When his ex-wife accused him of abuse, stay-at-home dad Mike Murphy knew gaining custody of his 10-and 13-year-old daughters would be almost impossible.
"You're automatically an evil, hateful, abuser. People believe it, absolutely, unequivocally and you're toast, I'm toast," said Murphy, who insisted no evidence of actual abuse has ever been proven in three years of courtroom custody battles.
The current family law practice of doing what is in "the best interest of the child" really only serves the best interest of the mother, argued Murphy.
"We hear a lot about deadbeat dads, but a lot of these so-called deadbeat dads have been beaten down by the system," he said.
Murphy spent Thursday morning outside the court house on Queen Street protesting that system.
Along with fellow dad Steven Plastino, he started a local chapter of Fathers 4 Justice earlier this week.
The international organization aims to make shared and equal custody a presumption in law. That means mom wouldn't get first dibs on the kids; parents would automatically get joint custody in most cases.
Under the current system, joint custody doesn't guarantee anything, said Plastino.
After the first two years of a 10-year battle, Plastino received joint custody of his children. Then his wife moved to St. Catharines and took their boys with her, he said. She moved at least seven times over the next several years, according to Plastino, making it impossible for him to fulfill his joint custody requirements of caring for the children at least 40 per cent of the time.
"It's completely alienated us," he said. "It was a completely kangaroo court the way I see it -- as soon as I walked in there, I was fighting a losing battle to get access to my kids."
The men said they have both suffered from "parental alienation" - their ex-wives turning the children against them.