Child Abuse Allegations in Divorce
Understandably, family law courts take child abuse allegations very seriously. During a divorce proceeding allegations of child abuse can come from either parent, and false allegations of child abuse can deprive the innocent parent of custody and visitation. Accordingly, California child custody laws require the court to make certain factual findings before it determines temporary custody. These laws exist because parents must be protected from false allegations of abuse whenever reasonable as false allegations are not uncommon and very easy to make.
Family courts in California have several options available when handling allegations of child abuse:
- Take testimony of the parties and witnesses in a hearing. Some hearings can be lengthy and complicated if the abuse has been ongoing for a significant period of time or if the abuse is serious.
- Refer the matter to a social services agency for investigation and reporting to the court. In serious abuse allegations, child protective services will conduct an investigation.
- Order a child custody investigation (CCI), an in-house investigation that is conducted by a child custody investigator. The child custody investigator interviews the parents, witnesses and reviews any relevant documents. The investigator will make a report when the investigation is completed and will testify in court.
- Appoint a child custody evaluator to investigate the allegations and report back to the court with recommendations.
False Allegations of Physical Abuse
False allegations of child abuse are not uncommon. To protect children while protecting parental rights such as custody and visitation, California family law court require that child abuse allegations withstand scrutiny; a mere allegation of child abuse alone will not suffice. Family law courts usually require substantial independent corroboration of physical abuse. Evidence can include reports from social welfare agencies, medical facilities, law enforcement and other sources that can verify details of the abuse.
The law states that any witness, party or party’s attorney who knowingly makes a child abuse or neglect accusation that is false during a child custody proceeding may be monetarily sanctioned in a reasonable amount. The family court can sanction the costs that were incurred in defending against the false allegations, including reasonable attorney fees as allowed in California Family Code section 3027.1.
Whether the allegations are discovered to be true or false, the family court has specific procedures in place to protect both children and parental custody. To learn more about child abuse allegations in divorce call family law attorney Michael Benavides at (916) 250-1610 to schedule a consultation.