In many divorce proceedings a parent alleges that the other spouse has sexually abused the child in order to gain an advantage in the divorce. If allegations of child abuse, including child sexual abuse are made during a child custody proceeding and the court has concerns regarding the child’s safety, the court may take any reasonable, temporary steps as the court, in its discretion, deems appropriate under the circumstances to protect the child’s safety until a criminal investigation can be completed. The court may request the local child welfare services agency to conduct an investigation of the allegations and report its findings to the court.
No parent shall be placed on supervised visitation, be denied custody of or visitation with his or her child, or have his or her custody or visitation rights limited, solely because the parent (1) lawfully reported suspected sexual abuse of the child; (2) otherwise acted lawfully, based on a reasonable belief, to determine if his or her child was the victim of sexual abuse; or (3) sought treatment for the child from a licensed mental health professional for suspected sexual abuse. Fam C §3027.5(a). But the court may order supervised visitation or limit a parent’s custody or visitation if the court finds substantial evidence that the parent, with the intent to interfere with the other parent’s lawful contact with the child, knowingly made a false report of child sexual abuse during a child custody proceeding or at any other time. Any limitation of custody or visitation may be imposed only after the court has determined that the limitation is necessary to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the child, and the court has considered the state’s policy of ensuring that children have frequent and continuing contact with both parents as stated in the California Family.
What about a parent that makes a false accusation? According to Bruce Blythe, a Bakersfield Criminal Attorney who has litigated these issues in the Courts, If a Judge finds that based on the investigation or other evidence, that a witness, party, or a party’s attorney knowingly made a false accusation of child abuse or neglect during a child custody proceeding, the Judge hearing the matter may impose reasonable money sanctions, not to exceed all costs incurred by the party accused as a direct result of defending the accusation, and reasonable attorneys’ fees incurred in recovering the sanctions, against the person making the accusation. For purposes of this section, “person” includes a witness, a party, or a party’s attorney. A party moving for sanctions under the law must file the motion on or before the earliest of 60 days after the judgment or order exonerating him or her from such allegations is served, or 180 days from the entry of such judgment or order. Attorney Bruce Blythe practices law in Bakersfield California.