Family courts, with their proclaimed ideals of fairness and objectivity, often stand as paradoxical entities across the Western world.
Intended as mediators of domestic disputes, in my experience as a lawyer, they too often instead usher women (and their children) into unsafe circumstances and the grasp of financial instability, while bolstering patriarchal structures.
Too often, women wading through separation or divorce find themselves battling not only escalating court costs but also the extensive emotional and financial drain associated with protracted custody battles or the pursuit of protection orders.
Accessing shared marital or relationship property, which should ideally provide a financial safety net, can become a labyrinth of resistance and manipulation too.
Too often women are left afraid or unable to pursue (what are purportedly intended to be) their rights to a better or fairer set of circumstances — both for themselves, and their children.
Beneath the facade of equity, many women (and their children) are in fact left clinging to the edges of poverty, with many then also facing the continuing threat of violence or abuse, despite having left their abusers.
Oh, but “what about the men?” I hear the patriarchal defenders cry.
Don’t you know that women are the ones who “put men through the wringer?”
They steal “his” property and money, “don’t you know?”
And his children too.
That she likely (more than probably) did the predominant share of childcare and domestic labour within the relationship is deemed irrelevant or denied.
But, “how dare she expect to retain primary custody or care of the kids after daring to leave?” — is often the decry too.
Statistically, we know that the majority of divorces are sought by women.
Statistically, we also know that women do more than a significant majority of childcare, eldercare and domestic tasks, while almost always carrying the mental load for the family, even in this so-called age of “equality”.