Does A Child Ever Have To Testify In A Child Abuse Case?

In juvenile court, it is more common for a child to testify. If DCFS is involved, and they are the one bringing the petition, you will have a child testify in court much more frequently.

In district court it’s much less common. In fact, there is a statute in the district court that indicates in a divorce or custody matter the child will not be called to testify if the evidence may be obtained by some other reasonable method. For example, if a therapist who has interviewed the child could testify in the child’s place, which may prevent the necessity of the child’s testimony. If an expert has done an evaluation, or if DCFS has interviewed the child, the DCFS case worker can be put on the stand rather than the child. Usually there are ways of obtaining the child’s testimony without the necessity of putting a child up on the stand.

What Sort Of Life Effects Can Someone Have If They Get A Child Abuse conviction?

Within the realm of custody litigation, allegations in and of themselves shouldn’t have a lasting effect unless the allegations are proven true, except to the extent that those allegations were used to influence temporary orders and the status quo. Simply making an allegation does not prove the allegation.

However, if a parent who lacks sufficient evidence continues to make allegations of abuse or neglect based on unsubstantiated beliefs, flimsy evidence, or unreliable hearsay from the child, that parent may be endangering their own parent time with the child. It’s understandable to have concerns at the beginning of the case and as you conduct your investigation, but if you continue to make allegations long after the evidence has failed to bear those allegations out, that may negatively impact the court’s view of you, and may ultimately endanger your own parent time with the child.

How Often Do You See False Allegations Of Abuse In Divorce & Custody Scenarios?

However, that does not mean that the false allegations are brought in bad faith. In other words, a parent making false allegations of abuse might actually believe those allegations, because they are not trained in how to interpret the data. They don’t understand necessarily which facts are indicative of abuse, and which ones are not. Oftentimes, they might even seek the advice of a poorly-trained therapist who will support their belief that abuse occurred. But if that therapist has insufficient training in determining whether abuse occurred, the therapist might do more harm than good by bolstering the belief that abuse occurred, when in fact there might be other reasonable alternative explanations for the facts that give rise to the concerns. I see parents who misinterpret or over-interpret the data and make false allegations more often than I see parents flat out lie to make false allegations of abuse.

How Can An Attorney Assist Someone In A Child Abuse Case?

If you’re being falsely accused, then an attorney can help hold the accusing party to their burden of proof, by using the discovery process to highlight the holes in the other side’s argument and evidence. I am able to use my expertise in dealing with therapists and investigators, who highlight the weaknesses in the other side’s case. I know how to file the right motions and oppositions at the right time, making the right arguments in court in the right way to defend against false allegations. If I’m representing a party who is attempting to demonstrate abuse, the first thing I will do for them is help them determine how strong their case is. I educate them on how a court is likely to view their allegations, and in the end, how they obtain evidence that may support their allegations.

An attorney who represents a party suspecting abuse should in the beginning explain how abuse is typically proven in that particular situation, and what the strengths and weaknesses of their case are. It should give a reality check to a party alleging abuse, if their case is weak. I can then suggest methods of strengthening that case, if there is indeed abuse that has occurred. Some less scrupulous attorneys may fan the flames of the conflict by taking a weak abuse case and litigating it to the hilt. But these allegations should be taken more seriously than that, and careful investigation and careful discovery is required. Because of my experience as a Guardian ad Litem, and also as a Court Certified Child Welfare Law Specialist (CWLS) with the National Association of Counsel for Children (NACC), I have unique experience in assisting in these kinds of cases.

Representing Parties Who Have Committed Abuse

If I am defending a parent that actually committed abuse, and they’re not falsely accused, my job then becomes to help maximize that parent’s parent time in a way that is safe for the child. I will help determine what remedies and interventions are appropriate before the parent’s parent time becomes less restricted or unsupervised. I will present any evidence that might mitigate or reasonably explain their actions. Sometimes parents actually do abuse children, but there are sometimes mitigating circumstances that should be explained. For these kinds of cases, more often than not there is no way “around” the problem, only “through” it. So many times, the goal becomes rehabilitation and repair. I also assist parents who have made decisions they now regret, and wish to appropriately and safely re-establish “normalcy” with their child.

For more information on Testimony Of Child In Child Abuse Case, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (801) 616-3301 today.

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*Child Welfare Law Specialist Nat’l Assoc. of Counsel for Children