Author: Dean Tong, Certified Forensic Consultant (CFC) - DivorceMag.com
Regardless of Parental Alienation being shunned by the World Health Organization and extricated from the ICD-11, it’s still recognized by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) and American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). And, most family and juvenile court judges across America are aware of this insidious and invisible form of psychological child abuse, aka Parental Alienation.
Parental Alienation: Child Abuse Allegations and Hearsay
Not all forms of Parental Alienation are difficult to detect. A parent involved in a high-conflict divorce, parenting time dispute, and/or child custody battle can allege the opposing parent is sexually or physically abusing their child with no medical or physical evidence, or has committed domestic violence, and enlist the help of governmental agents such as Child Protective Services (CPS), Child Advocacy Center (CAC) and the Authorities to conduct a joint investigation. In law, there are multiple exceptions to the Hearsay Rule which afford a Judge discretion to admit such out of court statements by children or adults into evidence and onto a Court Record. A few of those exceptions are the excited utterances of a child who has been purportedly sexually abused, and another is when a child discloses to a medical/mental health provider that s/he can has been abused.
Make no mistake. An overt not occult abuse allegation and something as heinous and reprehensible as one allegedly perpetrating child sexual abuse, is going to immediately raise the eyebrows of the Court since the Judge is charged by law to protect the best interest of the child. The operating maxim of CPS, and sometimes the Court, too, is children do not lie and are not mistaken about disclosures of sexual assault and must be believed and protected at all costs.
Most kids do not lie when they report they’ve been sexually or physically abused. But, some do, and as young as 3.5 years-old. And several children are mistaken or are in error, especially so when making delayed disclosure reports of alleged abuse from 4 years back or more. And CPS oftentimes doesn’t conduct source monitoring, or doesn’t consider alternate hypotheses. They are well-meaning and well-intentioned, but sometimes misguided. They may have never considered a child’s susceptibility to suggestibility or that repeated interviews of the allegedly abused child could trigger schemas and induce adulterated and pseudo-memories in the same.
The evidence against the accused resides with a credibility shootout in Court. It becomes a case of he said, she said, and what a child said. The child’s belief system, in making their initial report of abuse, and which may have been triggered by an overprotective parent, could be reinforced by a well-intentioned but misguided psychotherapist in a Sexual Abuse Treatment Program (SATP). In other words, it’s possible the child’s therapist may have treated and reinforced a child’s false beliefs without understanding or knowing there could be iatrogenic ramifications from said RPT, or TF-CBT, or EMDR therapy.
False – Unfounded – Indicated Child Abuse Investigative Findings
By and large, statistically speaking, only 5% of all child sexual assault reports that are investigated by CPS in the USA are false. A definitional distinction between false and unfounded or unsubstantiated is necessary to illuminate the differences between the two. A false abuse allegation is one that is made in bad faith with malice aforethought and is premeditated to hurt the falsely accused party. Few States make it a felony to prosecute false abuse accusers and arguendo perhaps more like Florida (F.S. 39.205(9)) should do so. An additional approximate 70% of all child sexual assaults that are investigated by CPS are unsubstantiated, meaning child protective investigators could not preponderate their investigation findings as same never met the standard of more evidence than not.
There exists a gray area within CPS’ policy and training manuals, nationally, known as Indicated, which internally could place the accused in CPS’ statewide registry and database of child abusers. The accused, in order to attempt to compel CPS to redact the Indicated finding, must request through their Attorney, or themselves, an Appeals Hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). The burden of proof at said Appeals Hearing before the ALJ is on the accused by, ironically, a preponderance of the evidence.