Child Abuse Allegations in Custody Cases
How to Win Child Custody)
Allegations of child abuse have dramatically increased over the past several years. While the impact on the court has been tremendous, the impact of merely the allegation on the accused can be devastating. There is no more serious charge to make or against which to defend.
If you suspect that your spouse has abused your child, the first concern is your child. Locate the foremost child-abuse therapist in your community and tell them your concerns. Have them see your child immediately. Young children put these incidents out of their mind as quickly as they can; it may be impossible to get your child’s version of what happened if you let a month go by.
The therapist is required to file a report if child abuse is suspected. Use this report to obtain a court order immediately suspending all visitation if the other parent is the suspect. This order will remain in effect until the court determines what the ground rules are while the allegations are investigated.
The usual rule about being innocent until proven guilty is turned upside down in cases of suspected child abuse. Because of the child’s vulnerability, all access by the suspected parent ceases immediately, based only on allegations of the therapist.
Richard’s visitation rights with his daughter were suspended by court order issued on the unsworn statement of the therapist. We salvaged supervised visitation, at Richard’s expense, while the allegations were investigated. They were found to be entirely untrue. Richard, the real victim, was left with a stigma that is fading slowly, a large bill for attorney’s fees and expert costs, and a damaged relationship with his child due to the interruption of the time they spent together.
Courts often discount allegations made by a parent alone because of the ease with which they can be made and the burden on the parent accused to disprove them. Monetary penalties are now available for making false accusations of child abuse, known to be false when made. False allegations by a child are apparently rare. Take your child to a respected therapist without delay to get the real story if in any doubt. The therapist, not you, will bear the brunt of the cross-examination.
The timing of the allegations doesn’t seem to mean anything. The fact they aren’t made until after separation, when custody is disputed, does appear suspicious. However, what if it the reason is that the offender is now out of the house, allowing the child to feel safe enough to tell the other parent?
If you are unfortunate enough to be accused of child abuse, you may need a specialist to represent you. Being a family law practitioner does not necessarily equip one to deal with a child abuse case. You will need criminal defense counsel to advise you about criminal charges that may be brought against you.
Retain a therapist as an expert. You will want a person who is experienced at testifying in child abuse cases and has served as an impartial evaluator. You will have to seek and follow the advice of your specialists in taking a firm and vigorous stand in denying the charges. In the divorce proceeding, take whatever steps necessary to continue as much visitation as possible. This may include paying for a professional to monitor your visitation, if there’s no other way you can see your children while this mess is being straightened out.
Your defense against these charges in the divorce proceeding starts by getting all the facts the therapist used to reach the opinion. You’ll raise other possibilities that may exist to explain your child’s story, including an attempt by the other parent to get custody. Another adult in your child’s life may be the offender. Your child may have had this suggested in some way. Your entirely innocent behavior with your child may have been distorted so much that taking a bath with your young child, as you always have, now sounds sordid. Your expert will review the facts, advise, testify about the weakness of the allegations and present another, entirely plausible, explanation for your child’s story.
The court may appoint a guardian to represent your child in this litigation. Under the circumstances, at least one parent has a conflict with your child. Any sign that your child is being subjected to multiple examinations will probably incline the court to grant any request for a protective order.
Confront and resolve child abuse allegations as quickly as possible. The child’s testimony soon fades, the accused parent is deprived of the child while suffering anxiety and loss of reputation, and the parent bringing the charge is in turmoil and may also be criticized for doing so.
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How to Win Child Custody