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Child abuse is very difficult to address in the context of divorce. Although many, many children are abused, and we know this, including sexual abuse, when the issue is raised during a divorce, the judges are suspicious that the claim is fabricated to gain an advantage. Even when one party (usually mom) has a custody order, even if they have been allowed to leave the state, when the issue of abuse, especially sexual abuse, arises, the court tends to go into denial and to attack the parent who raises the issue. And this is true even when the parent themselves did not make the accusation but a pediatrician, teacher, or counselor is the one who reported it.
Prof. John E. B. Myers has a superb book about the double bind nature of the problem of child abuse. If a parent calls CPS, they are accused of false reporting. If they don’t call, they’re accused of failure to protect.
In California a parent has a right to copies of their CPS (Child Protective Services) reports, and we have you immediately obtain these. This was a change in the law. But CPS does not operate transparently, and cases in Santa Clara County are heard in complete secrecy. The best way immediately to improve that entire situation would be for the juvenile courtrooms to be opened to the public, and the other, but more difficult, change would be to cut off federal funding that pays only to adopt out children, not to repair families.
We know who are the best child-abuse experts in the country and are prepared to take on false experts who just support abusers for money. Judges and others often think that sexual abuse always results in provable physical injuries to the child if it’s true. Experts are needed to debunk these erroneous ideas. See www.leadershipcouncil.org for such information.
A really problematic but popular book by Kathryn Kuehnle sets forth a proposed method of evaluating child abuse—which almost guarantees that abuse will never be found. For example, she sets forth three requirements one of which is having an independent witness to the abuse. Right, a lot of sexual abusers perform their crimes with a witness present. The unprofessional approach used in this book kicked off a 3-volume debate in the Journal of Child Sexual Abuse. We keep current on the professional journals and issues they reflect. And the authors of articles may in appropriate cases be contacted as potential experts in abuse cases, or the articles can at least be used in cross-examination.
These cases cannot be approached merely from the standpoint of an attorney’s common sense but require expertise and study.