When child custody cases involve suspected or confirmed situations of sexual abuse of the children the family court experience can evolve into a complicated and often painful experience for everyone involved. In some cases children can be immediately protected by court orders of separation, restraining orders, or supervised visitation. In other cases it is not straightforward and the process of protecting a child can be painfully slow and drawn out.
To make the strongest case, protective adults must present themselves as even-tempered, professional, yet compassionate and concerned for the safety of the child. Protective adults must do everything they can to comply with the requests of the court or child protection, and if at any time you are concerned you could be perceived to be in contempt of a court order, consult your attorney immediately.
If you are in a situation where you are struggling in family court to assure safety for your child the best thing you can do is to get good legal representation by someone with experience representing protective parents and who understands the dynamics of in-family child sexual abuse.
“Parental alienation” refers to a process by which one parent consciously or unconsciously seeks to alienate a child’s affection from the other parent. Although there is no credible scientific evidence that supports the existence of a parental alienation syndrome, it continues to be used in custody cases to attack the credibility of parents, (usually mothers), and to “disprove” testimony of children who have disclosed their father’s acts of abuse. For example, a parent may get a child to feel negatively toward the other parent by speaking negatively about that parent. Unfortunately, some psychologists have popularized parental alienation as a “syndrome” that, they say, often appears in the context of court custody cases. In many cases in which parental alienation syndrome is claimed, a father states that the mother’s charge that he is sexually abusing their child is not only false, but that it is merely a strategy to gain custody of the child. Sadly, in the name of parental alienation syndrome, courts may not consider real reasons that justify charges of sexual abuse, and will conclude that the mother is making up evidence.