THE CALIFORNIA FAMILY COURT SYSTEM: EXPERIENCES OF PROTECTIVE MOTHERS OF ABUSED CHILDREN
Michelle Kathleen Mercurio
There is a national epidemic of children being physically, sexually, emotionally, and verbally abused and/or neglected by their fathers as a result of custody and visitation orders by the family court system (Rosin, 2014). In addition, the family court system mistreats mothers and children while violating both national and international human rights’ laws. This mixed method study explores the experiences of mothers (herein referred to as “protective mothers”) in California who attempt to protect their children while going through the custody and visitation process.
The study included 24 protective mothers who were recruited from the websites of the Center for Judicial Excellence, the California Protective Parents Association, and Facebook. The protective mothers took a 64-item anonymous online survey that collected both quantitative and narrative data, and were offered an optional follow-up interview via telephone. The survey addressed seven categories, including: “respondent demographics,” “protection of child’s best interests,” “protection of child’s safety,” “equitable treatment of mothers,” “protection of mothers’ safety,” “effectiveness of the California family court system,” and the “adherence with national and international human rights legislation.”
The quantitative data were tabulated and the survey and interview responses were examined to identify common themes, consistent with the content analysis procedure outlined by Saldana (2011). The data showed that the protective mothers and their children are being abused and had negative experiences in the California family court system, which included mistreatment by the Judges, court officers, mediators, law enforcement, and the California Protective Services. A discrepancy was also found between national and international human rights’ laws and the treatment of the protective mothers and their children. The protective mothers took an active role in the research.
This study takes a broad approach to the issue, including both the subjective experiences of the participants and a comparison of those experiences to national and international human rights’ law. Suggestions for further research are included.