Divorce is a tragedy and child abuse is a horrible crime. Unfortunately, however, sometimes a spouse or even a third party will weaponize a child abuse allegation to gain advantage in a divorce or child custody proceeding. When this happens, there is no need for you to feel helpless – the legal system offers many ways of uncovering the truth and clearing your name.
The “Preponderance of the Evidence” Standard
A child abuse allegation during divorce proceedings is not a criminal charge (although it could conceivably lead to criminal charges). Instead, it is a civil claim. And as such, it need not be proven “beyond a reasonable doubt” to be treated as true. Instead, the standard of proof is “a preponderance of the evidence,” which means something like a 51 percent likelihood of being true. This standard is much easier to meet that the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard.
Disputing the Allegation
Despite the lowered standard of proof applicable to civil proceedings, as the accused, you do retain one significant advantage – it is up to your accuser to prove the accusation, not up to you to prove it wrong.
The following strategies can help you overcome a false allegation of child abuse in a divorce proceeding:
Expose any factual inconsistencies in your accuser’s testimony (an alibi backed by objective evidence that contradicts your accuser’s testimony, for example).
Expose inconsistencies among various documents – between your accuser’s affidavit, for example, and the content of medical records or a police report.
Expose inconsistencies in your accuser’s behavior. Did your spouse, for example, fail to report the abuse for a long period of time only to level the accusation once a dispute arose during divorce proceedings?
Look for a motivation for your accuser to lie, and collect objective evidence documenting that motive.
Force your accuser to be specific. Exactly when, where, and how did the alleged abuse take place? Forcing your accuser to provide details (at a deposition, for example) will often resort in a story that is full of holes and therefore easy to discredit.
Above all, remain calm! It is infuriating to be falsely accused of such a serious crime. Don’t let it get to you, because an emotional reaction can lead you into behavior that some might interpret as evidence of guilt.
The California Evidence Code is so thick that it must be printed in its own separate volume. Since only evidence can win a case, you (or your lawyer) will need to thoroughly understand the rules of evidence in order to maximize your chances of prevailing. You will need to know, for example, when to object to hearsay evidence or other impermissible forms of testimony, and you will need to know how to respond when the other side challenges your evidence..
Start Fighting Back Today
If you have been subjected to child abuse allegations incident to a divorce, it is imperative that you fight back and that you get started immediately. In fact, it would be a good idea to start preparing now if you even anticipate such an allegation. Call CKB Vienna today or contact us online to schedule a case evaluation by one of our experienced family lawyers. We serve clients in Rancho Cucamonga, San Bernardino County, Los Angeles County, Orange County, and Riverside County.