From Madness to Mutiny: Why Mothers are Running from the Family Courts

 From Northeastern University Press:

From Madness to Mutiny
Why Mothers Are Running from the Family Courts — and What Can Be Done about It
Amy Neustein, Michael LesherNortheastern Series on Gender, Crime, and Law
Northeastern University Press
2005 • 316 pp. 6 x 9″
Gender Studies / Law & Society / Sociology$19.95 Paper, 978-1-55553-656-5

A powerful exposé of the family court system’s prejudice against mothers trying to protect their sexually abused children.
In this astonishing book, sociologist Amy Neustein and attorney Michael Lesher examine the serious dysfunction of the nation’s family courts — a dysfunction that too often results in the courts’ failure to protect the people they were designed to help. Specifically, the authors chronicle cases in which mothers who believe their children have been sexually abused by their fathers are disbelieved, ridiculed or punished for trying to protect them. All too often the mother, in such a case, is deemed the unstable parent, and her children are removed from her care, to be placed in foster care or even with the father credibly accused of abusing them.
Employing a special form of sociological inquiry known as ethnomethodology, they show how judges, private attorneys, law guardians, child protective service caseworkers and court-appointed mental health experts on a day-to-day basis collaboratively produce a closed and claustrophobic family court setting that makes practical sense to the system’s practitioners — but looks like madness to everyone else. They also describe the social interactive work of mothers trapped inside the system. Faced with judicial rulings that seem to violate their most basic parental values, these mothers litigate furiously, take their stories to the press, go on hunger strikes, or turn fugitive with their children through a modern-day “underground railroad.”


From Madness to Mutiny offers an overview of family court malfunction and the parental mutiny that results from it. The authors outline the new legal landscape that makes the madness possible and show how the system has failed to react to severe criticism from media and legislators. And they discuss ways to reform the family courts, with the goal of transforming them from instruments of punishment to true institutions of justice.


From Madness to Mutiny . . . is an emotionally tough but intellectually satisfying read; it is a volume that belongs on the bookshelf of every professional who deals with child custody and child abuse, from lawyers and judges to psychologists and social workers.Journal of Child Custody

“There is extraordinary merit in the claims the authors make… [and] many of the reforms, suggested in the concluding three chapters, are worth consideration.”Law and Politics Book Review

“Unusually rich and detailed documentation . . . Amy Neustein and Michael Lesher have produced a searing and profoundly disturbing indictment of family courts in the United States . . . I commend Neustein and Lesher for their major contribution to this struggle.”
Violence Against Women


“This book is a must read for every feminist, especially mothers.” —Helen Grieco, Executive Director, California National Organization of Women

“A groundbreaking new book that is perhaps the most highly readable scholarly work I’ve encountered in my 14 years in academia . . . The very first to provide the historical and contextual chronology of this system’s steady decline into chaos and corruption over the past two decades. It is eminently accurate and rigorously documented — a book that will hit scholars, professionals, and lay persons right between their eyes. This is the book that mothers have been waiting for . . . I consider this book among the most important of the decade.”Maureen Therese Hannah, Siena College

Click here for TABLE OF CONTENTS

AMY NEUSTEIN, Ph.D., is a sociologist, author, and lecturer. In 1986 she founded a legal research and advocacy center in New York City, Help Us Regain the Children, to study the plight of mothers who lost custody of children. The findings of her study were published in the Journal of Child Sexual Abuse, and have frequently been cited in the published work and lecture material of other researchers. In 1996, she received a Humanitarian Award from Mothers Against Sexual Abuse. Dr. Neustein has also published in a number of national journals, magazines, and newspapers, and has made appearances on radio and television.

MICHAEL LESHER is a lawyer and writer who has published in The Village Voice, The Jewish Week, Forward, Canadian Jewish News, and North Jersey Herald & News. He has contributed to legal publications such as Moore’s Federal Practice, Weinstein’s Evidence, and The Federal Litigation Guide Reporter.

2 thoughts on “From Madness to Mutiny: Why Mothers are Running from the Family Courts

  1. Dear Sarah,

    If your friend hasn’t done so already, it might help to find other protective parents in her state for emotional and legal support. If she has internet access, she can find other mothers with similar cases on message boards and on Facebook. Many are beginning to take their cases public to hold family court judges responsible for their actions. The list of links on the right side of the page should be helpful for her too.

    All the best in everything,


  2. I would any information and or contact numbers for someone who can help. I know a mother in this situation…she pays support and never sees her child…for years…no help from court and not enough money to fight it out legally…as its been almost seven years of the child’s life…..with no mother.

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