By John Alberts
One of the most difficult things to deal with as attorneys who handle family law matters is when a child is abused by one or both parents.
The children are innocent victims who at times receive the brunt of an adult’s anger and frustration. As an attorney, we are obligated to report child abuse if it is suspected. We encourage you to do the same. The DHS 24-hour hotline for reporting child abuse is 1-800-522-3511. If you suspect this type of conduct and need legal advice, please give us a call; we will gladly help.
Unfortunately, not all reports of abuse and neglect are reliable. From time to time in a case, one parent or the other will use a false allegation of child abuse against the other parent to attempt to gain leverage or an advantage in the case.
False allegations of child abuse are not tolerated by the court, and they have the authority to penalize parents for making these false allegations. This is the statutory language in Oklahoma regarding false reports:
“if a court determines that an accusation of child abuse or neglect made during a child custody proceeding is false and the person making the accusation knew it to be false at the time the accusation was made, the court may impose a fine, not to exceed Five Thousand Dollars ($5,000.00) and reasonable attorney fees incurred in recovering the sanctions, against the person making the accusation.”
10A O.S. § 1-2-101(D)(2). Another applicable law concerning false reporting of child abuse or neglect can be found in Title 43, O.S. § 107.3(D). Here, the court can find the person making the false report in contempt of court, that they committed perjury, and refer them for prosecution by the district attorney. The court can then also take the false claim into consideration when determining custody.
The court even has the power to award attorney’s fees and costs against the party making the false allegation. This means that the party making the allegation will be responsible for paying not only for their own attorney, but the other side’s as well. In other words, making these types of false reports can be extremely expensive.
We understand from helping so many people over the years the heightened emotions involved in many cases. However, even though tensions may be an all-time high between you and the other party, you should never under any circumstances be anything less than 100 percent honest with the court.
It is terrible to be falsely accused of child abuse or neglect in a family law case. The stigma of this type of allegation can change a person’s life forever. If you find yourself in a situation like this and need help, give us a call.
We are Bedlam Law, located in Yukon, Oklahoma. We are located at 1617 Professional Circle, Yukon, Oklahoma, 73099. Additionally, you can find us on the web at bedlamlaw.com