Filmmaker Makes It Her Mission to Reunite People Who Are ‘Erased’ From Their Families After Divorce
Documentary filmmaker Ginger Gentile (Erasing Dad), a child of divorce herself, believes that unfair laws break families apart following divorce or separation, which often leads to “erasure” of a child or parent. In response to this problem, she directed Erasing Family to “help kids of divorce understand that the choices their parents made were often controlled by the court system that feeds the conflict.”
Erasing Family follows young adults fighting to reunite with their broken families. Part emotional roller coaster, part investigative exposé, the film “follows the money” to expose why loving moms and dads are erased from their kid’s lives by divorce courts. Erasing Family is an empowering journey of recovery and reconciliation that will encourage families to heal and inspire court system reforms to support families instead of further tearing them apart. The documentary is set to be released in 2019.
We all know of a friend or relative who is “erased” from their kids’ lives after getting divorced or separated. Sometimes this mom or dad spends all the money they have in court fighting to see their kid. Sometimes this erased parent gives up hope and waits for the child to grow up.
The child is told that their parent doesn’t want to see them or is unfit, not knowing that they have a loving parent who wants to be in their lives. Sometimes they reject this parent. Being erased can last a few months – or a lifetime.
Family courts, instead of working to heal broken family bonds, gain money by pitting parents against each other. But the real losers are the children. Erased kids miss out on extended family—grandparents, cousins, even siblings.
These families feel like their story is unique, but it isn’t. 22 million parents in the US alone are being erased from their children’s lives. Both moms and dads can be erased. This is the largest public health crisis of our time but gets almost no media attention. Erasing Family exposes the systems that aggravate family break down and shows how institutions can instead support families.
My parents divorced when I was 13 and always made me feel like I had to pick a side. My parents used me as a weapon to fight over money because that is how you win in family court. What happened to me is considered normal. It doesn’t have to be that way!
It isn’t about blaming a parent. I hope the film inspires adult kids to reach out to erased family members and go on a journey of healing!
3. What is the long-term effect on an “erased child,” “erased parent?
What would you sacrifice to see your child? Probably everything! Erased parents can go bankrupt from court fees, paying for supervised visits, custody evaluations (which typically cost between $20,000 to $50,000). For poor parents, it means not being able to afford a lawyer and having to navigate a complex legal system on their own.
I interviewed about 1000 families before deciding on the three stories that the film focuses on. I observed common patterns, like if a child decides to reach out to their erased parent they are punished—including being kicked out of the house. Sometimes the parent is literally erased by step-parent adoption—the kid gets a new birth certificate with just the step-parent on it.
Erased children are more likely to suffer from depression, become suicidal and engage in self-harming activities. They are more likely to become an erased parent themselves or erase their spouse if they have children.
Erased parents suffer from the trauma of mourning a child, still alive, who they can’t see, then being held responsible by friends and family. Erased kids don’t even know they are victims, believing that the erase parent is bad for them.
4. You What do you hope to accomplish with this documentary?
According to the 2010 US census, 83 percent of custody is sole custody. Instead of parents waging war to prove they are the better parent, let’s focus on helping kids have the best relationship with both. In the absence of abuse and neglect, we want to make shared parenting the new normal. Erasing Family will be accompanied by an impact campaign that will shift the family court system from adversarial to collaborative. Instead of making families go bankrupt, let’s provide therapy and resources to families.
Already our impact work has led to families being reunited and advocates having a new way of talking about an ignored issue.
5. In the meantime, where can families turn for help, guidance and information?
Each week we create a live video to answer questions on www.Facebook.com/ErasingFamily. On www.erasingfamily.org #Erased families will find a portal to share video tributes to their children, sign up to bring the film to their areas, or make a tax-deductible donation so we can continue this journey to reunite families. We invite families to join our growing community online!
There are so few resources for teens and adult children, so we are creating them. We will launch a hotline for kids, peer-to-peer support groups, as well as a book and app. When the film is released in 2019 we will tour the country with community screenings to start conversations that will lead to more resources and reforms.
Every day I get emails and Facebook messages from parents desperate for help who are fighting to see their children. They see this film as one of their last rays of hope. We celebrate every child who is reunited with an #erased parent, but the majority never reunite. That is what we aim to change.
For more information on Erasing Family or to make a donation, go to erasingfamily.org/.
Exclusive for Sunday Paper readers, here’s a sneak peak of Erasing Family:
This piece was featured in the July 15th edition of The Sunday Paper, Maria Shriver’s free weekly newsletter for people with passion and purpose. To get inspiring and informative content like this piece delivered straight to your inbox each Sunday morning, click here to subscribe.