My mission is to stop the harmful effects of legal custody disputes and to raise awareness around parental equality. There is a simple alternative solution to custody that would help families, but the gatekeepers of family law protect the volatile arrangement of custody. It is a key revenue driver for the industry of family law. 

Over the past eight years, I have met with children of divorce, single parents, family mediators, custody evaluators, parental rights activists, child psychologists, the Oregon State House of Representatives, and the Oregon State Senate. I also participated in two work groups that were both appointed by the chairman of the Oregon State Senate Judiciary Committee.

My takeaway from my involvement was that end-users of family law feel the harmful effects of custody, professionals in human services understand the harmful effects of custody, and professionals in family law want to protect the legal arrangement of custody. It is the most lucrative fight in family law.

Custody is an entitlement and shame-based legal arrangement that, when disputed, marginalizes parents and hurts children. Sole legal custody is awarded to one parent and legally disenfranchises the other, while the children are considered as the award. We often hear about gender and race inequality, but we do not hear much about parental inequality. Sole legal custody hijacks parental equality and negatively affects the integrity and balance of the family.


Broken Through covers my humbling firsthand experience and chronicles my quest to find, and implement, a better solution for families facing separation. My "three-pronged approach" will empower the court to allocate decision-making responsibilities (in lieu of the zero-sum game of legal custody disputes), preserve equal involvement of parents in their children's lives, and allow for children to have a voice about their best interests and welfare at a certain age.

“Attorneys should be like midwives or sherpas in Tibet. We are trying to get people from here to the next chapter with some degree of elegance, with some degree of belief that the future is not going to stink as much as the present does.”


family law attorney


Official Site of Joseph Cowles

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The Path to Parental Equality
By Joseph Cowles

From his experience, Joseph Cowles recounts how legal custody of a child is an inflammatory concept that can break families apart beyond repair. He learned that the zero-sum game of custody disputes awards all the major decision-making responsibilities for a child to one parent while legally disenfranchising the other. In addition, he found that parenting time with a child is typically skewed toward the entitled sole-custodial parent.

This book tells Cowles’ story and chronicles the steps he took to pave a better legal path for families facing separation. He proposes a solution that considers the best interests and welfare of children, offers equal opportunity to parents, and assists families in their transition
into the next phase of their lives by preserving family balance and integrity. Furthermore, Cowles describes his quest to implement his alternative solution with the state of Oregon.

Learn about Cowles’ firsthand experience of enduring the harmful effects of current custody laws and about his continued quest to legally implement a better way for families to navigate separation than the current inflammatory custody laws, which promote litigation and destroy families.


About the Author

Joseph Cowles grew up in Eugene, Oregon with his ten siblings and single mother. Competitive sports have always been his favorite hobby and traveling to other cultures is his lifelong passion. Present day, his favorite activity is spending time with his son and two dogs.



As a licensed attorney of twenty-five years I found Joseph Cowles’ book refreshing and insightful.  The family law system is completely broken and the children in a divorce are often placed in a hostage rescue situation as the parents spar for legal and visitation rights.  The ability of one spouse to play victim in front of the court for strategic advantage is more over played than the flop in soccer.  It remains a mystery why the court doesn’t start with a presumption of joint legal and physical custody when both parents create their offspring and both have a right, until proven different, to parent their children.  Instead, the court assumes the mother is best suited to this task and if a mother cries foul by playing the “domestic abuse” card, then the courts most often limit the father’s right regardless if the allegation is supported by fact.  Regardless of how you view child custody laws, this book will prove engaging and at times challenging to the reader’s sense of fairness.  It’s time to create a new family law paradigm that is based on the child.

Joseph Cowles' book, "Broken" is a riveting read. It begins with  the heart rendering story of a father who just wants equal time and say with his son. Mr. Cowles then navigates the reader through the twists and turns of the biased and hamstrung court system. A must read for anyone dealing with the courts concerning custody issues and for others to get a bird's eye view into this aspect of the justice system. So glad I read it!


Author of “Couples Journey”






Joseph Cowles

Tel: (541) 653-9552 |

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