A review of "The Child Custody Book", by Judge James W. Stewart. ISBN 1-886230-27-7
Softbound, $16.95, 192 pg. Available from Amazon.com at this link: The Child Custody Book, or from Impact Publishers Inc. Post Office Box 6016 Atascadero, CA 93423-6016, 1-800-246-7228.
The Child Custody Book, by Judge James W. Stewart, starts off well and contains valuable information, however the book finishes with Judge Stewart exposing his own personal biases and repeating some classic misinformation that we've all come to know and hate.
The 13 chapters cover a variety of subjects, from an overview of how custody decisions are made, to conducting yourself during the custody evaluation process, allegations of child abuse and molestation, and more. Much of this information is both accurate and useful, and would be worth the price of the book all by itself.
Similar to the "Divorce Handbook for California" (reviewed here), the text has a no-nonsense tone. The chapters are short and very readable- to his credit, Judge Stewart doesn't mince words, and doesn't include any "fluff". The Child Custody Book is geared towards a more general audience, and as the name implies, more of the information is specific to custody determinations.
Things start to go bad in Chapter 9: "Domestic Violence: Things Have Changed". Judge Stewart has readily bought into the proposition that men commit domestic violence, not women. One memorable quote from Chapter 9 is: "It is important that men admit that the vast majority -- probably over 90 percent -- of abusers are men. ...in the same way that women must face the reality that most child alienation is by women, men must face their responsibility for domestic violence." Judge Stewart also refers to those who commit domestic violence exclusively as "he" or "him", completely ignoring the fact that women commit approximately 50 percent of all domestic violence.
It is both sad and alarming to see a recently retired family court Judge espousing these thoroughly disproven myths. One can only wonder how many men and fathers were punished as a result of Judge Stewart's gender bias in regards to domestic violence.
Judge Stewart also recommends that women go to "women's shelters" for "excellence legal advice". The fact that many "women shelters" are adept at urging women to make false claims of abuse is apparently lost on Judge Stewart.
In chapter 10, Judge Stewart devotes a few pages to parental alienation syndrome, but basically treats it as "no big deal". In Chapter 11, entitled "Will The Court Be Fair?", Judge Stewart loses most of his credibility by denying that gender bias is a real problem. Asking us to suspend our disbelief, Judge Stewart's writes "Don't believe that gender bias in the courts is the reason statistics show more custody awards are made to mothers than to fathers." This is quite possibly the most unbelievevable statement in the book.
In chapter 12, Judge Stewart discusses child support. Unfortunately, his is a world where everyone makes enough money to pay vast amounts child support and not worry about it too much. One fascinating statement Judge Stewart makes it is that "Judges tended to concentrate too much on the bills and debts of the payers -- normally dads -- and not enough on the needs of children." To listen to Judge Stewart, family court is practically a sanctuary for fathers.
Judge Stewart states in the Introduction that "books entitled 'How To Win..., etc..' are fraudulent to the extent that they hold out the promise that there is some secret to prevailing in a custody dispute that will be revealed in the book." This statement makes us wonder why the subtitle to his book is "How To Protect Your Children And Win Your Case".
The the Child Custody Book would undoubtedly have scored higher if not for some of the blatant misinformation and gender bias contained within it. We can recommend "The Child Custody Book", but only with the caution that you stop reading somewhere around Chapter 9.
Based on price (moderate) as well as content (moderate), we rate the Child Custody Book as a 3-star resource (on a scale of 1 to 5).