The Battered Mother's Custody Conference focuses on legal and human rights issues surrounding divorce and custody cases for victims of domestic violence.
The Eighth Battered Mother’s Custody Conference: held in Albany, New York January 7 through January 9, 2011. The conference was founded by Mo Therese Hannah, Ph.D. of Albany, New York and Liliane Heller Miller of Charlotte, North Carolina in 2003. Dr. Hannah’s most recent publication was as co-editor of “Domestic Violence, Abuse, and Child Custody: Legal Strategies and Policy Issues” with Barry Goldstein, which was published in 2010.
The conference brings a laser focus to the little known phenomenon of battered mothers losing custody of their children to their abusers in divorce and custody cases. The conference focuses on both domestic and international aspects of the issue; scholarly research; and legal and human rights cases related to domestic violence and child custody cases. Members bring international advocates together once a year. Twenty-eight advocates are scheduled to make presentations at this year's conference.
In a society that sees itself as progressive, and a champion of the needs of the disenfranchised; domestic violence continues to cover the United States in a cloak of disgrace. Many individuals are led to believe that if a victim of domestic violence seeks the aid of police, social service agencies, or sincerely pursues leaving a dangerous marriage through divorce, that the end of her nightmare is close at hand. However, once inside the judicial system, asking for help becomes a myth, as victims of domestic violence do not fare well.
According to attorney Joan Meir in a 2005 article published on “Stop Family Violence Now” (Meier), within U. S. divorce and custody cases, contested cases by abusers result in fully seventy percent (70%) of abusers receiving custody of the couple’s children. Trends like these as well as an increase in petitions protesting the violation of human rights to the Inter America Human Rights Commission, tell a different story.
Ironically, the U.S. was once seen as a safe harbor and respite from injustice in other parts of the world. The U.S. was petitioned as the grantor of political asylum to world citizens suffering from unfair political and legal persecution. Yet, the tide began to turn when the first U. S. citizen was granted asylum from the United States by The Netherlands in 1994.
Holly Ann Collins appealed for protection from an abusive ex-spouse and the right to raise her three children in The Netherlands. Scheduled to appear this weekend, Ms. Collins and her son Zachary Collins will discuss their experience. Now grown, Ms. Collins’ children serve as advocates for the plight of children caught in the middle by the court systems. Her daughter Jennifer Collins founded CA3, “Children Against Court Appointed Child Abuse” in 2008.
Even in cases where the murder of a couple’s children was the ultimate tragic result, injustice has proven extremely difficult to remedy within U.S. Courts for mothers plagued by domestic violence. In 2005 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Town of Castle Rock, Colorado v. Jessica Gonzales, that the state of Colorado was not obligated to enforce the restraining order that was issued to protect Jessica Gonzales' family from her ex-husband, Simon Gonzales. The murder of her three daughters at the hands of their father was battled out in U. S. courts for five years.
Gonzales made ten requests over a ten hour period of time asking police to enforce her restraining order against Simon Gonzales, but they repeatedly put her off. Ultimately her ex-husband opened fire into the police station with an assault weapon, was killed, and her daughters were found dead in his bullet riddled car in front of the police station.
With both protection and justice denied by her own country, Ms. Lanahan (formerly Gonzales) filed a complaint with the Inter America Human Rights Commission protesting the violation of her human rights. The case, Jessica Ruth Gonzales v. USA, was accepted for argument by the IAHRC in 2007.
Their cases known as (Dombrowski et el v US 2007) are currently pending acceptance.
While the United States never ratified the signed agreement making it accountable to the IAHRC for human rights offenses, hope remains that if justice will not motivate the U. S. government to take protective action on behalf of battered mothers and their children, shame will.
Meier, Joan. “Rates at Which Batters Receive Custody”. Stop Family Violence, a Project of the Tides Center. NewYork, NY. November 30, 2005. stopfamilyviolence.org