‘The Custodial Vulnerability of Women,’ the Child Victims caught in between, and a Personal Call to Help #KeepFinnWithHisMommy

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Drawing that I did of Natalle and her son Finn

Hello Skydancers, Mona aka Wonk the Vote here! It’s been a good long while since I’ve frontpaged a blog post, but I’m back with a feminist cause very near and dear to my heart. Kat, BB, and JJ have generously allowed me the space to share. First I want to cover the issue more globally, but then I will zero in on a case in point—my very dear friend Natalle’s custody battle for her son Finn—a child who she wanted more than anything, who she loves with all her heart, and who she now has to fight to keep with her due to her ex-male partner’s 4 year and counting opportunistic use of the legal system to continue the abuse of their relationship.

Mothers on Trial

“Mothers are not protected by patriarchal law or custom.

51Jna6V7yGL._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_Double standards pervade the child custody courts: fathering is over-valued, mothering under-valued. Fathers often win custody even when they are parentally uninvolved or abusive; mothers lose it for any departure from an idealized stereotype of motherhood. In particular, male violence is routinely minimized and female response to it seen as pathological.”

—Phyllis Chesler, Mothers on Trial: The Battle for Children and Custody

I want to be clear here that psychological violence also counts, and that using custody as a way to continue harassing the other parent is an extension of that violence. It is tool to continue the psychological damage long after the relationship is over. Getting over any sort of imbalance of power or toxic situation is hard enough without children involved. But when children are involved and used as pawns, they are the most unfortunate victims of all.

custody

It is such a cruel irony that in our natalistic society where pregnancy and motherhood is first pressured upon women and then legislated, and heartbeats of unborn life proffered as reasons to curtail a woman’s bodily autonomy, living breathing children are most often the ones who pay for a system that does not protect them. In the case of prolonged custody battles where the father uses financial resources to secure the upper hand, it is often the emotional resources that the mother provides that get left by the wayside. Both mother and child suffer, while the father can one-up the mother and destroy her financially and personally as she just tries to keep her child with her.

A woman who has to fight this then is judged for her extreme reactions to extreme circumstances. Fighting back requires assertiveness that deviates from the docility expected of women. All kinds of gender stereotypes related to the concept of “hysteria” then become fodder to destroy her character.

The Feminization of Poverty

povertywomanfaceThe structures of inequality in society put unmarried women and children at the bottom of our stratified system. Unless they have monetary resources to balance out this inequality, they will remain at the bottom of the totem pole and their human rights unprotected.

In the case of motherhood, a woman can either choose to stay at home or go to work. Either choice leaves a mother vulnerable to having her custodial rights challenged. If she stays at home, she loses her financial edge. If she works, she’s viewed as an uninvolved parent.

If she leaves her job to parent at home, then finds herself separated from the father, financially she has no choice but to go back to work in most cases. She runs into the unenviable position of having to give up part of her parental involvement just to have the financial stability to be granted custody but then will suffer for the perceptions formed about her for not being the primary stay at home caregiver she once was.

And when she loses custody she faces the stigma of being an unfit mother, even when logistics and systemic bias are the overriding factors.

Men’s Rights Activism and the False Notion that Fathers are Disadvantaged in the Courts

Alec Baldwin has famously championed the cause of fathers as victims in custody battles, pushing the Men’s Rights narrative that fathers get a bad deal in family court.

when-youre-a-mens-rights-activist-and-you-finally-get-32083531This simply doesn’t bear out.

The idea that mothers get prioritized custodial status of children is simply outdated. The custody process can actually be unduly harsh for mothers, especially #workingmoms (working out of necessity of a single income household), to navigate. Of course there are fathers and children who are victims of mothers who abuse the legal system too, but *systemically* it is women who bear the burden of being judged if they do work and judged if they don’t.

It is women who are scrutinized for their financial choices even though the system has yet to offer women financial parity. As mothers they are judged for being there enough for their children far more than men. Any sort of fatherly involvement is seen as “being a good father,” while if a single, struggling, working mom has to move heaven and earth to make sure she can pay the legal bills to keep her child, she then is viewed negatively for any way that this effort then detracts from her time and resources as a mother.

Which brings me to the personal story I mentioned about my friend Natalle at the beginning.

Keeping Finn With His Mommy

Screen Shot 2019-06-01 at 1.07.19 AMI ask that you read Natalle’s story at GoFundMe and take a moment of time to consider helping. No amount is too small—if you can’t give, share the story. Every little thing helps.

The father of her son has ensnared her in 4 years of legal battling and drowned her in legal fees, over complete minutiae that becomes so vested in fighting rather than coparenting, that it ends up far removed from what it is best for Finn. I refer here to Natalle’s loving description of her son and the relationship they share:

35395658_1558549735337814_rFinn is a sweet, compassionate, bright, curious little boy who loves Star Wars, trains, art, LEGOs, ’80s alternative music, and dinosaurs. He currently splits his time equally between 2 households in 2 neighboring cities. Though it is not an “ideal” situation for him, he is loved and cared for by both of his parents. He does live under a more structured and affluent environment with his Dad, but part of that is due to the fact that his father has the blessing of many family members to help him out in the daily care of our son, and because I do not have any nearby family/additional members in my household, it is just me. Our daily routine is a bit more chaotic, but he still receives the care that he needs and all of the love my heart can give him. What we do not have in material wealth, we more than make up for in the bond and love shared between us. 

Natalle has tried her level best to coparent with Finn’s father, but to illustrate how truly petty the discourse gets, even her spelling his nickname as Finn is a major point of contention. The father claims Finn is too confusing for the son and he should be learning to spell his name as Phineas so it should be Phin. Meanwhile Natalle is working one full time job plus two part-time ones just to keep her head above water and stay a presence in her son’s life. She’s doing everything she can, but she’s still swamped by his excess of resources to battle her in court while she’s just trying to make ends meet.

This week she lost joint custody because she’s having to fight without representation as she has been unable to afford it. Prior to this she had legal representation and was able to effectively fight back the barrage of litigation, but 4 years of this has taxed her financially as well as personally. To make matters worse, the judge that had previously been overseeing the entire case over the years and knew their entire backstory and had thrown out bogus motions in the past suddenly got changed to a judge that isn’t even a family court judge. This judge just made the ruling to take away joint custody based on everything that’s happened since Natalle has been without a lawyer.

She can still fight back this recent ruling but she needs our help to raise enough money to get back the legal representation she needs to do so. Please read, retweet/share, and donate if you can. https://www.gofundme.com/w5maum-keep-finn-with-his-mommy

#KeepFinnWithHisMommy #mothersrights #singlemoms #workingmoms

I include here the beautiful words of Natalle’s friend Melissa:

16252022_10101593873796403_2971444376206685133_o“I have known Natalle for nearly 20 years. She is a strong, intelligent, loving woman. I have heard her story and even read court papers and correspondences between the therapists and lawyers, what she is going through is a result of a flawed and corrupt system, and the nastiness that can result from an imbalance of money, false perceptions of wellness and love and care, and the manipulation of an abusive relationship.

Even if it’s only a little bit, or just a share to others, anything you can give is a little ray of sun into the dark place she’s in.”

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I also want to include the powerful words of my dear friend and internationally bestselling author of If You Find Me, Emily Murdoch:

“Natalle Hatfield is a close friend of a close friend, who just yesterday lost primary joint custody of her son to her ex-partner — her richer ex-partner (this woman works one full time plus two part time jobs) — who was able to out-gun her in court after assailing her with four years of unfounded, mindless and manipulative motions and papers until she couldn’t even afford representation, yesterday.This is NOT the way to gain custody — to take advantage of a loving, decent human being and steal a five year old boy from his mother.

Any bit can help; we can help her fight the good fight and re-gain representation in court, hopefully to overturn this latest judgment.

Please, read her story.

It breaks my heart what this little boy is going through, let alone his mom, also now in debt for years to come as she continues to fight for her son.

As women, as single working mothers or non-rich mothers or once stay-at-home mothers, we deserve our children no less than ex-partners or ex-husbands — non-stay-at-home partners who kept their jobs or who came from richer means.

A woman should not be punished for having stayed home to raise her child, giving up a career and prestige in society in the process, all for the love of a little boy.

Thank you for any support you can muster. The world is unfair; the courts can be unfair; but if we care, we can come together for change and justice and bring “fair” a little bit closer to those who deserve it.

In this case, sending a little boy back home to his mommy.♥️

Please share? Let’s at least show support, for caring is free, and we’d hope others cared enough if it were us in this predicament.”

35395658_1558548224894586_rIf you made it this far, thank you so much for just taking the time to read. I met Natalle through the death of our best friend, Diana, due to suicide. Diana too was a victim of a society that left women with mental health struggles way behind and homeless, and perhaps that is a story for another blog post.

For now though, let me just say that Natalle has become such a close confidante and cherished sister in her own right, and I don’t know what I would do without her. If you could help in any way — be it through donating, blogging, sharing/tweeting through social media, or any little thing, it would be so appreciated more than words can say. Let’s make #KeepFinnWithHisMommy go viral if we can, because after all the best way to fight injustice in the system, is one case at a time until each “tiny ripple of hope” swells together into a tidal wave to take down the barriers in society.

 


33 Comments on “‘The Custodial Vulnerability of Women,’ the Child Victims caught in between, and a Personal Call to Help #KeepFinnWithHisMommy”

  1. Sweet Sue says:

    Mona, thanks for the opportunity. I was happy to give what I could

    • Enheduanna says:

      Hoping the best for Natalie and was happy to contribute a small donation. Wish I could do more!

      My mother had a nasty judge who berated her for not finding cheaper day care for my youngest sister when my parents divorced and she was trying to get money from my father. This was years ago and there was never any question my father wouldn’t shoulder any of the responsibility of actually caring for his youngest child other than money. The divorce was the result of his philandering for years, even when we older siblings were young kids. Mom had to literally start working in her early 40s after decades as a housewife raising 5 kids.

      She did very well for herself too I might add.

    • Thank you so much, Sweet Sue!

  2. quixote says:

    As often as not when the father is putting up a ruinous, abusive fight to get custody it’s not even because he cares that much about the kid(s). It’s to hurt his ex. Which obviously really really really works. There’s no way to be any kind of Zen or mindful or over that level of pain.

    And then, if and when he does get custody, the kid(s) get ignored.

    I’ve seen it happen twice among my personal acquaintances, and I’m a hermit who doesn’t even know that many people.

    Thanks for writing about this, Mona! Here’s to Natalie beating the system!

    • Precisely, it’s just to extend the psychological warfare of an abusive relationship even after the other person has found a way out of it, and any child caught in between takes on all the collateral damage.

      Thanks so much for reading and replying, quixote.

      • dakinikat says:

        This was definitely the case in my situation. He’d come back at me all the time for silly things like not being able to take them out of state when the only place we’d go was to drive like 45 minutes into mIssissippi to get to the Gulf or when I’d pick them up in OMaha and drive back down here. He has made me the enemy of his life and I wasn’t going to put them in the middle of things even when he lied and went back on things all the time. he beat me up in front of the youngest and kept talking her out of what she saw …

        • Kat, I’m so sorry you’ve had to endure that… you’re one helluva amazing mother and woman. It’s horrifying (yet sadly unsurprising) to me that there aren’t more safeguards and punitory measures in place to prevent male violence and petty anal retentive-ness from overtaking any sense of reason.

          • dakinikat says:

            It was really odd. I finally had to tell the girls and my parents to stop talking about me and not to say anything about me being happy or doing well because he’d flip out and drag me back into court and needless to say, he was in better financial shape them me to constantly hire lawyers. He drug me back into insist I couldn’t take them out of town when he found out I was dating a musician. It was like any thing the kids could possibly enjoy, he would freak out and try to get a court from banning me from doing it. We all had to pretend to be miserable so he felt secure about himself. It got to be such psychodrama that I was glad when they just moved down here for college and stayed away from him for awhile.

        • Sweet Sue says:

          I’m very sorry.

    • NW Luna says:

      “It’s to hurt his ex.” Nods. Mine! Mine! Especially in this case because the child is a son. I hope Natalie gets Finn back.

      • You’re right. It’s so territorial.

        I want to tread lightly here as the case is still ongoing, but I will say in a more general sense in these types of cases that the custody battle simply becomes a way to ‘exact revenge’ for the other person having the guts to check out of an abusive relationship even though they depend on the controlling party financially.

  3. Enheduanna says:

    I’m sure you’ve all seen the video of the guy that rushed Kamala Harris onstage. I was really so impressed how she kept her cool and very impressed with Karine Jean-Pierre – who immediately responded to protect Harris.

    We’ve got some fierce women on our side and I mean that in a good way.

    • Sweet Sue says:

      Where were the security guards? That was disturbing.

    • I actually haven’t seen the footage yet as I’ve been down with a migraine… thank you for the heads up. I’m glad to hear that Kamala had backup too. Hillary so often had to go it alone on so many things on account of being the first to stick her neck out there.

      • NW Luna says:

        Hope your migraine goes away soon! The video clip is on the previous thread. It’s disturbing that men think they’re entitled to walk up to a stage, jump up on it and yank the microphone away from the rightful speaker. Somehow I doubt he would have done that if she was a man.

        I’d have been tempted to try grabbing the microphone from him, then let go suddenly so his pull would smash the microphone into his face. Of course, it’s easy to think of these things afterwards rather than on the spot. Also if a woman did anything close to that she’d be lambasted for being violent and crazy.

        • Thank you!! I will check it out right now.

        • quixote says:

          The goofiest part of the whole arrogant BS was Mr ManBun responding to someone about how he was showing “profound respect for everyone up on the stage.” (Oh, wait, found the link.)

          Chinese “Re-Eduducation Camps” are the place for him! /Just joking./ //I think// At least he could be forced to memorize vocabulary flashcards. Find out what “respect” means. Little things like that. Plus they’d do us all a favor by shaving his pretentious head. >-(

      • Okay, just watched it. How BIZARRE is he. I swear the bros share more with Trump voters than they realize… or sometimes they even do realize it and would vote Trump before a woman.

        • NW Luna says:

          He’s an egotistical little snot of a man. Yeah, he’d probably vote for Trump as a “protest vote” because he’ll find something he didn’t like about a woman nominee. He’s white; he can’t get pregnant; no skin off his nose.

    • bostonboomer says:

      There were several other candidates there and yet he chose to do that to Kamala. I wonder why? It turns out that the animal rights organization he belongs to is loaded with racists and misogynists. I saw a long Twitter thread about it. I’ll try to find it again.

  4. NW Luna says:

    Mona, great post on how motherhood is used to keep women “in their place” yet also can be twisted into something that women are never good enough at (in men’s judgement).

    Most of the time when couples divorce, the man’s income rises and the woman’s decreases. Men’s jobs usually pay more, and child care is too expensive in this country.

    • NW Luna says:

      I’m reminded of the studies on domestic chores: men overestimate the time they put into household chores, and women put in more hours regardless of if they’re single or not.

    • Also then on top of it women are then judged for the quality of care– “I would never leave my child there.”

      Thank you, NW Luna! You are so right that motherhood is a double-whammy. I think that’s why it bothers me so much. It’s all so damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

  5. bostonboomer says:

    This was such a great post, Mona. I hope your friend will be successful. After all these years–the new women’s movement began when I was in high school–women still are not treated like persons in their own right.