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“Mothers on Trial”: Updated  

Author:  Joan  Zorza, Esq..

Source: Volume 17, Number 02, December/January 2012 , pp.17-23(7)

Domestic Violence Report

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1986 saw the publication of the first edition of Phyllis Chesler’s seminal book, “Mothers on Trial”, the first book that exposed how mothers were judged far more harshly in the divorce and family courts, particularly in child custody disputes, resulting in them losing custody in droves to their children’s fathers. Her studies, on which she based her book, were completely backed up in the late 1980s by the Massachusetts Gender Bias Study, which found that when custody was disputed, fathers won sole or joint custody 70% of the time. That was a time when joint or shared custody awards were far less prevalent than they are today. Her book helped encourage more states to undertake gender bias studies, and their findings revealed the pervasive, widespread bias against women throughout the family court system in America. They also revealed how women were disadvantaged in judicial selection and election processes; how much worse women lawyers, judges, clerks and court administrators were treated than their male counterparts; and that women as parties or witnesses were held to higher standards and were criticized (and effectively punished) for behaviors that were largely or completely ignored in men. This article is a review and discussion of the book’s second edition: “Mothers on Trial: The Battle for Children and Custody” (2011, Lawrence Hill Books, 512 pages).

Keywords: “good enough” mothers; “bad enough” fathers; MHPs (Mental Health Professionals) blame mothers; smother fathers

Affiliations:  1: Editor, Domestic Violence Report.

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