A protest in front of the Solano County Hall of Justice brought together a bevy of men and women displeased with the county’s handling of family law matters.
The protest, in particular, targeted the family law division judges, who according to many of those in attendance for the April 19 event, in their minds favored fathers in court custody battles, and were ill-equipped to handle domestic violence cases.
“There are attorneys who will not practice in this county because how this county (Solano) treats women,” claimed Jaclyn Quirreh, who participated in the protest. “It’s been happening at least 20 years.”
Solano County District Attorney Krishna Abrams and the Solano County Family Law Division judges declined to comment.
The event brought together a multitude of organizations in addition to the many individuals who felt disenfranchised by the Solano County Family Law judges. Mothers of Lost Children, the California Protective Parents Association, transitional living program, Princess House, and Advocates Against Domestic Violence in the African American Community (AADVAC) were all represented.
Domestic violence, according to Quirreh, is the basis for the lack of justice.
“The current measure that courts apply is, ‘Did you press charges?’
“If you didn’t, it didn’t happen,” she continued. “The psychological and emotional abuse is way worse than the physical. But often, society only looks at the physical aspect because they can measure it.”
However, as Quirreh noted, no charges filed shouldn’t disqualify claims of abuse.
“Most people in domestic violence situations protect the abuser,” she said. “Due to fear, financial disparity, pressure.”
While many women do surpass their fears and come forward, Quirreh says their courage is frequently disregarded.
“Mothers are losing custody of their children completely, even when they bring forward documented evidence of abuse,” she said. “(Judges) aid and abet these abusers.
“The California Child Protective Parents Association in 15 years has had about 5,000 people contact them that had this occur to them in family court,” she continued. “Of those 5,000 thousand cases, only five were fathers.”
According to Quirreh, a number of factors serve as seemingly impenetrable barriers in custody battles against their alleged abusers. The first obstacle is money.
“To get a family law attorney, you’re looking at, at least $350 an hour,” she said. “What average person has that kind of money?”
Another hurdle, described by Quirreh as “the driving force” of the problem, is parental alienation — a psychological process attorneys and judges allegedly subscribe to when deciding which parent to reward custody.
Parental alienation is a practice used by one parent to pit children against another parent, typically deployed in situations of divorce.
Quirreh claims the aforementioned psychological theory is invalid, and disproportionately undermines women. Arguably the most pivotal component in keeping mothers from speaking out, however, is ramifications at the hands of judges.
Quirreh claimed several women opted not to attend the protest out of fear related to upcoming court appearances.
“I can’t speak for all of the mothers because everyone’s case is different, but I do know (a judge) is not doing (the) job,” said one woman, who opted not to reveal her identity.
The woman allegedly lost custody of her teenage son, who was ordered to live with his abusive father, despite no concrete evidence of her being unfit to maintain 50/50 custody, she alleged. If her son shows up on her doorstep, she is legally obligated to call the police on him, she explained.
“Why can’t he live with me? They never gave me a reason,” she said. “I wish they could, so that way I wouldn’t be so out of my mind. But there is nothing, and my child is the one who is suffering.”
Another woman who chose not to disclose her name, is also unhappy with the court ordered amount of time she is allowed to see her teenage son. Roughly two days a month, she said.
“People expect the system to work, to present the evidence and be heard,” she revealed. “If you don’t have custody of your kids, people assume you’re a bad parent. That there must be something you did wrong.”
Another woman estimated spending roughly $10,000 on legal fees in hopes of obtaining 50/50 custody of her son. The woman, a three-time cancer survivor claimed the custody battles have forced her to go back to work for her to support herself and her daughter. The woman said the judge in her case even ordered her to pay her disability benefits, worth $800, to her ex-husband, who boasts more substantial means.
“The whole thing was triggered because I requested child support modification,” she said. “Looking back, I wish I never did it.”
Regardless of each woman’s situation, all remain frustrated that progress remains to be seen.
“The only way something is going to happen is through public pressure,” said one mother.
Public awareness, many believe, is the first step. Said Quirreh,
“The biggest problem we’ve had is getting people to listen to us,” Quirreh said. “To even acknowledge that this is a problem.”
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