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Fathers Protest Judges Abandoning Their Role to 'Experts'

By Ed Oliver, Massachusetts News, April 15, 2003

A protest will be held today in Boston by fathers who are protesting the abandonment of their role by judges who are allowing so-called "experts" to make the decisions concerning custody of children.

The protest will be held at 10 Winter Place from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. by CPF/The Fatherhood Coalition at Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education, which will be conducting mandatory training in domestic violence for the state's guardian ad litems.

Those are the people appointed by the Probate & Family Court to investigate families in contested child custody cases, usually social workers or attorneys.

The Fatherhood Coalition claims that GAL and family court regimes are incapable of an objective understanding of domestic violence and recognizing the truth in conflicting accounts of domestic violence in divorce cases. Domestic violence is wrongly perceived as overwhelmingly a problem of male-on-female aggression.

In response to the training, the Fatherhood Coalition is calling for all fathers entering contested custody battles to refuse to participate in GAL investigations.

According to Coalition Spokesman Mark Charalambous, "What we are essentially protesting is the culture of the domestic violence industry. For over thirty years, over a hundred scientific research studies have concluded that women are at least as likely as men to initiate domestic violence. But GALs and other family and child 'experts' are incapable of objectively addressing this reality because of their financial, ideological, and emotional investment with the victim-feminist paradigm."

Their training follows the recommendations of a legislative report on the GAL system done under the auspices of the Committee on Post Audit and Oversight in 2001. The legislative report authored by committee chair Sen. Cheryl Jacques, "Guarding our Children: A Review of Massachusetts' Guardian Ad Litem Program within the Probate and Family Court", recommended uniform domestic violence training for all GALs.

One of the report's recommendations calls for the P&F Court to "develop clear guidelines describing how GAL investigations are to be conducted and what information reports should contain... The standards must incorporate Massachusetts's statutory requirement that judges consider evidence of domestic violence when making custody and visitation determinations."

The report included several case examples chosen to support the view that fathers are experts at disguising their violent behavior from poorly trained investigators. Lacking the proper training in the dynamics of domestic violence, the GALs are supposedly producing flawed reports that presumably favor fathers and that don't properly account for female victim's trauma. There was no mention of women manipulating the process by lying about abuse, or other female malfeasance, anywhere in the report.

The Fatherhood Coalition asserts that fathers rarely, if ever, receive physical custody of their children when there are allegations of domestic violence and a 209A "abuse protection" order in place. Furthermore, GALs routinely downplay or ignore claims of female violence ("The judge won't want to hear that," one GAL told her male client).

From the report: "Lundy Bancroft, an expert in domestic violence issues and a practicing GAL in Massachusetts, recommends extensive training specifically in the area of domestic violence, since it is often a factor in child custody cases. Furthermore, Mr. Bancroft contends that in his experience, GALs without specific domestic violence training often act in ways that ... unwittingly re-traumatize domestic violence victims."

Bancroft, who trains GALs, is also one of the authors of the recent Wellesley College "Speak Out" research report released November last year. The study is a textbook example of subjective, unscientific, agenda-driven research, according to Charalambous, who says it claims that battered women are being abused by the state's P & F courts by awarding custody of their children to their "batterer" husbands. The report also claims that the courts are violating the human rights of these battered women.

More information is available at GAL Protest Central on the Fatherhood Coalition web site: www.fatherhoodcoalition.org/cpf/2003/GAL_protest_index.htm

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