Judy"): I was a lawyer in the
family court for ten years. I worked
for the corporation counsel's office
of the City of New York. I prosecuted
juvenile delinquency cases. I did
support and paternity. So, I was in
the trenches and even then, Larry,
it took me time.
I remember the first day that I took
the bench. It was in the Bronx and
the court officers, if was pretty
formal back then, court officer said,
you know, say "All rise"
and I stood up because I was accustomed
to they say "All rise."
We stood and finally the court officer
said "You can sit down now, judge.
They're standing for you. You can
sit down." So, even when you
have experience you need time to get
comfortable in your chair.
KING: I had a judge who became a federal
judge told me once that the hardest
thing to decide was custody cases.
First he had no experience. Who has
experience with custody cases? He's
been happily married, has children.
Who gets whom? Isn't that the hardest
to give a child from one parent to
SHEINDLIN: Yes. Sometimes it's relatively
easy because the choices are clear
but I've always thought in this country
we do a terrible disservice to fathers.
You know there was a time many years
ago when we had what we called the
Tender Years Doctrine, which meant
children of tender years, young children,
always went to their mother.
And then all of the courts in this
country said that's not fair. We have
to be equal. So, on the books there
is a law that says no one parent is
favored over the other, now that's
honored more in the breach than it
is honored in actuality. And, I have
been a proponent for many years of
there being a presumption in this
country for joint custody of children.
That's where courts should start.
KING: That's where you begin?
SHEINDLIN: That's where you begin
and if you're going to deviate from
that, you have to demonstrate by clear
and convincing evidence that there
is some valid reason why you're going
to deviate from that because one parent
is crazy, one parent has a drug problem,
an alcohol problem, something's wrong.
But that should be the standard joint
custody because children are entitled
to be raised by two parents even if
the parents don't get along anymore.
I mean I think it's horrendous when
one parent picks up and moves out
of the state or moves 250 miles away
and some judge in the family court,
the domestic relations court usually
if it's the mother who has moved away
says, "Well, we'll have a hearing
to determine whether it was the right
No, no, no, no, no. You can't say
to people who you've lulled into this
sense of I'm equal, you're an equal
father. You can take off paternity
leave. We expect you to participate
in the rearing of your children, to
go to open school night, to be out
there to play with them. Very often
there are two people working in the
household. They divide authority and
you're equal except when there's a
And then, how often, Larry, I ask
you the question, do you hear it quoted
in the paper "He lost custody
of his children"? You don't hear
that. You hear "She lost custody.
There must be something wrong with
Well I think that that has to change
in this country because it was my
experience in the family court, and
I left the family court ten years
ago, but even my experience on the
television courtroom suggests to me
that there are as wonderful a group
of fathers out there as a group of
mothers and it's about time that this
country recognize that in not only
the letter of the law but the spirit
of the law as well.
A link to the
transcript of the interview is:
Children Need BOTH
to List of Judicial Abuse Stories