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False Accusations

cropped justice

False accusations are often made to gain the ‘upper hand’ during a custody battle, to put the opposition at an immediate disadvantage, to tie up the other party with additional litigation, and to hurt the other party out of hate, fear, or spite.  False accusations are an effective way of reversing the prevailing direction of custody cases. 

  • About one-fourth of divorces involve an allegation of intimate partner violence  
           ----  Allen DW, Brinig M. Anticipated and unanticipated legal changes: The case of joint parenting. Unpublished manuscript, February 2007. 

  • In about 70% of cases, the allegation is deemed to be unnecessary or false 
        Johnston J et al. Allegations and substantiations of abuse in custody-disputing families. Family Court Review, Vol. 43, No. 2, 2005. Foster BP. Analyzing the cost and
         effectiveness of governmental policies. Cost Management, Vol. 22, No. 3, 2008.

Each year, about 175,000 children are involved in a divorce with a false allegation of domestic violence.  It is recognized that allegations of domestic violence may be more common in divorces involving children; however, no data is available on this point. Therefore, we make the assumption that the rate of false allegations is the same in divorces with and without children. 

In all but two states, divorce judges are required to consider allegations or findings of intimate partner violence in the award of child custody. Many of these children grow up in single-parent households with little or no contact with the other parent, placing them at far higher risk of poverty, child abuse, and a broad range of social pathologies.

In many cases, the investigating organizations treat abuse accusations as substantive even though no supporting evidence exists.  These organizations, in their zeal to protect children, often ignore evidence that would disprove the charges, may fail to conduct a thorough and competent investigation, or may disregard the context of the charge, i.e. the fact that it is surfacing during a divorce or custody dispute.

The social services organization that investigates the accusation(s) is empowered to immediately remove the children from the home or prohibit the accused from having any contact with the children; they may do this regardless of the facts of the case.  The judicial system, in turn, relies on the findings and the report of the investigating organization(s), and will often prosecute a charge on their word alone.  In essence, these kinds of accusations are taken as true or “believed”, in part, because of the inappropriate and ill-considered policies of the judiciary and the social services organizations.

Filing for a restraining order based in part or entirely on lies or false accusations during custody disputes are not uncommon. Because accusations are frequently made in the context of heated divorce and custody battles, judges may be suspicious by their very timing and such allegations may be obvious to the trained professionals. However, because the system is imperfect, and it is designed to favor the decision to err on the side of caution, courts will often issue unmerited temporary restraining orders. 

When child abuse has really occurred, it is a dreadful thing and should be reported. The perpetrator deserves to be punished. However, making a false abuse accusation is a horrible thing to do to a child. The child will often have to undergo unnecessary and intrusive medical and psychological examinations. If the accusations are of sexual abuse, the physical examinations of the child can be extremely embarrassing to the child. Also, depending upon the circumstances and the age of the child, the false accusations can cause a permanent rift between the child and the accused parent, the accusing parent, or both.

If you have been falsely accused:

Even though you are innocent - take the accusations seriously: When innocent people are confronted with untrue, absurd allegations of child abuse, they frequently assume that this is a simple misunderstanding and that it will be cleared up quickly. They cooperate with police and try to explain. They have faith in our system of justice. They do not demand that a lawyer be present. Take the accusations very seriously.

Don’t be ashamed: If you are innocent, you have nothing to be ashamed of. It is important to contact friends and family members early in the process. Tell them what happened. People tend to form opinions quickly and take sides.

Do not give a statement to the police without a lawyer present: In spite of the founding legal principle that everyone is assumed innocent until proven guilty, in cases of alleged child abuse, police, district attorneys, social workers, and physicians often assume guilt. It is also legal for police to lie to you during interrogations, saying things like, “We have proof that you are guilty, so you might as well confess and we’ll go easy on you.”

Gather support: Organize a defense fund or, even better, find someone to do that for you. 

Get an attorney with specialized experience: Cases involving false accusations of child abuse are complicated, especially because the crime is often one that never occurred. Find a lawyer in your state who has experience in defending against child abuse accusations and a record of diligence, integrity, and success. 

Keep documentation: As with any legal case, become involved in your own defense. Keep detailed notes about everything that happens. Keep a file with official papers and an accurate chronology.

Educate yourself: Read everything you can find on false accusations and how they occur. 

When you are falsely accused, it is easy to become depressed, feel overwhelmed, and want to give up. Do everything you can to maintain your sanity and innocence. Many people beat these charges, recover from the trauma, and go back to live happy lives. Don't give up !