Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jun 19, 2018

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False abuse allegations are more common in child custody cases than you might expect, and they can have a devastating effect on everyone involved. In fact, according to statistics reported by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources Child Protective Services (2007), there were 37,165 reported cases of abuse in their state. Out of these cases, only 3,998 were found to be valid. If you have been falsely accused of domestic violence or child abuse as part of your child custody case, there are a number of effective ways to protect you and your child.

Preserving Credibility during a Child Custody Case

If your divorce has become acrimonious, it’s time to step back and begin carefully observing everything that your soon-to-be ex-wife does in order to protect yourself from possible false allegations. Some common signs that she may be planning to make false abuse allegations include: becoming abnormally emotional; keeping a record of your communications; making inquiries as to your time spent with your children, or making excuses for not allowing you time with them.

Help preserve your credibility as a father from these accusations by avoiding certain actions on your part. The most important thing to avoid is any hurtful comments – especially in writing. This includes letters or any form of electronic communication such as emails or text messages. Remember that your wife will begin gathering evidence of your alleged abusive nature, so be sure to be professional and amicable at all times. Avoid losing your temper with your spouse in public, especially around family or neighbors; these people could be called as witnesses later. Finally, never speak poorly of your spouse to your children – for their sake and the sake of your claim. Divorce is painful enough for children and hurtful comments could cause the children to side with your spouse.

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Defending Against False Child Abuse Claims

Should your spouse make false spousal or child abuse charges, the first steps following the accusation are vital in determining how a case will unfold. As soon as the accusations are made, your local child protective services agency (CPS) will open an investigation. Unfortunately, in many states, the initial investigation is one-sided with the CPS officer only questioning your wife about the accusations. If the CPS officer does contact you for questioning, be cooperative and honest in your answers. Whether you are questioned or not, you will want to contact an attorney immediately and retain them for the custody hearing.

After the CPS agent completes their initial investigation, the most likely decision will be a temporary injunction giving full custody to your spouse. Unless properly defended, this temporary injunction could become permanent.

Working with your Attorney and the Courts in Child Custody Cases

Make sure that your attorney is at the hearing and defending you. While the temporary injunction cannot be stopped, your attorney may be able to obtain some form of visitation with the children. These visits are vital in preventing the isolation of your wife and children from you.

Between the temporary injunction and final decision, you will be forced to undergo counseling sessions, police interrogations, and even observational sessions with your spouse and children. The results of these sessions can be very beneficial in establishing your innocence. Make certain that your attorney is present at all of these meetings, that all activity is documented for the record, and that your attorney receives a copy of everything involved with the meeting. You do not want any surprises in court.

During every session and interview, keep your temper. Remain calm and in control and consider your answers carefully. Every answer you give will be analyzed by experts. If you hear anything said in the interviews that was a lie, mention it. Make sure that all of your objections are completely noted for the judge’s consideration. Over all, allegations of abuse will make your divorce case much longer and more difficult.

Future of Father’s Rights in Child Custody Cases

The degrading and unconstitutional way that child abuse charges are often handled can shudder the conscience. Fortunately, some states are paying attention to the trend of system abuse at the hands of parents during a divorce. These states have taken action to protect fathers, in particular. For example, West Virginia has laws in place that make it a criminal offense for spouses to make false allegations. Punishments for false allegations in the state include a $1,000 fine and the accuser must pay the legal fees of the accused. Other states such as Arizona are following suit and additionally adding up to a year in prison for false allegations. This applies not only to allegations made by the spouse, but by anyone.

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Getting Legal Help

If you have been falsely accused of child abuse in a pending divorce, you need an attorney. A child custody attorney or divorce attorney can help you navigate through your state’s complicated system and plan a defense that can prevent an unfair loss in your child custody case.