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The Upper Hand and False Allegations of Abuse in Child Custody Cases

Dependency Docket Bench Card, Ohio State Supreme Court, Source Digital Public Library of America ( (PD)

You are a divorced mother of three, working part-time to make ends meet.  You have custody of the children your husband expressed no interest in, even before the marriage ended.  You receive no alimony and little child support since he, also, managed to hide assets at the time of the divorce. 

Your ex and his new wife now feel custody would be cheaper.  Their ploy for gaining custody is to accuse you of neglect.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  But you have to hire a lawyer to defend yourself, and wind up putting the $10,000 retainer on your credit card.

  • Although there are times divorce is the best option, divorced women are more likely than men to receive public assistance, live without health insurance, and have less earning potential [1A].
  • 29% of custodial mothers live in poverty, as compared with 16.7% of custodial fathers [1B].
  • Only 43.5% of custodial parents receive the full amount of child support [1C]. The aggregate amount of child support due in 2015 was $33.7 billion.
  • Children of divorced parents are 1.5 – 2 times more likely to end up living in poverty than children still living with both parents [2].

The lengths to which a good and loving parent may be forced to go, in order to defend against false allegations of abuse are troubling [3A].

A lack of financial resources will exacerbate such a situation.  An attorney is not likely to continue with representation in the absence of payment.  Necessary psychological evaluation of a child in such a case can cost money, as well.

Unfortunately, the better funded (and less scrupulous) parent often has the upper hand.  The falsely accused parent with fewer resources may find herself or himself attempting to prove a negative not only in a custody case, but a simultaneous Dept. of Human Services investigation and criminal action.

How much of a concern is this?

Thirty years ago, false allegations of child sexual abuse were rare. Claims of sexual abuse were made in 6% of cases with 1/3 of those unfounded [3B].  Today, false claims may be made in as many a 20% – 80% of cases [3C][4].

Certainly, 25% – 50% of disputed custody cases involve allegations of domestic violence [3D].  Courts cannot take these allegations lightly, since children raised in a home where domestic violence occurs can have the same emotional and behavioral problems as the victims of direct physical or sexual abuse.

Ours is an adversarial system in which the truth is meant to be uncovered through formalized conflict in a judicial setting.  Only 29 states have laws imposing civil or criminal penalties on those who intentionally make false reports of child abuse [5].

And the judges shall make careful inquiry, and indeed, if the witness is a false witness, who has testified falsely against his brother, then you shall do to him as he thought to have done to his brother; so you shall put away the evil from among you” (Deut. 19: 18-19).

[1A, 1B, and 1C]  US Census, “44 Percent of Custodial Parents Receive the Full Amount of Child Support”, 1/30/18,

[2]  VeryWell Family, “Key Statistics about Kids from Divorced Families” by Wayne Parker, 2/20/22,

[3A through 3D]  Family Law Magazine, “False Allegations of Child Abuse in Custody Litigation (Part 2)” by Rachel Elovitz,  11/6/19,

[4]  Divorce Magazine, “False Allegations in Custody Cases:  Questions, Observations, and Comments” by William Geary, 7/28/21,

[5]  Children’s Bureau, “Penalties for Failure to Report and False Reporting of Child Abuse and Neglect”, February 2019,

Sadly, even domestic violence advocates can be victimized.  Desiree Harris was recently killed in what is believed to have been a domestic-related shooting in Wisconsin.  She had counseled black women seeking to escape abusive relationships. 



Author: Narrow Path Ministries

Non-denominational, Independent, Bible believing Church

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