Child abuse and neglect are taken very seriously under California law. For example, certain jobs and professions are subject to mandatory reporting requirements regarding suspected child abuse or neglect.
Further, California courts have a significant interest in ensuring that a child’s safety and welfare are protected regarding child custody determinations. Under California Family Code § 3027, “[i]f 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 an investigation can be completed.”
However, the acrimony between the parties in a child custody case can sometimes lead them to take desperate measures, such as making false allegations of child abuse or neglect against the opposing party. However, California law frowns on those who use the seriousness and urgency of child abuse issues to gain a tactical advantage in custody proceedings.
Sanctions for False Child Abuse Allegations in Court
When a party makes false allegations of child abuse against the other party during custody proceedings, the court can impose monetary sanctions on the accusing party. Such sanctions are designed to deter such deceitful and hurtful litigation tactics and compensate the other party for the costs of defending against those claims.
Sanctions for false child abuse claims can cover the following costs:
- Reasonable attorney’s fees
- The costs of defending against the accusations
- Limited custody or visitations rights for the accusing party
Significantly, a court can also craft a custody or visitation order limiting the rights of the parent who made such false allegations. The ramifications for knowingly making false child abuse or neglect allegations also extend to nonparties, including witnesses and attorneys.
Legal Consequences for Making False Child Abuse Accusations Outside Court
A person who makes false allegations of child abuse can be held liable in a civil action for defamation. A person can be held liable for harms to a person’s reputation caused by publicizing false statements which, if believed, would lower the plaintiff’s reputation in the eyes of the public. When a person falsely accuses someone of committing a crime, their statements are considered to be “per se” defamatory.
For example, if a parent used social media to propagate lies accusing the other parent of child abuse or neglect, they could be found liable for defamation if the false allegations resulted in demonstrable harm to the other parent’s reputation.
California law also recognizes criminal sanctions for making false reports of child abuse. Under California Penal Code § 11172(a), a person can incur civil or criminal liability “if it can be proven that a false report was made and the person knew that the report was false or was made with reckless disregard of the truth or falsity of the report…”
Need Legal Advice? Call Moshtael Family Law
If you are looking for quality legal counsel and advocacy regarding a family law matter, including child custody and domestic violence, you should consult an experienced attorney from Moshtael Family Law. Our legal team has years of legal experience working with several family law matters. You can count on us to promote you and your family’s best interests.
For an initial case evaluation, call Moshtael Family Law at (714) 909-2561 or contact us online.