Are Ladies Extra Seemingly To Lose Custody If They Declare Their Baby Has Been Sexually Abused By The Father?
Man playing with boy taking bubble bath
Complaints about “inappropriate touch”
As a family law practitioner, I often hear complaints (usually from mothers) about the father inappropriately touching their child’s private parts. These complaints go beyond what is considered “appropriate”, e.g. B. bathing a child or urinating a male child on the toilet or properly cleaning a female child after using the toilet. The child can be male or female, but the complaint is the same – the father touches the child for his own sexual gratification and the mother wants his visit to be stopped, monitored and possibly prosecuted. She claims to be acting to protect the child. There is a swift denial by the father, but an investigation into the claims made by the mother is initiated.
There is no physical evidence of “bad touch” – no scratches, abrasions, infections, rashes, or tears that, if properly examined, could lead a doctor to conclude that sexual abuse has occurred. The only witnesses are the father or child, who could be up to two years old or even younger and who, because of their age and vocal skills, would be an “unreliable” witness to be questioned.
Considerations by the Courts in Handling these Cases
What can a court do without physical evidence? The following considerations must be made by a court in determining child sexual abuse:
· The court must examine the relationship between the parties to the extent that it must examine whether the charge is made because the mother, the accuser, does not want the father to have a relationship with the child. Sexual abuse allegations result in the visit being suspended or temporarily monitored while an investigation continues.
· The court must consider whether the complaining parent or the accused have sexually abused themselves and may make them over-sensitive to sexual problems with their child.
· The court must consider possible coaching of the child by the mother in order to achieve the desired result – the child reports inappropriate contact by the other parent.
The court must review the outcome of experts assigned to the case, including forensic psychology experts trained to interview children on sexual abuse cases and assess the allegations made.
Possibly one of the best known allegations of inappropriate sexual contact occurred in the case brought against Woody Allen by Mia Farrow, alleging inappropriate sexual behavior between Mr. Allen and his and Mrs. Farrow’s adopted daughter, Dylan Farrow, who was 7 years old at the time The investigation was conducted by the Connecticut District Attorney, who referred Dylan to the Child Sexual Abuse Clinic at Yale-New Haven Hospital, which concluded that Woody Allen had not sexually abused Dylan. No charges were brought against Mr. Allen. To this day, Mr. Allen denies that they ever occurred. Ms. Farrow, now 34 years old, continues to insist on the veracity of her claims and is supported by her brother, investigative reporter Ronan Farrow, born Satchel Farrow, the only biological child of Ms. Farrow and Mr. Allen. Dylan Farrow wrote an open letter to the New York Times on February 1, 2014 at the age of 28 at the start of the Me Too movement.
In these cases, in most cases, the child protection agency will be asked by the court to “investigate” these claims or a claim will be made directly to them. As part of their investigation, they can use the services of a forensic psychological expert to question the child using the “funnel” approach – open-ended answer questions that are asked of the child and are initially limited to very specific questions. The child may also be interviewed by the New York City Police Department, the Special Victims Unit (SVU).
A parent should absolutely avoid interviewing the child themselves, as their interview may simply confuse the child or appear to a court or investigator to coach the child and ultimately derail the investigation.
If the investigating body does not have sufficient evidence (physical evidence or testimony) after the investigation is complete, the charges can be classified as “unfounded”. This is not necessarily a claim of absolute “innocence” or “not guilty”, but rather a statement by the investigating authority that they do not have sufficient evidence to support the complaint lodged.
Custody of the children
While these sexual abuse investigations are in progress, a civil custody case for the child is also likely to take place.
In the Woody Allen case, a New York State Supreme Court judge granted Ms. Farrow custody of all of Ms. Farrow and Mr. Allen’s children, despite the fact that the investigation against him was found to be “unfounded”. The outcome in Ms. Farrow’s case is unusual. In a study by Professor Joan Meier of George Washington University Law School, mothers who make sexual abuse allegations are found to be truthful 19% of the time. “A Gender Trap”: When mothers accuse fathers of child abuse, mothers often lose custody, studies show (Washington Post, July 19, 2019). Professor Meier: “If you go to court and report sexual abuse of children by the father, you are done. You are cooked. “
In other cases where the complaining parent continues to pursue allegations of sexual abuse against the child even after investigations to the contrary, the complaining parent or mother is endangering custody of the child, as the father can argue this as long as the mother continues to believe that she is sexually abusing the child. Their ability to have a positive relationship with the child is forever damaged, which is essentially a claim to parental alienation. The court may well agree, and in my experience the court has given custody twice to the “alleged abusers”, the fathers. In my cases, both mothers claimed they did not believe the fathers were sexual abusers during the trial, but their actions in both cases contradicted these statements. They continued to make claims outside of the courtroom, proving that their statements were generally not credible.
If the complaining parent, usually the mother, can provide a bona fide basis for their belief in the sexual abuse, but the evidence presented in court shows the opposite or, more precisely, that the allegations are “unfounded,” then the court is “fine.” Analyzing the child’s interest does not necessarily give custody to the father. In this situation, the mother is shown to have acted appropriately to protect the child based on her “reasonable” beliefs at the time of the allegations.
What about the accused fathers?
No crime in our society is considered worse than child sexual abuse. There are numerous cases of stigmas of false allegations of sexual abuse ruining the lives of the accused. The saying goes, “Where do I go to get my reputation back?” Being accused of sexually abusing your own child is terrible for any parent, often a father, especially one who has not sexually abused their child. The taint of the allegation alone is just as devastating as the loss of time with the child while the investigation into the allegations continues. These fathers wonder what my son or daughter must think of me. Who should you believe?
Does the family court always get it right?
In the Meier study, only reported cases were checked, so that the results may only be skewed to the published legal opinions. Most cases that go to family courts are not reported. However, the results pose a worrying problem. Does the family court understand correctly? Are women more likely to lose custody when reporting child sexual abuse?
Women are more likely to use sexual abuse allegations to gain a custody advantage over children over men in custody proceedings, making the family court decisions reported in the Meier study accurate, or the courts are unwilling to hear and provide credibility ? on allegations of sexual abuse by the father of a child without physical evidence from the mother that constitute a “gender trap” for mothers who allege “abuse”?
As is so often the case in custody cases, the counseling process is very subjective. Expert reports and GALs (Guardian Ad Litems, sometimes called AFCs – Advocates for the Children) are appointed by the court to investigate or represent the child (s). They are often appointed by the court. Meier’s study is even more worrying in this regard, as it reports that the likelihood of a woman losing custody is even greater if there is a GAL or an expert witness.
As a family law practitioner, I find this topic incredibly difficult and painful with extremely difficult consequences. I try to evaluate each potential client on their allegations of child sexual abuse or their disapproval when accused. I look at motives and actual reporting and how they came to the information they report. Did you interview the child to get the information? Did the child come to you and tell you? Under what circumstances did the child come to them? If it’s a father, I ask detailed questions about why the mother would say this about him. Why should she make everything up if it’s not true? Was there anything he did that could be viewed as inappropriate or sexual with the child? I estimate how eager the mother is to pursue her claims against the father for “protecting the child” or trying to harm the father. In summary, I am trying to gather the first evidence that the court must inevitably weigh up and make my own assessment of the parents’ credibility before the case begins.