It’s not uncommon anymore for a father to want to be the custodial parent or be named as a co-parent of a couple’s children. When the divorce is contentious and the husband and wife are fighting over everything including custody and visitation, I’ve seen cases where the mother files a false complaint charging her ex with child abuse.
Perhaps nothing can be more horrifying to a good father who has done nothing wrong or improper than to have the police or child protective services show up at his door to investigate. And investigate they will, and not always in a friendly way.
Complicating matters is that judges rightly take a “better safe than sorry” approach when apprised of this sort of complaint. After all, New Jersey law requires the court to place the best interests of children above all other matters in a divorce. Still, dealing with a false allegation of abuse requires responding appropriately and promptly to the allegations at a time of stress.
Don’t Deal with False Child Abuse Allegations Alone
The first thing to do when informed you are a father in New Jersey who is being investigated for allegations of child abuse is to bring your lawyer into the process as quickly as possible. We know how authorities think and the kinds of questions they are likely to ask. Many of them might be “gotcha” questions intended to get you to inadvertently incriminate yourself even if you’ve done nothing wrong.
Make no mistake: The stakes are very high and your future ability to maintain a solid relationship with your children hang in the balance. As divorce lawyers for men and fathers in New Jersey, we will help you prepare for interviews, lay out the questions you’re likely to be asked and suggest ways to answer them that provides the information family services needs to make an assessment and recommendation but not in a way that tells them things that they didn’t ask.
What you say and how you say it can help – or seriously harm – your position in a child custody battle whether your divorce is in its early stages or you have had to deal with a situation like this repeatedly after your divorce has been supposedly finalized, a decree issued and you thought everything was settled.
Your attorney will help you disprove false allegations and highlight for the court your ongoing contribution to the well-being of your children.
Understand What You’re Accused of Doing
Take some comfort in knowing that if your spouse or ex has filed a false allegation, she is desperate. She may try accusing you of outright abuse, neglect, or not following court orders. She does this because she is trying to gain an advantage in the custody fight.
Just remember that the truth is on your side and is the best defense.
Investigators are required to tell you specifically what your ex is alleging you’ve done. Ask for a copy of the complaint or, if it has been served in court, we will have the document that makes the charge. Knowing the specifics is the first step in accumulating your own evidence to disprove what she is claiming you did – or did not – do.
By knowing the specifics, we can help you gather evidence. For instance, if she claims that you forget to pick up the children after school or at daycare, we can ask teachers or workers at the daycare state in court that you always collected the kids on time and that they were happy to see you.
If there are allegations of physical or sexual abuse, we can give the court medical records and other evaluations that reveal she’s just making stuff up with no basis in reality.
The more desperate she is, the more unfounded allegations she is likely to throw at you. Especially in the case of divorcing an ex who is a narcissist, her only interest is in getting what she wants.
Keep Your Cool
Above all else, stay calm. Remember that many false accusations of child abuse or neglect are made purely for selfish reasons or out of spite. A wife who is angry or hurt about the divorce may accuse you of committing a horrific act to gain an advantage in a custody battle or in the hopes of achieving a financial advantage.
Your best strategy is to stay organized, collect the evidence we’ll need to disprove the allegations, and not overreact. She is counting on you not doing any of these things.
If you are a man or father in New Jersey who has been falsely accused of child abuse, or your ex is threatening to file a groundless complaint, we can help. Feel free to call me or one of our experienced family law attorneys for men and fathers in New Jersey. Reach us at either 973.562.0100 in Nutley or, in Montclair, at 862.245.4620. We are here to help you.