During a divorce or child custody case, hurt feelings are common on all sides. In addition, both parents might be fearful of losing custody or of not getting the most favorable settlement from their divorce. Assistance with false charges might be needed if either side tries to manipulate the system.
Strong emotions can indirectly lead to false charges to prevent visitation or custody on the other parent’s side. How does this happen? First, when emotions are running high, it’s possible to misinterpret the intentions of another person, particularly one you’re arguing with. Secondly, some people decide to falsely accuse the other of abuse or other crimes in order to attempt to manipulate the system. In this case assistance with false charges will be needed to help you get a fair judgement.
In other cases, school personnel or other mandated reporters might detect distress in your child (which could, of course, be related to the tension in you and your spouse as you navigate the divorce and custody case) and suspect abuse. This type of situation can turn into an investigation that impacts your custody case.
If you are the victim of false accusations, read on to find out how to handle the situation to prevent it from spiraling and to boost the odds that the judge will see what is happening and rule accordingly.
Take the Accusation Seriously
You know you are innocent, but if someone has accused you of abuse, recognize that it can and likely will impact your custody case. Retain a legal advocate immediately. If you cannot afford a private attorney, seek the services of a legal resource group like National Family Solutions; there will be experts on-staff who can help you understand your options, provide evaluations, and walk you through what to expect.
Document Everything and Have Witnesses
From now on, if you talk to anyone from Child Protective Services (or the equivalent department in your state), the police, any mandated reporters, or the person who has accused you of abuse, take copious notes. Mark down the date and time of the conversation, what was discussed, and when any follow-up, if any, should occur.
It is helpful if you can have a witness during these conversations. If you have a family member or a friend who is willing to be with you during CPS meetings or any other sensitive conversations regarding the matter, that’s helpful. If it’s legal in your state, you could also record conversations. Be sure that you are following the law precisely; you might need to inform the other person or you might need their express permission to record.
Gather Support From Others
While an accusation of abuse can become a “he said, she said,” type of situation, having reliable people in good standing vouch for you can help your case. Talk to your friends, neighbors, employer and clergy members, as well as any of your child’s babysitters or other adults in his or her life to see if they will write up a character statement in support of you. While a judge can’t put all of his or her trust in what is said by people you know, having a good number of people, particularly those who might be in a position of trust or authority (such as a teacher, a pastor, a business owner, and so on) can only boost your reputation. Getting assistance with false charges will only help you build a good case and even give you moral support.
Be Prepared for Supervised Visitation
While it might be unfair, a parent who has been accused of child abuse is not usually going to be able to spend time alone with the child until the charges are dropped. Be prepared to cooperate with supervised visitation. What this means is that you will see your child only while in the presence of another person, usually a neutral third party. Sometimes a relative (such as one of your parents or your adult sibling) will be able to provide the supervision. In many cases, however, you will need to go to a social worker’s office or some other public location to visit with your son or daughter in the presence of an appointed supervisor.
This can feel humiliating, but it’s important to cooperate with these visits. Do not skip visits or act belligerently before, during, or after the visits. Enjoy the time you do have with your child and know that if there is no evidence found that you have abused your child, you will once again be able to have unsupervised visitation.
Assistance with False Charges If You Are Falsely Accused of Abuse
There are some common mistakes that parents make when they have been falsely accused of abuse or neglect. Here are some things to avoid:
- Do not ignore the problem and hope that it will go away. It will not. A judge is going to look into any and all accusations and there will be an investigation, so while you should not panic, you must take it seriously.
- Do not become angry and threaten the person who has accused you. If you believe your ex-spouse or someone in his or her family has filed false charges against you, it’s very natural that you will feel furious and betrayed. Do not act on these feelings. If you get into a verbal (or worse, a physical) altercation, your credibility will be negatively impacted.
- Do not withhold child support. If you have been ordered to pay child support, continue paying it. Child support is not contingent on visitation, and to stop paying it will leave you in legal hot water, possibly in the form of contempt of court.
- Do not admit to anything without legal counsel. Even the most benign actions, such as bathing your child or grabbing their arm if they run into a busy parking lot, could be misconstrued (or manipulated into looking like) abuse. Talk to a legal advocate before you speak to Child Protective Services or any similar entity.
National Family Solutions works with mothers and fathers who have been unfairly accused of abuse, neglect, and other forms of mistreatment and give assistance with false charges. Contact us today to learn more about our service and to see if we are the right solution for your particular situation.