DAVID PISARRA

The Nuclear Option in Child Custody – Sexual Molestation Charges

In Child Custody Issues, Parental Alienation, Strategy Issues on August 4, 2008 at 11:56 pm

Divorces are ugly, emotional times for most people. They get even uglier when there is a lot of property to fight over, and they are at their ugliest when a parent is using the children to extract money, and/or revenge on the other parent.

Rumors are swirling in the blogosphere about the Charlie Sheen and Denise Richards divorce and the latest allegations in their custody battle. There are allegations of child abuse by Ms Richards, and until these are investigated and proved, no one is guilty of anything.

But they point to an alarming trend that most family law practitioners are noticing, and that is an upsurge in the allegation of child abuse by one parent against the other. Most frequently it is the mother alleging that the father is either a “bad parent” who lacks parenting skills and is only mildly abusive, to the nuclear option of sexual molestation.

The definition of abuse of children has changed radically over the last the 30 years. It used to be common for a child to be spanked, and for some parents to use a belt or a paddle to correct their children’s behavior. The book Mommy Dearest chronicled the path of abuse that Christina Crawford suffered from the late film star Joan Crawford, and its effects on her life, and it flung wide open the door to the topic of child abuse.

Abuse, like everything, has a spectrum, from the mildly negligent care of a preoccupied parent to the physical and mental abuse of a deranged pedophile. Our social tolerance for any type of abuse has dropped significantly, and the fighting parent who is using the children to get back at their spouse may not stop at making allegations that are false.

This type of false allegation can have serious repercussions. The father who is the subject of a sexual abuse allegation must immediately hire a lawyer who is familiar with the laws of the family court and probably also a criminal lawyer. These types of allegations are taken extremely seriously by various state agencies, and a parent who is an alleged sexual molester needs a strong defense right away. This is no time to be a “good guy” – you must fight this as if your life depends on it, because frankly it does.

On the other hand, a false allegation can be prosecuted and the lying spouse punished severely by the court. The courts are taking very seriously the false allegation of child abuse and can take the children away from a parent who accuses their ex-spouse falsely. The innocent parent can, and should, be given their full legal and physical custody rights.

Mothers are the more likely parent to make the allegation that a child is being sexually molested. Frequently it is to prevent dad from getting visitation or custody, which increases the child support that he must pay. It is the nuclear option in a custody battle, and just like in the real world, it leads to the mutually assured destruction of the parties.

The emotional damage that is done to the relationship between the parents is nothing compared to the damage that is done to the parent/child relationship by a false allegation. As much as a false allegation increases the bitterness and anger between the parties, the suspicion it creates, and the spotlight of doubt that it casts on every activity causes a lasting harm to both parent/child relationships. The suspicious parent can become overly protective and begin to plant ideas in the child’s mind – which is abusive in itself. The suspected parent can become tentative in offering affection and love out of a fear of misinterpretation and potential criminal penalties.

The financial damage is also extensive. A suspected parent who must hire a criminal lawyer, in addition to their family law attorney, can expect to spend at least an extra $5,000, to defend against a case of alleged sexual abuse, depending on the facts of the allegation, and there is no upper limit.

An allegation is easy to make, precisely because it is taken so seriously by the authorities. The full weight of the state can be brought to bear on a father who is accused, and mothers use this to gain an advantage and make the father give in to her financial and custodial demands. And even though we say that someone is innocent until proven guilty, in this arena, even when proven innocent, there is still a cloud that hangs over a wrongly accused father. It is the fallout from the nuclear option, that never completely goes away.

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  1. […] The Nuclear Option in Child Custody – Sexual Molestation Charges In the November 2007 issue of the Illinois Bar Journal, Scott A. Lerner, Esq., takes a critical look at the Illinois Domestic Violence Act (DVA) in his article “Sword or Shield: Combating Orders-of-Protection Abuse in Divorce” “There’s no question that victims need protection from abusers,” he writes. “But not all parties to divorce are above using OPs [orders-of-protection] not for their intended purpose but solely to gain advantage in a dissolution.” And “the greatest potential for abuse of the system,” in Lerner’s opinion, “is in visitation.” Full article […]

  2. […] denies that this ever happened, even though I have the medical report. You can read the full post here. Mothers are the more likely parent to make the allegation that a child is being sexually molested. […]

  3. […] The Nuclear Option in Child Custody – Sexual Molestation Charges […]

  4. Thanks , I’ve just been looking for info approximately this subject for ages and yours is the best I have came upon till now. But, what about the conclusion? Are you sure about the supply?

  5. I feel sorry for anyone that is not guilty and has been falsely accused. But please remember that sexual abuse does occur and in the case of my husband he’s telling everyone about this nuclear option without telling them that he’s actually guilty. And I signed a prenup 19 years ago so no financial gain plus I have to get a job for the first time in 23 years (husband is lawyer) probably making minimum wage and take care of 3 teens by myself two of whom are disabled one with autism and another severe learning disabilities. Your right about mutual destruction but I had no other options but to put an end to the abuse. I begged him for a year to get help but he refused and told me he was in love with our daughter. I gave him every benefit of the doubt. He left me with no choice. Our family is completely destroyed.

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