Mother loses custody after falsely alleging father abused child

False allegations end up backfiring against mother in Tennessee custody case

A child custody case out of Nashville is showing why it's so important for parents seeking custody of a child to be as honest as possible during litigation. According to court documents, a mother who falsely alleged that her former husband was sexually abusing their son ended up losing custody of her child when the court determined the allegations were unfounded.

Background

The mother and father in this case were briefly married, during which time they had a son. When the two parties began divorce litigation, the mother began to suspect that the father was abusing their son. In response, the mother took the son and left Tennessee without notifying the father or the court.

During the mother's absence, the court awarded primary custody to the father and gave the mother parenting time on alternating weekends and holidays. When the mother was finally located in Michigan with her son, she was arrested for custodial interference and spent eight days in jail. Soon after her release, she lodged a complaint with the Tennessee Department of Child Services that the father was abusing the son, allegations that the DCS determined were unfounded.

Further allegations of abuse

In 2009, the mother again accused the father of abusing their son, saying that the son had told her that the father had locked him in a bedroom with only bread and water and had sexually abused him and had allowed others to do so as well. The mother petitioned the court and the court entered a protective order allowing the father only supervised visits with his son until the allegations could be resolved. In response, the father accused the mother of making false accusations and asked the court to eliminate all of her parenting time.

During the trial, the judges heard from 18 witnesses, including the son, and in the end ordered the mother, father, and son to all undergo psychological evaluation. The mother refused to cooperate with the evaluation and the court granted temporary custody to the father when the psychologist determined that the son was likely coerced into making the allegations against his father.

Mother loses custody

While the court determined that the abuse likely did not take place, showing that the allegations were untrue was not enough to eliminate the mother's parenting time. The judges granted that the mother may have sincerely believed the father was abusing the children, but such a belief on its own could not prove that the mother should be denied her parenting rights. It was because she was coercing the child into making false statements against the father, and thus harming the child's relationship with the father, that the court determined the mother to be hurting the wellbeing of the child.

The court therefore awarded full custody to the father and denied the mother parenting time until she sought therapy. The decision was upheld by the appeals court.

Child custody disputes

This above case is a reminder of how contentious child custody cases can be for those involved. Furthermore, it also highlights why it is so important to have an experienced family law lawyer throughout the process to provide rational and clear advice in what is often an emotionally fraught time for both parents and children. Any person seeking custody of a child should seek qualified legal advice to determine the best course of action.