George Knapp, Investigative Reporter
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Equal Rights or Dividing the Sexes?
(Aug. 3) — A local organization that counsels divorced fathers about their legal rights is drawing fire for comments considered by some to be anti-woman. The founder says most of his remarks are meant as jokes. But the family court system that refers men to seek his help now has its doubts.
The organization is called Equal Rights for Divorced Fathers. Judging by the orchestrated campaign of phone calls the I-Team’s been receiving since Monday night, E.R.D.F. and its founder seem to have touched a lot of lives. But some are asking whether the end justifies the means. Does helping dads have to come at the expense of trashing moms?
Ernest Del Casal says, “I’ve always been a person who tells it like I see it.”
That’s putting it mildly. Ernest Del Casal, who founded Equal Rights for Divorced Fathers, doesn’t pull punches. His group was created ostensibly to even the playing field for fathers facing the uncertainties of divorce and custody battles.
Del Casal says the E.R.D.F is pro-dads, not anti-moms, but the t-shirts he displays and sells send a different message, as do the jokes he cracks at his weekly meetings, as seen in this undercover video provided to the I-Team by a third party.
Del Casal is especially tough on some female attorneys. “Because they are women’s rights type people and don’t like what I do and it bothers them,” Del Casal said.
Family law attorney Gayle Nathan says, “It’s like a terrorist organization against women.” Nathan has taken some lumps from Del Casal. Not a big deal, she says, except she can’t believe that public agencies — the family courts, the D.A., even the state — refer men to Del Casal for help. Does it make sense to send men to E.R.D.F when they are emotional and uncertain, and let them joke about beating up their ex-wives?
“To put half the relationship into an organization that encourages meanness isn’t helpful to the recovery process,” attorney Gayle Nathan said.
The family courts have an informal relationship with Del Casal. The court’s self-help center sends over men who have no money, lawyer, or understanding of what they’re up against. Judge Bob Lueck, for one, thinks Del Casal does a decent job of helping husbands with their legal paperwork, which means family cases move through the system better.
Ironically, Lueck is one of Del Casal’s favorite targets. In his newsletter, Del Casal calls Lueck an insecure man who runs his mouth. In his meetings, he says more. Del Casal commented, “He started smoking … crack. He went whack-a-doodle.”
Judge Robert Lueck said, “We look at it as Ernie being Ernie. Ernie has no more credibility over here because he’s unbalanced in the way he presents his arguments. He’s mean spirited, unfair, engages in venomous, vitriolic attacks.”
E.R.D.F is even tougher on other judges. It describes Judge Gerald Hardcastle as hostile, angry impatient and ill tempered. Del Casal’s comment, “This is the most miserable… I’ve ever met. He hates father’s rights.”
Hardcastle declined to comment for this story. Tougher still is Del Casal’s opinion of one female judge. “She’s a mean spirited lesbian that doesn’t like me.”
Does he remember using the term “lesbian” to describe a judge?
Del Casal said, “Mmmm, one of them I said might have comfortable shoes, no makeup, and a lot of body hair. I think I used that terminology.”
Jabs taken at female judges, female lawyers, ex-wives, and women in general do not mean that Del Casal is anti-woman, he says. It’s all just in good fun, meant to build trust with divorced dads. Wisecracks about a wife with two black eyes or the battered women’s shelter are just part of his routine he says.
“I make jokes about old people, ethnic jokes everyday. I make jokes about everything. It has nothing to do with what I do,” Del Casal said.
Which is to educate men about their rights and responsibilities. But as part of that education, in his meetings, Del Casal tells his flock how he would react if his wife ever tried to call the authorities on him. “I’d never let her get to the … phone.”
Del Casal says he has never engaged in domestic violence, nor does he advocate it. Something else he says he doesn’t advocate is for husbands to hide their finances during a divorce, but the information he distributes says exactly that.
The video the I-Team obtained was shot by Debecker Investigations on behalf of a client they decline to name.
George Knapp is a veteran investigative reporter for KLAS-TV Channel 8. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org