It’s a scenario no father wants to imagine: while going through a nasty divorce involving child custody the father suddenly becomes the target of false child abuse allegations. There are any number of reasons why one spouse will falsely accuse the other — perhaps the accuser is mentally unbalanced, jealous, vying for full custody, resentful, or all of the above.
Whatever the reason, it’s important that you as a father do what you can to maintain a good standing with the court, as well as keep continued contact with your children. This means knowing the right way to fight the battle. This article was written to discuss the unfortunate issue of false abuse allegations, and what a parent can do to get through the situation.
It should go without saying that if you find yourself the victim of such accusations, you should consult a family law attorney for guidance. If, after reading this page you still have questions, contact our office to schedule an appointment.
What the Family Code Says About Abusers
When making determinations of child custody, the court is legally obligated to render decisions that are in the child’s best interests.
While there are a number of different areas of the California Family Code that deal with domestic violence and abuse, Section 3044(a) is perhaps most relevant to the current discussion. It states:
“Upon a finding by the court that a party seeking custody of a child has perpetrated domestic violence against the other party seeking custody of the child or against the child or the child’s siblings within the previous five years, there is a rebuttable presumption that an award of sole or joint physical or legal custody of a child to a person who has perpetrated domestic violence is detrimental to the best interest of the child…”
What this means for parents falsely accused of abuse is that they could lose custody of their children altogether if the allegations are not dealt with properly. Notice the phrase “rebuttable presumption.” What this means is that when the court believes that child abuse has occurred, the burden is placed on the presumed abuser to show that an order of full or partial custody to the other parent is not in the child’s best interest. This can be very difficult to do.
While such a situation can be very frustrating and scary, the good news is the law also provides some recourse for fathers and mothers who’ve been wrongfully accused of abuse.
CA Law Provides Sanctions Against False Accusers
For purposes of this discussion, we’re particularly interested in California Family Code § 3027.1(a), which states:
“If a court determines, based on the … evidence presented to it, that an accusation of child abuse or neglect made during a child custody proceeding is false and the person making the accusation knew it to be false at the time the accusation was made, the court may impose reasonable money sanctions, not to exceed all costs incurred by the party accused as a direct result of defending the accusation, and reasonable attorney’s fees incurred in recovering the sanctions, against the person making the accusation.”
To break it down in more simple terms, this means a father or mother who has been wrongfully accused of child abuse can seek monetary damages from the former spouse for making the allegations. In addition, the parent can collect attorney’s fees for the amount they spent on child custody lawyers to fight the bogus allegations.
What Other Options Are Available To Those Falsely Accused of Child Abuse?
While many fathers, once cleared of abuse accusations, might be happy to settle for whatever custody arrangement the court subsequently allows, there’s something to be said for viewing the false accuser as an abuser.
Specific questions that might be asked include whether or not the accusing parent coerced a child into giving false testimony, or whether the other parent attempted to convince the child that they experienced abuse that never happened. These types of tactics are known as gaslighting and can have long lasting psychological effects on a child.
A father could potentially use the law against abusive a former spouse for making false accusations. This could involve the father seeking sole custody of the child or otherwise limiting the other parent’s contact with the child.
Contacting An Attorney
Hopefully, if you’ve read this article and are experiencing similar troubles of your own, you see the importance of hiring a good attorney to help you navigate the situation. Family law is complex to begin with, but family dynamics add a whole new level of difficulty. Fathers rights are particularly important to men who deeply care about their children.
When emotions run high, it can be difficult to think clearly. This is why it’s always recommended that you hire an objective legal mind to represent your interests during such a difficult time. If you’ve been falsely accused of abuse during a custody hearing, and are considering a legal response, contact our office to see how we can help.
Helpful Links Related to this Page
- Domestic Violence and Child Custody
- Child Support
- Five Common Reasons Parents Lose Custody
- Domestic Violence Attorney
- Paternity Fraud