Sexual Abuse Allegations in Child Custody Cases
Sexual abuse is undeniably a very serious issue that concerns the safety and well-being of your minor child(ren). Equally serious are the ramifications for the person accused of sexually abusing a child. If you suspect that your child has been abused, your first step is to contact local authorities to make a formal complaint. If your minor child is in need of medical attention, you should seek medical attention immediately by contacting your child’s pediatrician or going to the emergency room. Medical professionals will conduct a forensic examination of your child and gather evidence necessary to make a finding. They will also notify law enforcement. Not all children who are sexually abused will have medical evidence of such abuse. However, all medical findings will be recorded and kept and become part of the record for later criminal prosecution and for any related investigations by the Department of Social Services and or for use by your attorney during your child custody case.
North Carolina law has a remedy through family court where you may file for emergency custody of the minor child to safeguard a child who has been or may be subject to sexual abuse. It is best to consult an attorney to determine if the facts support a cause of action for emergency custody.
Before you decide to make a formal complaint, it is vital that your allegations are based on adequate facts and evidence as all parties to such an action face serious consequences once this issue is brought to the attention of the courts, law enforcement, the department of social services, and/or medical professionals.
When raising this issue, you must not only consider the emotional consequences to your minor child but the ramifications to the accused if the allegations are made before there is enough evidence to determine whether the abuse actually took place. Proceed with caution if you are uncertain about whether the abuse actually took place as officials will take these allegations very seriously and if they are not based on credible evidence or they are false, the accused may never be able to recover the life they had prior to such allegations being brought. He or she stands to lose everything.
Depending on the age of the minor child, they are often susceptible to the power of suggestion. This means that children can, when inappropriately prompted or coached, disclose information that is not accurate or that is exaggerated in context. It is essential that you allow trained professionals who have specialized training in forensic interview techniques to interview the minor child. Such professionals are highly trained in how to interview children who have been abused without implanting, suggesting, or leading them to disclose inaccurate information.
Additionally, the party who intentionally makes abuse allegations that are later found to be fabricated, exaggerated, or completely unsubstantiated will lose credibility with the court in any pending child custody matter. The party who makes the allegations solely to gain an advantage in a child custody case may even end up losing custody of his or her child. Coaching a child to fabricate sexual abuse allegations is not in the best interest of the child. Such allegations, if found to be wholly fabricated, will be perceived as a gross psychological manipulation of the minor child and any parent who is willing to put a vulnerable child in this situation knowing the child is not in real danger of abuse would be seen as being a detriment to his or her child(ren).
If you are uncertain about whether there are enough facts to substantiate a claim for emergency custody and feel you need guidance on how to proceed in a similar situation, consult an attorney for a legal opinion.