top of page

Surviving Trauma: A Study of How Women Who Have Been Through the Family Courts View the World

Although common wisdom claims that mothers retain custody after divorce “99% of the time, even if they are unfit,” actual research reveals a vastly different sociolegal/sociopolitical reality. In fact the confluence of multiple societal developments and their powerful backlash recoils have resulted in a situation where fathers who have committed domestic violence, and even incest have good chances to gain custody, causing dangerous situations for protective mothers who discover their children have been abused or who have sought legal protection from abuse themselves. [Rosen] They frequently lose custody and even visitation as punishment for making complaints against their spouses, thinly disguised as “child protection” to insulate their children from the presumably bad influence of mothers “using the children to get back at” divorcing husbands. When these mothers object to being mistreated by the courts, more punishment is administered in what often becomes an orgy of mother-hatred and slander that pervades not only society’s version of events but even the children’s understanding of why they lost their mothers. The author will interview five such women to examine the effects this process has had on their lives, even decades after the proceedings. This study will illuminate some consistent phenomena: the victimized mothers will describe their lives in ruins, their health broken, many of their relationships destroyed, and their faith in the system demolished after an illogical, even preposterous series of events that others fail to understand and may even frankly disbelieve.

Kathy Scholpp '21