“An unhinged man involved in a bitter child-custody battle tossed his toddler son to his death from the roof of a 52-floor building on the Upper West Side Sunday, then killed himself by jumping, law-enforcement sources said.” – NYPOST.COM
“An Arizona woman is accused of fatally poisoning her two children a day before she was supposed to turn them over to their father as part of a custody agreement issued in a courtroom last week, an attorney for the woman’s ex-husband told NBC4 on Monday.” – NBCLOSANGELES.COM
“That day, Rob King bought each of his twin daughters a fish, signed them up for swim lessons and gave them a bath. Hours later, he pumped carbon monoxide into their bedroom and slit their throats…Rob and Kristi were in the midst of a bitter divorce and custody battle. Kristi had offered joint custody of the three-year-olds. Rob wanted the girls to himself.” – WUSA9.COM
These are just a few examples amongst countless articles I have read since the murder of my son Prince. It seems like nearly every week there is a new story about a parent, involved in a bitter custody battle, who kills their child. The most disturbing part of reading these stories is knowing that each and every one of these killer parents was in court at some point and granted access to the child for whom he/she ended up killing. Each one of these children could have been saved had our system not been so hell bent on parental rights and equal access.
This Friday, a documentary titled “Divorce Corps” hits the theaters. From watching the previews, it would appear as though the focus of the movie is to expose the horrible Family Court system and how the fate of children has been turned into big business. While I believe that the big business aspect is a part of the system that needs to be reformed (note: I spent over 100k trying to save my son in this failed system), I have deep concerns about this movie. There are parts of the movie that would lead the public to believe that because divorce and custody are such “big business” that people have more incentives to lie and make up false allegations. The movie also seems to argue for presumptive joint custody.
Wendy Murphy, a former child abuse and sex crimes prosecutor and now adjunct professor and trial and appellate attorney specializing in crime victims, recently noted that a more appropriate title for a documentary on this issue would be “Divorce Corpse”. Divorce Corpse would at least accurately label a system in which children are killed by parents who should never have had custody or access to them.
In case after reading about my story it isn’t already clear, let me point out why the troubling themes present in this movie are dangerous for children.
1. All claims of abuse should be taken seriously: This should be a no brainer, but unfortunately it isn’t. The creators of this documentary seem to think that parents make sport out of launching false allegations of abuse. It is my firm believe that while I am sure false allegations occur, this is not the norm. Approaching all family court cases as if any abuse allegations are false is extremely dangerous. Children who are abused will be sent to their abuser without investigation into the allegations. I would rather see several innocent parents investigated than loose one child because the allegations were not taken seriously.
2. The danger of presumptive joint custody: Abusers love to talk about how the courts should automatically look toward equal access. If the courts did this, parents would no longer have to worry about things in their lifestyle that are not conducive to a healthy environment for a child. While there are plenty of situations where it is best for a child to have equal access to both parents (i.e. when both parents are good parents without psychological disorders or abusive tendencies), there are too many scary cases that come to court where presumptive joint custody would hurt the child. The courts should not presume anything when there is a case before them. There are no two cases alike when it comes to Family Court and each case should be evaluated based on the best interest of that particular child and not based on what is comfortable for the parents. If the courts continue to try and split children down the middle, they will end up with more abused children in the system.
David Levy, who is currently one of the members of the Maryland Commission on Child Custody, wrote an Op Ed after the murder of Amy Castillo’s three children in Baltimore, MD. In his editorial, he stated his belief that joint custody would have prevented the tragedy – as if Mark Castillo killed his three children just because he wasn’t awarded joint custody. News flash Mr. Levy, Mark Castillo killed his children because he was a crazy monster and had he been denied access to those children, they would still be here today.
3. Leave Parental Rights at the door please: After reading the press on this documentary, I am hearing too much crap about parental rights. We all know that both men and woman abuse children. This shouldn’t be a fight about gender because parents should not be who the court is seeking to protect. I didn’t spend over 100k in court because I felt like I needed more time with my son and just wanted to be a time hog. I spent the money because I truly believed he was in danger, and it was the only legal way I knew how to try and save him. I take no pleasure in knowing that I was right because it means that my son is dead. I would have gladly laid my own rights as a parent on the table if it meant my son could have some.
Finally, I refer you back to the quotes that I started out with in this post. While many cases don’t deal with life and death, a startling number of them do. Making rash generalizations about the need for equal access in all cases, and assuming everyone who fears abuse is lying only harms children. This movie discusses how many people profit off of the misfortune of those who end up in Family Court, and that is absolutely true. More alarming, however, is the number of people who end up dead (or emotionally/physically abused) as a result of decisions made in those court rooms.
If you plan to see this movie, I encourage you to question the motives of those who created it. While it is clear that there are many who profit from Family Court,I challenge you to think about exactly who benefits from a system that believes that the child’s best interest is served by equal access to both parents – regardless of the situation. I would argue that only an abuser would want the courts to grant all parents equal access without regard to circumstance.