The (In)Visibility of Motherhood in Family Court Proceedings

37 Pages Posted: 22 Jan 2013 Last revised: 31 Jan 2013

Melissa L. Breger

Albany Law School

Date Written: December 21, 2012

Abstract

Issues of bias in Family Court in the context of race and overrepresentation of people of poverty have been extensively explored in academic literature. There is arguably a parallel overrepresentation of women, and particularly mothers, in our Family Courts. I question whether the Family Court would function as it currently does without mothers as its core litigants. Specifically, I delve into the implicit gender biases inherent in societal expectations of mothers as all-knowing, ever-nurturing, and ever-protective of their children – expectations that often ignore the complexities and nuances of motherhood. To illustrate my thesis, I focus on a case that I was involved in over a decade ago, which was subsequently featured in Professor Dorothy Roberts’ book: Shattered Bonds: The Color of the Child Welfare System. Through this narrative, the Article raises critical questions regarding the influence of implicit gender bias and the construct of motherhood in Family Court proceedings. As a result of its predominance, has the gender of Family Court litigants become virtually invisible? How might we identify, confront, and address this (in)visibility in our family justice system?

Keywords: gender, motherhood, implicit bias, family, family court, child welfare, mother, bias, family law, reform

Suggested Citation

Breger, Melissa L., The (In)Visibility of Motherhood in Family Court Proceedings (December 21, 2012). New York University Review of Law & Social Change, Vol. 36, p. 555, 2012. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2204680

Melissa L. Breger (Contact Author)

Albany Law School ( email )

80 New Scotland Avenue
Albany, NY 12208
United States
518-445-2311 (Phone)

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