The Easiest Lie

11/4/11

By David T. Pisarra, Esq.

…A sea change took place in the area of Domestic Violence following the tragic murder of Nicole Brown Simpson. Approximately three months after her death in 1994, Congress enacted the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). This legislation empowered the federal government to take part in the fight against domestic violence and provides more than $1 billion a year to increase investigation and prosecution efforts.

But as is frequently the case with legislation passed with the best of intentions there have been unintended consequences. According to a study done by the non-profit advocacy group Stop Abusive and Violent Environments, more than 700,000 individuals are falsely accused and arrested for domestic violence each year. And beyond the damage done to the individual, the taxpayer pays a price as well with an estimated $20 billion a year going to social welfare programs to support single-parent families that have been harmed by false accusations of domestic violence.

When one parent wants to take unfair advantage in a divorce or custody case, all that is needed is a claim of domestic violence and the wheels are set in motion. A Domestic Violence Restraining Order is issued and the court will automatically suspend parental rights of the accused. These orders are meant to be a protective measure by the courts. They are to prevent truly violent people from harming innocents and fathers who are truly guilty of domestic violence or child abuse should be viewed as criminals and treated as such.

But in the bitter arena that is divorce court, the charge of domestic violence — the vast majority of which are made by women — and the reaction by the judicial system to it has caused the pendulum to swing too far. There are currently 32 states with civil definitions that classify domestic violence as a spouse being fearful, apprehensive or experiencing emotional distress. All it takes is a claim of “I was afraid” and, valid or not, the “victim” is now presumed to be a better parent and has an advantage when the court makes final determinations of child custody, visitation, and move-away plans to new cities, states or countries. Provocation, not having a history of violence or even being the abused victim, is irrelevant.

In our rush to avoid tragedies through a “zero tolerance policy,” claims of domestic violence have become a fast track process by which unscrupulous parties gain sole custody of the children based on a lie, a lie that is shockingly easy to tell. The result of this gamesmanship is that our courts become overloaded, resources are diverted away from the true victims of domestic violence and children grow up in single-parent homes with little or no access to both biological parents…

…VAWA was enacted to help stop spousal abuse and I believe was created with the best intentions. But in its overzealousness a new abuse has been created and perpetuated — the marginalization of fathers through false accusations. No one wants to turn a blind eye to violence of any kind and offenders should and must be prosecuted. But until VAWA and the courts recognize that guilty until proven innocent goes against everything we claim to stand for, more injustices will take place and more lives will be ruined.

Read more on Huffington Post.