Mothers on Trial
A feminist writer (Women and Madness; Women, Power and Men) presents evidence that the "maternal presumption" in child-custody suits is being abandoned. In fact, Chesler has found a number of recent cases where the father was awarded custody, even though the mother was demonstrably closer to the children and a more experienced parent.
She examined in depth 60 custody challenges between 1960 and 1981 in the US and Canada and found that 70% of the mothers lost custody either in court or through some private arrangements. The judiciary was often arbitrary and inconsistent. The same judge who stripped one mother of her children because she had a career told another he would award custody to the father because she had no job.
Chesler's small sample may be a statistical anomaly, but she presents it as proof of a growing judicial trend back to pre-20th-century law – which regarded children and wives as husband's chattel. She also includes details from a number of sensational custody disputes, some so appalling that had Chesler not included documentation, the reader would think she had conjured them out of a sick imagination. One example: In 1980, Kentucky judge Richard Revell removed a five-year-old girl from her mother's to her father's custody, despite a doctor's evidence that his examination after a paternal visit revealed that the child had been sexually assaulted. The judge announced that he couldn't believe a father would have sex with his own daughter and ordered the wife to jail for trying to "ruin a good man's reputation."
The material is so strong that one wishes Chesler had played down her patently feminist bias. At times, she even seems to favor maternal needs over children's welfare. This hyperventilating style also demeans her material. The pages sizzle with indignation; subheads in 20-point type shout questions such as, "WHAT TREND OR HIDDEN TRUTH DOES THIS STUDY REVEAL?"; and gratuitous remarks such as "Women: whatever you do, don't quit fighting for your kids" pepper the text.
But, quibbles aside, the book could blow the lid off of what may well be a scandalous situation in the family-court system. Very timely.
This is a bold book, intimate and rich in detail… Chesler is a voice crying out for women. She will never stop
--Kate Millett, author of Sexual Politics and Going to Iran
The 2011 Edition of Mothers on Trial
The Battle for Children and Custody
Updated & revised with 7 new chapters, a new introduction, and a new resources section.
The 2009 Edition of
Woman's Inhumanity to Woman
Including a new Introduction by the author.
Note: The content of external articles does not necessarily reflect the views of The Phyllis Chesler Organization.