The Seattle News–hardly a bastion of gender bias in reporting the news–has published yet another in a series of articles about how fathers can be accused of domestic abuse by a divorcing mother and lose any right to their children all based on the lowest possible threshold of evidence without their knowledge. The story begins:
Jim’s first indication that his life was about to be turned upside down came the night he got home from work and was approached by an off-duty sheriff’s deputy.
“Are you Jim?” the deputy asked.
“I am,” he replied.
The deputy then informed him that not only was he no longer welcome inside his own house, he wasn’t allowed even to collect his things. The officer handed him a suitcase his wife had packed and a $3,000 check—also from his wife, who earned far more than he did.
“What are the grounds?” Jim asked.
“It’s all in there,” the deputy said, thrusting a sheaf of papers into his hand.
The papers informed him his wife was filing for divorce. Worse, she had requested, and been granted, a temporary protection order based on allegations of domestic violence. The order—issued at a hearing that took place without Jim—took effect immediately. It required him to vacate his house and refrain from “any contact whatsoever” with either his wife or his 3-year-old son.
In it, his wife wrote that she felt like she had to “walk on eggshells” around Jim due to his unpredictable temper. He would scream to such an extent that “veins in his neck were bulging” and “spittle from his lips was hitting me in the face.” She also described him yelling at their dogs, roughly handling their cat, and driving aggressively and recklessly.
But there’s one thing she never claimed—that Jim had ever hit her or their son. Nor did she accuse Jim of threatening either of them.
Jim, an insurance agent periodically unemployed, had at times performed more child-care duties than his wife, according to a court-assigned social worker hired to assess each spouse’s parenting skills. Observing interactions between Jim and his son, and talking to friends, relatives, and neighbors, she called the bond between them “relatively strong, happy, interactive, comfortable, playful, and full of physical play and affection.” Yet it would still take 15 months for Jim to be allowed to have normal visits with his son.
Had he been charged with domestic violence in criminal court, where guilt must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt and the standards of due process are high, this might not have happened. But Jim’s fate was decided in a very different venue: family court.
It’s a court like no other—a hugely busy and rancorous place where the most personal aspects of people’s lives are not only on display, but judged and reshaped in proceedings that often last no longer than 20 minutes. Appointed commissioners, rather than elected judges, make many of the most crucial decisions. And the standard of evidence (known as “preponderance of the evidence”) is the lowest allowed by law.
The article goes on to lay out in quite convincing detail how the court has systematically mistreated Dads. I highly recommend you read the whole thing HERE.
Image Scott Bakal