Gender bias in family court refers to the perception that the family court system is biased against one gender or the other. Specifically, it is the belief that the family court system tends to favor mothers over fathers in custody and visitation disputes. The debate surrounding the family court to stereotype men has been ongoing for many years. Many legal works still suggest that there is no systemic bias, but that individual judges may have their own biases that influence their decisions. But in fact, many fathers who enter the family court for the first day would detect that gender-bias with no doubt.
One reason why some people believe that family court is biased against fathers is because historically, mothers were given primary custody of children in the majority of cases. This was largely due to traditional gender roles that dictated that women were responsible for child-rearing, while men were responsible for providing for the family financially. While this is no longer the case in many households, some argue that the court system has been slow to adapt to these changes, and that fathers are still at a disadvantage in custody disputes.
Other reasons include stereotypes that “men are violent and women are weak”. Therefore, a wife claiming to the family court that she’s been mistreated will likely be believed of her stories. Believing her stories also means to seeing her husband (you) as a “bad guy”. This can happen much quicker than you thought. The prejudice is so deep-rooted that you’ve no idea where it comes from.
According to Carey Linde, “The prejudice against fathers is very subtle and lies deep in the minds and belief systems of the men and women whose role is to administer the so-called gender neutral statutes.”*
Courts are not self-aware when they stereotype men
The myth is, why don’t they realized they have been biased against men? Why do the courts which stereotype men failed to realize themselves?
They’ve internalized it:
One possibility is that the bias is unconscious, meaning that the judges may not even realize that they are making decisions based on gender. This can happen when people internalize societal norms and stereotypes, and these biases can influence their decision-making without them even realizing it.
They just see what they want to see:
Another possibility is the so-called Confirmation Bias. It is that judges may be more likely to see evidence that confirms their preexisting beliefs. For example, if a judge believes that mothers are better caregivers, they may be more likely to give weight to evidence that supports this belief (for example, the mother spends 2 times of more time with the kids than the father) and discount evidence that suggests otherwise (for example, there are multiple incidences where the mother was verbally violent to the kids)
They don’t have a suffering male friend:
The inner family circle of the family court judge just doesn’t include a man who’s been mistreated in his divorce. They may not receive adequate training on issues related to gender bias against men, or there is no such training at all in that particular country or state. Therefore they are not be equipped to recognize their own biases. In some cases, judges may also have limited exposure to diverse perspectives, which can further contribute to a lack of understanding.
Pressure to Resolve Cases Quickly:
Family court judges often have a heavy caseload and are under pressure to resolve cases quickly. This can lead to shortcuts in decision-making, which may not take into account all of the relevant information, including potential biases.
Finally, it’s possible that there are systemic factors that contribute to gender bias in family court. Court procedures may be biased against fathers, or the way that evidence is presented in court may favor mothers. These factors can be difficult for individual judges to overcome on their own. One good example is the nature of Temporary Restraining Orders (TRO) are filed so easily and so effectively blocking fathers from his children. The family courts have limited leeway to turn that around in time not to give the husband a disadvantage in his legal fight (e.g. losing child custody because mother has been the primary caregiver for a long time)
Mothers’ counterattack on bias is as convincing:
It’s sad that while fathers are surely biased, mothers might use the same claim to protest against the judges. As a result, some people will believe that the family court system is actually biased against mothers, particularly in cases where there are allegations of abuse. In some cases, the legal professionals are convinced that the mothers may be wrongly accused of these types of behaviors as the father’s tactic to gain custody of the children. In fact, the father is just telling the truth and with solid evidences on the mother’s domestic violence. Others argue that mothers may be at a disadvantage in court because they are more likely to be the primary caregiver and may therefore have less time and resources to devote to their legal case – and ignoring the fact that the mother is indeed negligent on her children and is not a good caregiver.
It is important for the court system to be aware of their rulings that stereotype men and to work to ensure that decisions are made in the best interests of the children involved. However, so many family courts around the worlds are giving custody to the wrong caregiver (the mother) and leaving the father’s life in ruin again and again.
The right way to fight in front of judges who stereotype men
Certainly, here are some steps that fathers can take to protect themselves from potential gender bias in family court:
Be scientific. Provide concrete case study (can be other people’s)
One thing that may help in persuading legal workers is to provide concrete examples of cases where fathers have felt that they were treated unfairly. It can also be helpful to gather statistics or research that support your argument.
Keep detailed records of all communications, exchanges, and interactions with your ex-partner and with the court. This can include text messages, emails, and phone calls, as well as any court documents and notes from meetings with your attorney or other legal professionals. Having a clear record of events can help you build a stronger case and protect yourself against false accusations.
Seek legal advice who has father-side experience:
Consult with an experienced family law attorney who understands the challenges that fathers face in family court. They can help you navigate the legal system and provide guidance on how to protect your rights and interests. Be sure to choose an attorney who has experience representing fathers in family court.
Pretend you don’t know the bias and follow court orders:
You might be pissed off by the bias, but don’t show it. It won’t work as they just don’t think they are biased. Always comply with court orders and directives, even if you disagree with them. Failure to comply with court orders can result in serious consequences, including fines and jail time. If you have concerns about a court order, discuss them with your attorney and seek their guidance on how to address the issue.
Be patient while joining other’s legal process:
The legal system can move slowly, and family court cases can be emotionally challenging. It is important to remain patient and persistent, and to focus on your long-term goals for your family. Work closely with your attorney and maintain open communication with them throughout the process. Also, it may be useful to work with organizations or groups that advocate for fathers’ rights. They may have resources or strategies that can be helpful in navigating the legal system and addressing biases. You can also fight the court with other like-minded fathers.
* P.120, “The Elephant in the Courtroom, Dad win without a Lawyer, Carey Linde”