By all accounts it seems like the number of child abductions, murder-suicides have risen to a point of being disturbingly common. The recent murder-suicide of a four-year-old by her father in Milton, Ontario, who was involved in an acrimonious custody battle with his ex-wife is a case in point.
Last year Canadians were horrified to learn of the murder of 11-year-old Riya Rajkumar who was murdered by her father Roopesh Rajkumar who later died in hospital from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He too was estranged from his ex-wife.
There are innumerable cases involving child abductions and murder across Canada including 250 cases related to international child abductions. And the number of domestic violence cases can also be considered as a part of the same issue. Relationships and marriages gone bad is the underlining reason for this sort of tragic crimes.
The late Canadian journalist Christie Blachford spent years detailing cases that emerged from Canada’s family courts. She rightly concluded that ‘those aggressive high-conflict battles that can go on for years, are often complicated and nuanced.’
She wrote despairingly about the whole family court system that was broken.
In my own humble observation and conversations, I’ve had with individuals going through divorce and child custody battles, there seems to be evidence that men get a short shrift from the courts. Invariably it is the fathers who get a raw deal and end up being portrayed as homicidal monsters.
This seems to be borne out by the number of cases involving fathers who’ve either ended up killing their ex-wives, partners and children before taking their own lives. But missing in all this breathless reporting is what pushed a once normal individual who was at a time a loving husband who dotted on his children into an unrecognizable monster living on the edge?
Surely, they didn’t have a murderous streak in them when they were courting their partners whom they later married and have children with?
When relationships breakdown, it is never just one person at fault, both parties have some soul-searching to do, but ego takes over, family and friends get involved and soon enough a solicitous lawyer comes into the picture and suddenly a bad situation can quickly take a turn for the worse. The minute a case involving divorce and custody disputes lands in family court, the truth gets distorted, each side digs in and each side portrays the other side as evil. When the dispute revolves around money, assets including children, things can get messy and ugly very soon. The trauma takes a toll on the mental health of both partners, not to mention the children at the centre of it all.
Historically, courts have invariably favored mothers as the parent who is given primary physical custody of the child when deciding child custody cases. These judgements are often based on a now outdated theory known as the “tender year’s doctrine.”
Statistically, it appears that the family courts in the United States are biased against fathers. For example, 83 per cent of mothers receive custody of their children in divorces. Additionally, men are awarded less support on average than mothers who are awarded support.
And while that was a governing principle in years gone by, in earlier times fathers who lost custody battles were more inclined to walk away and were even happy to be relieved of the burden of co-parenting their children. But today, more men than ever before are reluctant to accept their estranged wives or partners with primary physical custody. They want in. With men often earning less or as much as their spouses, a loss in court could be a body blow and a direct hit to the ego.
While the court makes such decisions after carefully considering what’s in the child’s best interest, more often than ever, fathers aren’t willing to abide by that decision.
Could the hopelessness of the situation and the feeling that the decision made by the court was unfair be pushing some men to lose it and become a danger?
A while ago I had a long conversation with a South Asian who was on the losing end of a child custody battle. He was heartbroken at not being able to have unsupervised meetings with his two young daughters. In court, his ex-wife’s lawyer had portrayed him as an erratic man with a fearsome temper. His ex-wife and mother-in-law were intent on shutting him out of the lives of their children were winning. According to him, South Asian men were perceived to mostly be the bad guys who tormented and beat their women. His ex-wife knew how to push his buttons and when they were in a talking phase trying to work out things, all she had to do was be unreasonable knowing fully well that her husband would raise his voice and get angry. That was enough for her to let the court know that she felt threatened and scared, she also used that as yet another example of her ex being an unfit parent capable of anything.
According to the latest Statistics Canada data, approximately 38 per cent of all marriages end in divorce. The likelihood of children being involved in such traumatic child custody disputes is high.
I don’t believe that a parent who abducts his or her child and even murders the child they love want to commit such a crime. Very often these custody battles are draining both emotionally and financially for both partners, more often the father ends up more impacted. This sort of hopelessness may in part explain why a father would rather kill himself and his child. It is the hopelessness of his situation and hatred of his wife who he perceives has stolen his happiness and reason to live that drives his murderous action.
The world is full of broken people living on the edge of despair. It doesn’t take much for people to break down. A family can often be the only thing keeping a man or woman from falling apart and when that unravels, all bets are off! -CINEWS