melvyn Jay Ross explain: "[Domestic violence] protective orders are increasingly being used in family law cases to help one side jockey for an advantage in child custody. ... [The orders are] almost routinely issued by the court in family law proceedings even when there is relatively meager evidence..."
It is common for the radical groups the article quotes to claim that mothers are losing custody to abusers who employ parental alienation [syndrome] as a courtroom strategy. However, when one actually examines the evidence in the cases, most of these groups' claims are demonstrably false.
In reality, courts switch custody from mothers to fathers in parental alienation cases very slowly, usually only after the mother has violated numerous court orders and outright refused to allow children to see their fathers.
National Executive Director
Fathers and Families
Public awareness is key: Thank you for the informative article about the tragedies that are affecting so many children. It is time we need to respect children and the innocent parents who are asking for protection under the law. This abuse of innocent children has to stop. Thank you for sharing the information so others can be aware of the violence occurring in family law courts every day.
This is not a gender issue: It is childish and ignorant to assume that all allegations of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse are valid, while allegations of the very damaging abuse of parental alienation are invalid. Jamison is grinding an ax, and is not shedding light on this horrible situation. False allegations are made on both sides. Nor is it a gender issue, as he implies. Many women have been hurt by parental alienation, just as have many men. In the very flawed, adversarial system of the family courts, the parties are polarized to opposite extremes, and false allegations fly from both sides.
Michael J. Muller
San Antonio, TeXas
Thanks to the writer: Thanks to Jamison for writing a truthful piece. This is one of the best media pieces I have seen in 30 years. Cases where severe abuses of the mother and/or the children have been reported and documented (by doctors, police, and hospitals, etc.) often end with the perpetrator of crimes receiving custody of his small victims. I still believe that if more of the public knew of these travesties of "justice," fewer children would be mangled or killed.
My favorite sentence from this article is a quote from Geraldine Stahly: "I would like to see judges relying a lot less on psychological evaluations and a lot more on the facts of a case." If the crimes were treated as crimes, fewer children would be destroyed. It is peculiar that crimes against humans are suddenly not crimes if committed by a family member.
Writer needs to address the presence of parental alienation: Jamison downplays parental alienation and false domestic accusations. I am a victim of parental alienation. I was forced to tell therapists, doctors, and even a California mediator, and countless others that my father had been abusive. Professionals don't take parental alienation seriously, otherwise I would have been given the opportunity to give my own account without the presence of my alienating mother. The court system, social service system, and health system needs to be aware of this. Make sure one gives a child the opportunity to tell the real truth without the parent involved. I was threatened by my mother and told that the "system" would never listen to me. If Jamison doesn't address the importance of the presence of parental alienation, then that would make my mother right.
May this article set a precedent: As this is a national — indeed, a global — crisis, Jamison has set a precedent for journalists across the nation to open up for public scrutiny and inevitable outrage of the "best-kept dirty little secret" in our family courts.
There is a genocide of battered mothers and their children in the United States — and the courts are perpetuating, encouraging, and profiting from the bloodbath.
As the lead plaintiff in a petition filed against the U.S. (Dombrowski et al. v. U.S.) at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on behalf of battered mothers and their children nationally, I thank you with all of my heart for Jamison's on-target and extremely accurate investigative reporting.