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Dear Ann Landers: I am sick and tired of the way you always take the woman's side and make the man out to be the villain. You recently printed a letter from "Finally Happy Dad," whose wife had been beating the daylights out of him.

Your response was especially interesting. You commended him for writing, and referred him to the Domestic Violence Hotline, but said nothing about the fact that he spent years in the courts, plus $55,000, to get custody of his child. That sort of thing is a disgrace, and it happens all the time.

When a woman is abused, she can pack up her things, take her child with her, go to a shelter and have very little trouble getting custody.

If a man wants to leave a woman, he better not take anything from the house, or he could be accused of stealing. Furthermore, there are no shelters for abused men, only fleabag hotel rooms in the worst part of town.

The good news is that the police are starting to do a better job in domestic-violence cases. Now, we are hearing more about husbands and boyfriends who get beat up, but rarely does the woman have to pay a fine or go to jail. It would help if you addressed this problem in some future columns.

The court system in this country has always been prejudiced against males in cases involving divorce and child support. Also, most men do not have $55,000 for legal fees.

And one more thing, Miss Landers. The children are not always better off with the mother, and I wish you had said so.

-- A Reader in Bay Port, Mich.
Dear Mich.: I plead not guilty to "always taking the woman's side." Where were you when I printed those letters from men whose ex-wives spent the child-support payments on themselves and used the children as leverage to get luxury items? Did you miss the letters from women saying the children were better off with their ex-husbands? I have printed several.

If you are a regular reader of my column, you will know that I print both sides of the story. I do believe, however, that divorced women are more likely than men to get a raw deal because, usually, the ex-husbands have the greater earning power and can hire the best attorneys. In the majority of instances, it is the man who chooses to leave the relationship, and he often takes his money with him.

Familiar words

Dear Ann Landers: Here is a story I read in the Orlando Sentinel. If you think your readers will enjoy it, please run it in your space.

-- N.S., Mims, Fla.
Dear Mims: I do, and I shall. Here it is, with my thanks:

Max Gordon and his bride-to-be, Mollie Levy, got a bit of a shock when they tried to get a marriage license. Instead, the clerk handed them a book.

"So," Mollie asked, "what's the book about?"

"It's about parenting," said the clerk.

"Parenting?" Mollie replied, "We don't need to read the book, we can write one."

Max Gordon is 90. Mollie Levy is 82. Between the two of them, they have six children, 14 grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren. Still, under Florida law, their union was just another marriage that needed safeguarding by the Marriage Preparation and Preservation Act of 1998.

So, the lovebirds sat down with the Family Law Handbook. Mollie had to read it to Max because of his cataracts.

"The only reason I read it was because I thought we might have to take a test," Mollie said.

And now, this is Ann again. I hope a real estate agent didn't try to sell them a home near a school.

Problems? Dump on Ann. Write her at The Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, N.Y. 14240.

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