by Barry Goldstein
The frequency with which judges, lawyers, evaluators, child protective caseworkers and other professionals fail to recognize true complaints of domestic violence made by mothers in child custody cases has led to extensive discussions among domestic violence experts about the need for training. In many of these cases the professionals denied valid complaints despite receiving domestic violence training. Too often they believe their training makes them qualified to decide domestic violence issues and so refuse to consider information or testimony from domestic violence experts.
Obviously good training provided by knowledgeable experts given to professionals who are open to hearing and embracing new information can be and often is helpful. I remember trying one case in which the judge found that the father had committed domestic violence against the mother. The judge told us that he had recently gone for domestic violence training and would have made the opposite decision if not for the training.
Unfortunately not all trainings are good and many are conducted by judges or mental health professionals without the needed expertise. Too often judges are only willing to listen to other judges, lawyers to lawyers and psychologists to psychologists. This is an unfortunate practice because a multi-disciplinary approach works best and as demonstrated by the recent Saunders’ study released by the US Department of Justice, domestic violence advocates have the most expertise on the specific domestic violence topics court professionals need in order to protect children. Of particular concern are trainings in which misinformation is provided. We have seen court sponsored trainings that include unscientific theories like parental alienation syndrome, fail to recognize the gendered nature of domestic violence and create a false equivalency concerning assaults by men and women. Many court professionals have been taught to treat contested custody as “high conflict” cases in which both parents are acting out in ways that are harmful to the children. The actual research establishes that a large majority of contested custody, probably as much as 90% are domestic violence cases in which the abusers are seeking custody as a tactic in order to maintain control over their victims. High conflict approaches often result in harmful practices where courts pressure victims to cooperate with their abusers instead of pressuring the abusers to stop their abuse. This often results in punishing mothers (and children) because she did not “get over it.”
Many genuine experts have expressed concerns after participating in good trainings that the professionals failed to pay attention because they wrongly believed they already understood domestic violence. In one Queens, New York case, I had the opportunity to cross-examine Dr. Paul Marcus about a training he attended in order to qualify as a parent coordinator. He had received some excellent research articles at the training that would have informed his investigation. When pressed by my questions he claimed to only have skimmed the articles, but in reality he had no knowledge of the information and repeatedly made the mistakes the articles could have helped him avoid. He eventually characterized his experience at the training as “not life-changing.” Unfortunately the children put at risk by his unqualified approaches badly needed him to have a life altering experience.
The history of the court system’s response to domestic violence custody cases contributes to problems around training. When domestic violence first became a public issue in the mid to late 1970s there was little research available. Many popular assumptions such as the belief that domestic violence was caused by mental illness, substance abuse or the actions of the victim influenced the court response to domestic violence but turned out to be wrong. These mistaken assumptions led courts to rely on mental health professionals as if they were the experts despite having no expertise in domestic violence. Over the years many lawyers and judges learned misinformation from psychologists and other mental health professionals that has become deeply ingrained. This has contributed to a significant problem that many courts refuse to listen to domestic violence experts or devalue their important contributions. I believe it is important that the Saunders’ study specifically found that the standard and required training in domestic violence received by judges, lawyers and evaluators does not provide them with the necessary expertise to understand domestic violence cases. This is an important explanation for why custody courts so frequently get domestic violence cases wrong. This prestigious study coming out of the US Justice Department ought to be a wake-up call for court administrators to reconsider training and practices concerning domestic violence. I have not seen this yet, but the report is less than a year old and I still hope the courts will have enough concern about the well-being of children to take this research seriously. The biggest obstacles to creating the needed reforms are the defensiveness and misplaced confidence of court officials and the financial incentive of a cottage industry of lawyers and mental health professionals who have made good livings promoting bogus approaches that support abusers.
The Importance of Understanding Domestic Violence Dynamics
It is well known that boys who witness domestic violence are far more likely to abuse future partners than boys never exposed to domestic violence. At the same time the fact that many boys who witness their fathers’ abuse of their mothers seek to avoid any mistreatment of women. Some, like former Yankee manager Joe Torre and Detective Mark Wynn have used their negative childhood experiences to become leaders in the work to end men’s violence against women.
In their new version of The Batterer as Parent, Lundy Bancroft and his colleagues consider the important question of why boys react so differently to witnessing domestic violence. Their finding is that boys who continue the pattern of abuse towards their intimate partners have a much greater sense of entitlement than boys who avoid committing these crimes. This does not explain why some boys have a greater sense of entitlement, but is important in understanding the gendered nature of domestic violence.
One of the first things we learn as instructors in the NY Model Batterer Program where I teach is that domestic violence is rooted in history. There is a long history of husbands abusing their wives and societal messages that this is acceptable. There is a history of women being considered the property first of their fathers and then of their husbands. This is demonstrated in a common part of many weddings in which the father gives the bridge to the husband. There is no equivalent history of wives controlling husbands with state support. Researchers and professionals who seek to create a false equivalency between how men and women treat each other make the mistake of ignoring this history in addition to the size and strength differential that is common between men and women.
Domestic violence involves tactics that men use to coerce and control their intimate partners and pressure them to allow him to make the major decisions in the relationship. Most of these abusive tactics do not involve physical assaults. The Pattern and the Purpose of these tactics are critical to understanding the nature of domestic violence. Abusers typically seek to obfuscate what they are doing by discussing each incident out of context. They often seek to start the discussion at the point his partner reacts to his abuse. Inadequately trained professionals often fall for this manipulation because they fail to understand the importance of context and often seek to create a false sense of equivalency in a misguided attempt to be fair to both parties.
Accordingly it is critical for court professionals and others trying to understand the relationship between an abuser and his victim to be fully aware and knowledgeable about domestic violence dynamics. Many acts that seem the same on the surface are very different when context and purpose are considered. One of the most common mistakes courts make in domestic violence cases is to consider each incident and each issue separately. This makes it extremely difficult for judges to understand the context in which the events occurred. We see many cases in which a court initially tries a case involving one of the abuser’s domestic violence tactics. The court may deny the allegation either because of inadequate evidence or because it fails to properly understand the evidence. Once the decision denying the allegation is made, many courts assume this establishes that the allegations of abuse are false. This results in a refusal to ever again consider the father’s abusive behavior or limiting any consideration to new incidents without considering the context of his previous abuse. This is not a practice that is neutral, but rather one that favors abusers and contributes to the frequency that courts fail to protect children from abusers.
What Happens When Court Professionals Do Not Understand DV Dynamics?
Many professionals who have received training in domestic violence have learned that victims are usually afraid of their abuser.
Indeed the abuser engages in frightening tactics to make her afraid to challenge him. This is useful knowledge, but can be misapplied by someone who does not understand domestic violence dynamics. In many cases the mother is afraid of the father but summons the courage to challenge her abuser and even the court because she is trying to protect her children. Her actions are often misunderstood as proof she could not possibly have been abused.
In one notorious case, an evaluator, in her report wrote that the mother is a strong and articulate woman so could not possibly need a domestic violence advocate. All of the domestic violence experts who testified in the case were outraged at this statement and recognized her statement proved she was not qualified to handle domestic violence cases. The judge who was extremely confident of his domestic violence knowledge failed to see the problem with this statement and gave custody to the abusive father and supervised visitation to the protective mother without an evidentiary hearing.
An even more tragic example of this common mistake occurred in the Castillo case from Maryland. The mother sought a protective order to prevent unsupervised visitation between the abusive father and the children. Immediately before going to court the mother had sexual relations with her husband. The judge believed the father could not be too dangerous if the mother was still having sex with him and denied the mother’s request. Being ignorant of domestic violence dynamics, the judge never considered that the mother might have had sex with the father because she was afraid of what he might have done if she refused. The father used the access granted him by the judge to kill their three children. At a subsequent legislative hearing, a “fathers’ rights” legislator sought to use the sexual relations to embarrass the mother in order to justify his opposition to reforms that would make it easier for victims to obtain restraining orders. In other words he did not understand why the mother would have sexual relations even after he knew the outcome.
Many aspects of domestic violence are counterintuitive. The knowledge of domestic violence dynamics helps professionals and others avoid mistakes based on circumstances that otherwise do not seem logical. Judge Mike Brigner wrote a chapter in our book Domestic Violence, Abuse and Child Custody in which he described the most common question he receives when he provides domestic violence training to judges and other court professionals. The question is what to do about women who are lying. When he asks what they mean they cite examples of women who return to their abusers, fail to follow-through on petitions for protective orders or do not have police or medical records to document the father’s abuse. All of these examples are common responses to domestic violence for safety and other good reasons.
Another very common example is that a court professional will observe an allegedly abusive father interact with his children. The children show no fear so they assume the father could not be abusive. The children understand their father would never hurt them in front of a witness so are comfortable interacting with him.
Indeed they may miss his presence. Court professionals without an understanding of domestic violence dynamics often treat these non-probative facts as if they prove the abuse allegations are false. This leads to the denial of a lot of true allegations.
Similarly, we sometimes see cases in which an abusive father is initially limited to supervised visitation. The court often wants a report from the supervisor about how the father interacted with the children. In most cases the father acted appropriately and the court believes his ability to behave while supervised means it is safe for him to have unsupervised visitation or even custody. Someone who understood domestic violence dynamics would know that with rare exceptions the father’s abuse is not caused by his inability to control his behavior. In fact he often controls his behavior when there are witnesses present or other reasons why he would suffer consequences if he engaged in abusive tactics. His good behavior while being supervised tells us nothing about how he will behave when he is alone with the children.
Another common error caused by a failure to understand domestic violence dynamics is the assumption that the end of the relationship or the lack of a recent physical attack means the abuser is no longer dangerous. This is based on the common fallacy that domestic violence only has to do with physical abuse and the failure to understand the purpose of domestic violence tactics. When a batterer assaults his partner once or twice that is often sufficient to maintain control because she knows what he is capable of. The threat of further violence or even just the same tone of voice, body language or demeanor is sufficient to coerce the victim to do what he wants because she is afraid of being hit again. His other non-violent domestic violence tactics further reinforce his danger. Many of the gender bias committees found that blaming women for the actions of her abuser is a common example of gender bias. A common example of this is when a mother is punished for continuing to express fear of her abuser based on earlier incidents.
The Saunders’ study specifically recommends that court professionals have training in post-separation violence. This is because of the frequency that unqualified court professionals, anxious to keep fathers in children’s lives assume the end of the relationship makes the father safe. This is based on the false belief that his violence was caused by disputes between the parties that would be avoided when they no longer live together. The actual research demonstrates that the most dangerous time for a woman is after she has left her abuser. Three-quarters of women murdered by their intimate partners are killed after they ended the relationship. Most of the contested custody cases are based on the abuser tactic of seeking custody to regain control over the mother. He has often told her that if she leaves he will take away the children and bankrupt her. Court professionals without an understanding of domestic violence dynamics rarely recognize his litigation tactics and willingness to harm the children in order to maintain control as a continuation of his domestic violence tactics.
In one Oklahoma case, the abusive father spent thousands of dollars and demanded depositions of administrators in a school his daughter attended over disputed fees that were far less than he spent on legal fees. He refused health and child care benefits from his employer that would have cost him nothing. When it became obvious he could not gain custody, he asked the court to put his children in foster care despite the fact the mother always provided good care of the children. The court never saw these harmful actions as a continuation of his abuse.
In many custody disputes the father has a new wife or girl friend and he uses her to testify that he is a good father and treats her respectfully. He is trying to show that it is only the “crazy” mother who has a problem with him. Many court professionals allow themselves to be manipulated by this tactic. The new partner is usually telling the truth so can be very sincere. He treats her respectfully as long as he needs her testimony to help his custody case. This is completely understandable because domestic violence dynamics explains that abusive men are able to act respectfully. They usually do this at the start of relationships or else there would be no relationship as well as when witnesses are present.
Similarly the abuser may provide several friends and family members as witnesses that they never saw him act abusively. This tells us nothing about how he acts to his wife in the privacy of their home, but many court professionals treat this as valuable evidence.
The Saunders’ study also found that evaluators and other court professionals often placed too much emphasis on the mother’s anger or emotion. This is all out of proportion to any impact on children. It is normal for battered women to be angry and emotional at the mistreatment they suffered by their partner and too often by the court. In many cases the abuser deliberately takes actions to upset the victim immediately before a court appearance.
The Saunders’ study found that evaluators and other court professionals without the necessary training in specific topics like risk assessment, screening for domestic violence, post-separation violence and the impact of domestic violence on children tended to focus on harmful beliefs like the myth women frequently make false allegations, unscientific alienation theories and beliefs that attempts to protect children from abusers are harmful to the children. Significantly these mistaken notions are also more common in professionals who do not understand domestic violence dynamics. Saunders found that these beliefs are associated with recommendations and decisions that are harmful to children.
This demonstrates how the interaction of misinformation and ignorance magnify the harm done to children. Michelle Jeker is one of the many victims of the court system’s failure to respond appropriately to domestic violence. At the start of the case I had the opportunity to review statements from many different potential witnesses as I was planning to be an expert witness. I was most impressed that the one witness with training in domestic violence confirmed the mother’s allegations. The court professionals instead relied on statements of friends and family of the father who had no knowledge of his treatment of the mother. She had made some false statements under pressure from her abuser while they were living together and this was used to discredit her. The professionals seemed to never consider the father’s role. When it came time for me to testify, the judge refused to even let me take the stand. He said that he had been a family court judge for 17 years and so did not need the assistance of a domestic violence expert. This is the danger of providing training and particularly partial training because it gave the judge a false sense of confidence despite a lack of understanding of domestic violence dynamics.
The judge’s complete lack of understanding of domestic violence issues is demonstrated by his decision to create the kind of extreme outcome that the Saunders’ study found to always be against the best interests of children. These are cases in which the alleged abuser receives custody and a mother who is the primary attachment figure and always provided good care of the children is limited to supervised or no visitation. We know this is always against the best interests of the children because the harm of separating children from their primary attachment figure, a harm that includes increased risk of depression, low self-esteem and suicide when older is greater than any conceivable benefit the court thinks it is providing.
In fairness to the judge, he did not have the benefit of the Saunders’ study to help avoid his tragic mistake. Unfortunately, subsequent judges have treated the initial mistaken decision as the final word on domestic violence issues so they have been unwilling to hear testimony based on new events and new research that would help the court understand how the existing order is harmful to the children. I do not know what is in the judges’ hearts, but their refusal to consider new information that could undermine the earlier mistakes creates the appearance that they are more interested in protecting themselves and their colleagues instead of the children. Recently, the son hired his own attorney and sought to obtain normal visitation with his mother. The court created an extended delay before it would hear the child’s application. By the time the child met with the judge, the father had sufficient time to silence him so that he was afraid to tell the judge what he wanted.
In similar situations where the father is limited to supervised visitation because of genuine safety issues, courts seem to feel enormous pressure to resume normal visitation with the father. The Jeker case is another example of a pattern that when courts restrict mothers from normal visitation because of alienation or other non-safety issues they are willing to keep these harmful arrangements for many years.
At one point the mother was watching her son’s little league game and the father punched her in the face in front of witnesses. Two other mothers signed affidavits confirming the father’s assault. It turned out that one of the mothers had a child whose law guardian was the attorney for Jeker’s ex-husband. Despite the obvious conflict of interest, the attorney was permitted to continue in the case and unsurprisingly, the witness recanted her allegations. Despite the questionable circumstances, the prosecutor brought charges against the mother. She agreed to a plea based on poor legal representation, but with the promise that would end the matter.
Instead it appears she is about to be jailed for the third time because she continues to truthfully say her ex assaulted her. Although research demonstrates that fathers involved in contested custody are 16 times more likely to make false allegations, it seems that it is only abused mothers who are ever subjected to prosecution. This is part of the strategy to silence mothers who complain about the court system as they try to protect their children.
These are the kinds of mistakes that would never be made by professionals who understand domestic violence dynamics or are open to the research that proves courts are making frequent mistakes in domestic violence cases. The court in the Jeker case would be well advised to consider something Joan Zorza, one of the leading experts in domestic violence has written, “Until judges and other professionals receive the specific training they need to recognize these patterns (and as noted previously, many have such strong preconceived notions that they will not learn anything from even the best training), they must consult with genuine DV experts, particularly DV advocates. Otherwise, as shown in many parts of this book, courts often make mistakes that place the lives and safety of protective mothers and their children in jeopardy. In this context, it is important for courts that rule against alleged victims of DV to be open to the possibility that they made a mistake. Courts should be reluctant to take punitive or retaliatory actions against mothers who continue to believe their partners abused them.” The courts in the Jeker case have repeatedly ignored this good advice and in fact have refused to consider the new research upon which it is based.
Abusers tend to be very good at manipulation. We often see them admit a small part of their abuse in order to seem sincere. This is what Nixon referred to as a limited hang-out during the Watergate investigation. They will also cry to seek sympathy and create the illusion of sensitivity. Many court professionals decide that he may have committed some abuse in the past but is now safe. It is not that this would be impossible, but it is far rarer than court outcomes would suggest. Courts are also far less skeptical of father’s allegations even though the research demonstrates their false charges are far more frequent than complaints by mothers.
Abusive fathers with the help of “fathers’ rights organizations and the cottage industry of lawyers and psychologists who make a living helping abusers have developed a host of deceptive tactics for custody cases. These tactics have been shockingly successful in placing children at risk. Genuine domestic violence experts would rarely fall for these tactics, but few court professionals have the needed expertise including a good understanding of domestic violence dynamics. This makes cases that should be easy to recognize difficult for courts to recognize and protect the children.
A wide variety of experts agree on the obvious solution to the missing expertise about domestic violence dynamics in the custody courts. The Batterer as Parent which is one of the leading authorities on domestic violence and custody recommends that if an evaluator does not work with a domestic violence shelter they should consult with someone who does. The American Psychological Association and American Psychiatric Association recommend that if a professional is working on a case that requires expertise in an area they do not have they should consult with an expert who has the necessary knowledge. The Greenbook Initiative created by the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges recommended that child protective agencies work with domestic violence agencies when responding to possible domestic violence cases. It seems so obvious and necessary for court professionals to consult with domestic violence advocates or other experts who understand domestic violence dynamics before making decisions that could place children (and mothers) in jeopardy. Nevertheless, the courts rarely seek the needed expertise and in many cases have actually refused to listen to experts who have the required knowledge.
In a two year period between 2009 and 2011 we found news stories about 175 children murdered by abusive fathers involved in contested custody cases. In many of the cases the courts provided the killers with access to the children that enabled them to murder the children. In one of the cases, involving Baby Wyatt the judge gave the father access saying that he believed the mother was lying. This was not based on the evidence, but more likely on the mistake cited by Saunders that inadequately trained professionals believe the myth that women frequently make false allegations. After the murder, Judge Lemkau was genuinely sorry about the harm his decision had caused, but said there was nothing he could have done based on the information he had. In one sense he is correct; that as long as judges and other court professionals attempt to make these life and death decisions using the present flawed practices without an understanding of domestic violence dynamics, they are unable to make an informed and safe decision in all too many cases.
For the next volume of Domestic Violence, Abuse and Child Custody, Dianne Bartlow and her students interviewed judges and other court officials in communities where the 175 children were murdered by abusive fathers. They wanted to find out if the courts reformed their practices in response to the tragedies in their communities and the new research that would help them make better decisions. It was interesting to see that the judges and other court professionals who agreed to be interviewed are probably the best judges. That is why they were willing to take the time to discuss domestic violence issues. They were open to looking at the research and considering reforms, but with rare exceptions even the murder of a young child did not result in the courts adopting the needed reforms.
Training in domestic violence and particularly the specific topics recommended by the Saunders’ report would give court professionals a better understanding of the issues they face in domestic violence cases. The training however does not provide a feel for how domestic violence dynamics works. Professionals can learn about the importance of context or the fear of the victim. They can learn that domestic violence includes so much more than physical abuse, but these and other factors can be easily misapplied without a feel for domestic violence dynamics that is more than just words on a page.
Dr. Paul Marcus, the evaluator who was described earlier as describing a good training as “not life changing,” decided that the complaints of the mother could not be “real” domestic violence because her injuries were not severe enough. He was expecting someone who was beaten bloody or had broken bones. He acknowledged that domestic violence includes more than physical abuse but failed to apply this in any meaningful way. Marcus is a strong advocate of shared parenting and sought to pressure the mother to accept shared parenting with her abuser. There is strong research that shared parenting is harmful to children even under the best of circumstances as it is disruptive to their lives, two homes is really no home and they often have what they need in the other home. It is possible to make an argument to use shared parenting under the best of circumstances. This would mean the parents are able to cooperate, can speak openly, live nearby and want to share parenting responsibilities.
In the Queens case handled by Marcus, the parents could not cooperate, leveled serious charges against each other, the mother was afraid of the father because he abused her and the mother strongly opposed shared parenting. In addition the parents did not live close to each other and the father often worked 80-100 hours per week. Most states that allow or encourage shared parenting make exceptions for domestic violence and when the parties cannot cooperate. In their zeal to promote shared parenting, however, courts often fail to limit it to cases with the most favorable circumstances that give it a chance to succeed. Instead, we often see courts pressure the victim to accept shared parenting and use therapy, counseling and other approaches to force a shared parenting relationship under unfavorable circumstances. The frequency that courts fail to recognize domestic violence or minimize its importance means that the prohibition form using shared parenting in domestic violence cases is ineffective. Courts often do not realize that this creates more litigation because the arrangement works poorly for children and creates more disputes that the court must resolve later.
It would be comforting to dismiss Dr. Marcus as an unusually bad evaluator with an agenda and a bias, but the problem is more systemic. Although Marcus demonstrated a lack of familiarity with current scientific research and failed to read the material provided in his training, engaged in many biased practices favorable to the father, acted in a sexist and unprofessional manner by referring to the mother as “hon” short for honey and did not know how to recognize domestic violence tactics, this did not cause the law guardian or the judge to discredit his report and testimony or be open to other witnesses who had more knowledge about domestic violence.
No genuine domestic violence expert or advocate would ever make the kind of mistakes made by Marcus and so many other court professionals. Their approach is inconsistent with an understanding of domestic violence dynamics. That is why custody courts must have input from someone with this vital knowledge in order to make informed decisions that protect children.
Children who witness domestic violence suffer greater illness and injury as children and adults, require more medical treatment and have a shorter life expectancy. Their developmental progress is impeded. When they grow up they are more likely to engage in a wide variety of harmful behaviors that can ruin their lives. Fathers who abuse one partner are likely to abuse future partners and if he receives custody or unsupervised visitation the children are likely to witness further domestic violence. This multiplies the risk to children. In other words the danger of destroying children’s lives is far too great to permit courts to continue to make decisions without considering domestic violence dynamics and with extremely rare exceptions, the professionals now relied on do not have this necessary expertise.
Domestic violence involves a specialized body of knowledge. Professionals do not receive this expertise in the course of their academic work to obtain degrees in law, psychology, medicine or social work. It is possible for professionals in these and other professions to become expert in domestic violence but it takes a substantial commitment to understand these issues and more than a little humility. I can learn from reading the research by Nicolas Bala and others that women rarely make false allegations of abuse, but I know this to be true because of the thousands of women I have spoken with and worked with on domestic violence issues only a very few have made deliberately false allegations. Much more common is women denying or minimizing true allegations of abuse. It is incredibly painful and embarrassing for women to speak about being abused by a man they chose to trust. Professionals who just read the research do not have the feel for how it works. Those professionals do much better than the professionals who have little training or like Marcus won’t allow the research to interfere with their preconceived misconceptions. In the short term, the only way custody courts can protect children is to listen to experts in domestic violence who understand domestic violence dynamics. More and better training can help and as more professionals are exposed to the right information, and the flawed practices are abandoned, the courts will gradually become better able to protect children. We should encourage more training, because it can help, but by itself it will not solve the problem of courts sending children to live with abusers.
When I speak about the importance of using current scientific research to inform court decisions, some of my colleagues express concern because there is plenty of biased and inaccurate research. We have seen many members of the media report on bad research studies that found women assault men almost as often as men assault women. It is news because it is so different from what we usually hear, but is it also inaccurate. Much of this bad science is based on the use of conflict tactic scales in which they count the hits without considering the severity or purpose. In the case of women the hits are usually less severe and often based on self defense or to make him stop his abuse. The studies often fail to consider rape which is overwhelmingly a crime committed by men against women. The bogus “research” about alienation is based on the assumption that virtually all abuse allegations made by women are false. In reality in the context of contested custody less than two percent is false. Researchers, like court professionals frequently make these mistakes because they do not have the necessary domestic violence training or an understanding of domestic violence. Many are manipulated by abusers. In one study reported at an IVAT conference, the researchers sought volunteers for their study at a “fathers’ rights” web site. The men claimed they were assaulted by their partners but the police did not bring charges because they don’t take abuse of men seriously. The researchers blindly accepted the men’s claims and never considered the police more likely refused to bring charges because of a lack of evidence.
Many judges have expressed reluctance to listen to domestic violence experts because they consider them biased. Ironically these same judges often treat lawyers and evaluators who routinely advertise for “fathers’ rights” business and use approaches that favor abusers because it is a good source of revenue, as if they were neutral. The failure to rely on domestic violence experts is really based on a lack of critical thinking. These experts would not support false allegations because battered mothers have been severely harmed by the rare cases in which mothers have made false allegations. This has unfairly undermined the credibility of all women. Domestic violence advocates seek to reduce domestic violence and protect children from danger. Coincidentally this is the same purpose of every legislature and the laws they have passed seeking to prevent domestic violence. These are the experts who understand domestic violence dynamics and could help courts keep children safe.