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Law Offices of John A. Guthrie - Family Law Attorney

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Can brainwashing influence child custody cases?

Although a California judge might find child abuse allegations to be quite serious during a custody hearing, this issue can have unexpected results in the context of a messy divorce. Contentious behavior on the part of one or both spouses may be common in proceedings that are handled through litigation, but when allegations bring child abuse into consideration, the accusing parent could see this action backfiring.

Statistics from a study of 240 cases in which parental alienation was a consideration showed that in 80 percent of the situations, the accusing parent lost part or all of their physical custody rights. Parental alienation is the idea that a parent can negatively influence their child’s view of the other parent through brainwashing. While there are medical experts that doubt that this is truly a mental disorder, the view of a judge is what matters when custody and visitation decisions are made.

In some cases, a child could be making legitimate claims about abuse. In other cases, a parent might make an effort to lash out at the other party by influencing the child’s view of that parent. Judges are left to decide the validity of these accusations based on evidence, their own view of the situation, and other factors. Two different judges could hear the same facts and make different decisions. A parent might be faced with long-term consequences if false allegations are believed, but an accusing parent could equally be faced with serious losses if valid allegations are disregarded.

A parent dealing with false allegations of child abuse during divorce proceedings might ask a family law attorney to present evidence demonstrating that party’s care and concern for the child. The attorney might use statements from caregivers, counselors, educators and others to support the argument that the parent’s involvement in the child’s life is constructive.

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