Divorce can be a difficult and painful process. Both sides think about what went wrong, and maybe how they could have done things differently. Maybe one party isn’t interested in “right” or “wrong,” but “winning” the fight. Unfortunately, many divorce cases have no true “winners.”
Sometimes one parent decides to make false accusations against the other party in order to gain an advantage over the other parent. The accusations may be enough to trigger an arrest of the other parent. If this happens, the accused will also need to work with a criminal defense attorney to fight the false allegations.
For whatever reason, a party who makes these false allegations believes there is something to gain by doing so. They believe that they will get something that they wouldn’t have ordinarily. They aren’t “playing by the rules.”
Anyone can call the police and file a report, even without evidence. Of course, the individual who does has an ulterior motive. Accusing the other parent of child abuse can, they believe, bring them:
- Revenge against the other parent
- Gain undeserved sympathy from friends and family
- Publicly humiliate the other parent
- Turn the children against the other parent
- Cause trouble for the other parent, including:
- Criminal charges
- Drain their finances defending themselves against the charges
- Job loss due to accusations and charges
- Preventing children from seeing the parent
- Destroying the children’s relationship with the parent
- Sole custody of children and preventing the other parent from seeing them
- Award of the family home after the other parent is forced to leave due to a protective order
- Free legal assistance and counseling as “victims” of domestic violence
There may be other reasons why one party would falsely accuse the other of child abuse. Whatever the reason, the accuser believes that he or she will be gaining the advantage.
What The Law Says
The Texas Family Code 153.013 states that if a party does make such a claim that they know has no basis, the court will recognize it as a false report. The evidence of the false report is admissible evidence when it comes time to make a decision on conservatorship (custody.) Plus the individual who made the false report will be fined $500 for doing so.
Texas law recognizes this possibility, and false accusations will backfire on the parent who made them. Once the accused party is cleared by the court, the parent who was trying to become the sole conservator could very well find themselves without the results they were hoping to achieve. It is quite possible that the accusing parent could be barred from seeing the children at all, or only with strict supervision.
The accuser’s destructive behavior will eventually be exposed, but generally not right away. However, the accuser will likely also find him or herself the target of criminal charges, as well as the complete loss of their relationship with their children.
If You’re Accused Of Child Abuse During Your Divorce
Child abuse is a serious crime that carries harsh sentences if convicted. This can include jail time, high fines, complete loss of parental rights, restraining orders, required counseling, loss of reputation, and a criminal record. The child may also be removed from the home and placed in foster care until a judge determines if abuse has actually taken place. This can take months or years and costs thousands in legal fees.
Even false accusations can send an innocent parent to prison based on the word of a vindictive spouse. Mandatory reporting means that professionals who work closely with children such as teachers are required to report suspected child abuse. Law enforcement is then required to investigate them all.
False accusations of child abuse are actually common among acrimonious divorcing couples. So the first defense is to show that the accusations are false. Injuries that occurred due to accidents or were the result of a medical condition will require medical evidence to prove. Mental instability on the part of the accuser may also be introduced as a defense, including the possibility of Munchausen Syndrome by proxy. In this case, the parent may cause harm to the child for the attention and sympathy it garners or subjecting a child to continuous medical treatments when they are not ill.
Should your spouse float the idea that he or she might file these false accusations, the first thing to do is to speak with a criminal defense attorney who can investigate your case on your behalf and build your defense. This may or may not be the same person representing you in your divorce proceedings. Consider asking your divorce attorney if he or she knows someone that they could refer you to for criminal defense. You’ll need an aggressive defense if you find yourself facing criminal charges resulting from these allegations.
Let Wendy L. Hart Help With Divorce And Child Conservatorship
Wendy L. Hart is an experienced family law attorney helping people throughout Tarrant County with divorce, property, and child custody issues. We represent both men and women for family law matters. Visit our Mansfield office, use our online contact form, or call us at (817) 842-2336 for an appointment.