Guiding Patients: Beating False Allegations of Abuse in Child Custody Cases

Here’s a step-by-step guide of how to beat false allegations of child abuse.

FORENSIC PRACTICE

False allegations of abuse are often made during contentious child custody cases. One parent believes that he or she will gain leverage in the case by lodging an allegation of abuse against the other parent. More often than not, the allegation of abuse is a tactic used to alienate the child from the targeted parent. In other words, it is part of parental alienation. A number of steps can be taken by the targeted parent to beat the false allegation of abuse. The following are suggestions to share with patients, as appropriate.

Collect as much documentation as possible to disprove the allegation, including emails, text messages, recordings, pictures, legal filings, investigations, and more. Documentation is compelling to a judge because it is tangible and understandable.

Develop a timeline that shows the sequence of events leading up to the false allegation. What has triggered it? What legal advantage is the person trying to achieve by lodging a false allegation now? A timeline can often uncover the motivation for a false allegation of abuse, and can be presented in court.

Hire an attorney who is proactive, aggressive, and experienced in cases of false allegations and parental alienation. Research and then interview several attorneys before making a decision. An excellent attorney can help win a case; a poor or inexperienced attorney can help lose it.

Hire a mental health expert who can address false allegations, parental alienation, and the particular facts in a case. An expert is invaluable in putting together the narrative and presenting it during testimony in court. A forensic psychologist or a forensic psychiatrist is best equipped to help.

Stay calm and collected and do not say or do things that make you look angry, defensive, deceitful, or guilty.

Do not waiver in your resolve to defeat the false allegation of abuse. A combination of persistence and patience is needed. The legal process can be slow.

As the case progresses, expect further false allegations, especially if the first allegation did not get much traction. It is common for the perpetrator of a false allegation to lodge more of them over time.

Be proactive and assertive in discussing the false allegation with the child’s attorney. That attorney needs to understand fully that the allegation is false.

Typically, a false allegation of abuse leads the offending parent to get the child involved in therapy with a therapist who is sympathetic to that parent’s narrative. If possible, talk with the child’s therapist to set the record straight about the falseness of the allegation.

Gather as much information as possible on the offending parent and his or her motivation in lodging a false allegation. Subpoena relevant records.

In most cases, the false allegation of abuse is part of a parental alienation process. The intent is to disrupt the child’s relationship with the targeted parent, and the false allegation is being used to carry out that mission. The goal is to throw the targeted parent under the bus so that his or her relationship with the child is curtailed or severed. As such, parental alienation may be the core problem in the case.

To be sure, a false allegation of abuse by a parent should be met with negative consequences in court. Loss of primary custody, limited parenting time, supervised visits, court ordered therapy, and/or a financial fine are just a few of the possible consequences. If consequences are imposed, false allegations would stop.

These steps are important in beating a false allegation of abuse. These steps can be compelling and successful. The targeted parent must be proactive, aggressive, and determined in forming their team, collecting documentation, and firmly presenting the truth.

Dr Blotcky is a clinical and forensic psychologist in private practice in Birmingham, Alabama. His specialty is false allegations of abuse and parental alienation. He is also clinical associate professor in the department of psychology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He can be reached at alanblotcky@att.net.