Coparent Academy Podcast

#91 - Coparenting When There are False Claims of Domestic Violence

December 18, 2023
Coparent Academy Podcast
#91 - Coparenting When There are False Claims of Domestic Violence
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

In episode 3 of our series on domestic violence and coparenting we discuss how false claims of domestic violence impact the coparenting relationship.

If you would like to participate in our domestic violence series as a guest, please contact us and let us know. We are interested in all perspectives and backgrounds for our conversations.

Thanks for listening!  If you have questions, comments, or concerns, please email us at podcast@coparentacademy.com.  To learn more about becoming the best coparent you can be, visit coparentacademy.com.

Speaker 1:

Welcome everybody. Today is episode three in our series on domestic violence and co-parenting. Today we're going to finish up what we started in episode two in talking about co-parenting with domestic violence, co-parenting with the reviewer, but the part we didn't get to is co-parenting with unfounded allegations of domestic violence. Now this is undoubtedly controversial. In fact, we've been looking at some materials that would seem to indicate that there are no unfounded allegations of domestic violence. At least that's the view of some researchers. I mean, it appears to be that's what they think. But I'm willing to take the stand and to say that I myself have encountered in my professional career multiple instances of domestic violence, allegations that were either explicitly acknowledged by the alleged victim to have been false and used to gain advantage, or became clear through investigation by multiple people that there was no actual domestic violence, at least not in the way that was described. So I'm very comfortable, even though it is controversial, stating that it does occur. I don't know, linda, how do you feel about that?

Speaker 2:

Well, I think there are a lot of children. Do you know where I come from? It's always about the children, and I think there's a lot of children that are evidently as confused as the adults are, who deal in this world all the time because they have one parent that is telling them it never happened and the other parent that is saying, oh yeah, you know, and this is what had happened, and that you remember, and so forth. So that's the part that always hurts my heart the most for these kids.

Speaker 1:

Right, and we're not just talking about kids who are too young to remember and they're being told like kids who are said to have experienced it, to have witnessed it, and they're like I don't know what you're talking about. I did not see anything like that.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, many times it's about the child being allowed to be congruent to their own experience, and then other times it's, you know, the child is especially to someone like myself or GAO just reporting some basic sentence, usually that you know, like like my dad was mean to my mom or something like that, but but never any descriptions or or anything more detailed that would cause you to believe that they were actually there.

Speaker 1:

Okay. So if we know that there are, let's say at least there's at least one instance in the history of the court system of a false allegation of domestic violence, you know it prompts the question why make unfounded allegations? And I think the answer that's kind of obvious it's to gain advantage in a legal system that is, from some perspectives, designed to come down really harshly on domestic violence, Although I think you would find a lot of domestic violence victims, advocates who would rightly say that domestic violence isn't recognized enough or addressed far enough. So there's definitely, definitely good points to be made on both sides of that situation.

Speaker 2:

And I don't know how any of us that are professionals working in this world are supposed to have figured out, you know, whether somebody is telling the truth or not. I think sometimes if a woman or man is alleging that it happened and it really didn't, or the specifics of a particular thing didn't happen, then that is hurting other people in other situations where it didn't happen. You know for sure.

Speaker 1:

And along those lines we've come up with a list of some of the risks of unfounded allegations of domestic violence and we've kind of broken them down into risks to the accused, to the accuser, to children and to others. And let's start off with some of the risks to the person accused of domestic violence. One risk is that you have potential criminal charges that could be filed. I mean, if you have a situation in which a person makes what appears to be a credible accusation of domestic violence but there's no physical evidence because there's not always going to be physical evidence with domestic violence then the person who was accused is all of a sudden facing some really serious potential repercussions from that allegation and could be investigated criminally.

Speaker 2:

Right, I've actually had to testify in two trials that were criminal trials with Dury's, which is very unusual for me working with family law cases. And why did they bring you in? Because I was doing the reconciliation between the parent and the child or children.

Speaker 1:

Oh, interesting. And what kind of things were they trying to get from you?

Speaker 2:

Well, all I am is a fact witness anyway, ever, to what I had observed and seen between the children and their parent, and especially, you know, in light of some of the research, like in this book that you referenced, it's you know you wonder okay, well, was that parent putting on a great act? Or, you know, were the children really happy to see the parent? Anyway, one way or the other, it is. It is really, and I'm glad I'm only effective as to what I observe, because all those factors are impossible to quantify.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, for sure. So okay, the person being accused could be facing criminal prosecution, have protective orders filed against them, which immediately affects their constitutional rights, can affect their employment, depending on what kind of job they have. I mean, if you work with the airlines and you have a protective order put against you, because here in Tulsa we're a hub for American Airlines, there are lots of folks who work on the airplanes and who work for TSA and all sorts of things, and if you have a protective order put against you, that could trigger all sorts of issues with your employment potentially.

Speaker 2:

Definitely and of course, you lose. You can lose your freedom for many years, not to mention the just loss of a lot of time with your child Right exactly so.

Speaker 1:

Lost time with child is immediate big one, especially if they're included as a protected person on the protective order. And then let's say, you know, because the courts. All it takes is one instance of a judge having made a ruling downplaying or finding that there wasn't actually domestic violence and then the person went on after that and committed a horrible act of violence against the person you know. So essentially the judge got it wrong. All it takes is one of those for a judge to very realistically have the sense of that's never going to happen again. I'm never going to put a victim or child in that position again. And it makes them err on the side of the person being an actual abuser because those risks are actually more personal to the judge. You know the judge as a human being is not going to feel as much the impact of the child missing time with the parent while they work through false allegations. It's just natural for the judge to take more to heart and have more of a gut punch of saying that didn't think there was violence. And then violence occurs.

Speaker 2:

Right, so just human nature. Yeah, somebody times it is alleged and nothing happens after the fact, and other times it either isn't alleged or is alleged and something happens and there's no way. I mean none of us have my crustal ball.

Speaker 1:

Right, Exactly. So let's say that the judge is going to err on the side of thinking that maybe something did happen. You know, if there's smoke there's fire, that kind of theory. And so now you've got the person who's accused going through a bunch of assessments, maybe anger management courses, all sorts of things that cost just a bunch of time and money and makes you feel, let's say, you're not a person who committed massive violence. Now you're going into these assessments and to some degree you're going to be having people tell you look, man, this is just, it'll go so much faster if you just acknowledge what happened and then move on. And then there's that temptation to do that, Even if you didn't do anything, because you feel like you're just going to be stuck forever in this endless cycle of assessments. And then you have supervised, monitored therapeutic visitation. That is all expensive. I mean, if you're going to have any Extremely Period of visitation let's say you want to have supervised visitation, you want to see your child for two hours a week that's going to cost you at least $80 in our area for that supervision, if not more. Plus the intakes, I mean it's going to be thousands and thousands of dollars. And then, if it goes on for long enough, you get into the point where you're going to need some reconciliation counseling, depending on what the children have been told, and then for reconciliation counseling it's likely going to be thousands and thousands of dollars. Thank you, All the while defending yourself against criminal charges, trying to prove a negative, dealing with the repercussions at work, maybe losing your job because you're having to take time off to do all these assessments and evaluations. I mean, it's just endless the list of things that happen when a person is falsely accused of domestic violence.

Speaker 2:

Right and I don't know. Do you know what the court looks for as far as the accusations? What kind of proof the court demands or desires?

Speaker 1:

Well, so in Oklahoma there's a specific statute, that's 43 OS 112.6, that says that if there is a finding of domestic violence then the perpetrator is required to pay substantially all of the other parties, attorneys, and the burden of proof for that statute is preponderance of the evidence, which means just a grain over 50%, just like adding one more grain of rice to an otherwise even set of scales to make it tip over to the other side. So it's not real high. Because of that, I mean, I do know some judges that will say unless I have physical evidence, unless I have photographs, recordings, something documented by a medical professional, police recordings, not on one calls, they're unlikely to really take a he said, she said or she said she said or he said he said, depending on the circumstance. And what I tend to find is that in the absence of that kind of evidence it has to be extremely compelling and nuanced. A sort of vanilla allegation of abuse that anyone could come up with with five seconds in the hallway before the trial, without a lot of supporting information or giving context or sort of color to the circumstance, is going to be uncompelling. Typically, I feel like judges will be more likely to find a messy violence in the absence of corroborating third party evidence, if they can actually visualize the pattern of abuse happening, so if they feel they can understand how it ebbed and flowed, sort of strange circumstances where a person got upset about something that she wouldn't necessarily think of. Just little quirks to the story, then make it more believable because you don't think somebody would make that up. I think that's where judges kind of come from, which is dangerous to do that, because people can make up all sorts of things, or they can borrow narratives from other people or online or whatever it is.

Speaker 2:

And then it also bounces up against whatever the person is saying, bounces against whatever the judge has experienced in their life Right.

Speaker 1:

You know male or female?

Speaker 2:

what are their experiences in relationships?

Speaker 1:

Well, they've done study. They did one study where they were trying to see how often judges could figure out if someone was lying or not and how judges perceive the information. And so what they did was they had a narrative of a rape and they had the narrative written out that the judge just read. They had the narrative read by an actress who was putting into it what she thought was the proper emotion to go along with the words, and then they had a person read it with just flat affect, just reading words on a page, without any emotional heft.

Speaker 2:

What an interesting story.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, and what they found was is that when a judge read it themselves, that they essentially supplied their own history and their own view of what the appropriate presentation of that information would sound like. And so there wasn't a great deal of difference in perceived credibility when a judge read it to him or herself and when the actress read the narrative with what a common person would think would be their appropriate emotional range for the story. But when a person read it with flat affect it was incongruent to what the judge expected to hear, and so the judge found it to be less credible. So I thought that was kind of interesting.

Speaker 2:

Kind of like reading a book and you kind of picture what it would be like, and then when you see the movie, it either matches or doesn't match what you think Exactly Interesting.

Speaker 1:

Wow, yep, yep, all right, so let's and keeping it, because we decided we want to try to keep these episodes 20 to 30 minutes, so let's move to start talking about the accuser. So there's risk to the accuser as well, and one of the risks that I think people who are making false accusations of domestic violence don't really give proper thought to is that they're stuck with the story. Because what happens is you tell that story to friends and family, you use it as a basis to get sympathy, sometimes financial support, other material support from the family members in the community, and then you may be ready, when things have cooled off after six months or a year, to move on. But now your cohort of folks, your friends and family, community of resources, have been conditioned by you to think that this other person is this monster who abused you when it didn't really happen. And when you let them to move on with you, to start treating everything more normally, they're hesitant Because, well, wait a second, you told me this person's a monster. What are you doing? Why are you moving on? How are you leaving your children with a monster?

Speaker 2:

And many times the accused is saying how can we move on as co-parents? Because you've turned my church against me, my community against me, my employers against me, my coworkers against me.

Speaker 1:

And now you're saying this Right, and you know there's already in any failed relationship, assuming that this wasn't just a one night stand. Let's say it was a relationship that was marriage or not married Together for a while you break up, there's already going to be hurt feelings, distrust, all sorts of things related to the dissolution of that relationship. Now you add in a false narrative of abuse and it just compounds the trust issues, and lacking trust is one of the biggest things you have to overcome when you're dealing with co-parenting. You have to sort of rebuild that trust and create a new sort of working relationship with the person.

Speaker 2:

And everybody has a story of their relationship. You know beginning and end and there isn't any. And of course the children are privy to that story as well.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, yeah. So depending on the age of the child, if you're making a false accusation of domestic violence, you may wind up having a situation in which you have an older child who is privy to what's going on in the house and they're not going to trust you. You're going to damage your relationship potentially with that child if the child actually is aware of what's going on.

Speaker 2:

And I see that I have many times with children who make an accusation against a parent and if they later on recant that accusation, that's really hard for the other parent to deal with. It's hard for your parent to deal with, you know. The parent that was accused is afraid to trust again. The parent that backed them up in the accusation, you know, feels like they lose trust in the child. It's oh, accusations are very difficult to back up.

Speaker 1:

I mean, yeah, and let's say that you're the accuser and you and it comes out that you've made false accusations. I mean, I have had a case I won't name it. You were involved in the case as well before we formed our Co-parent Academy and that it ultimately went to trial in the person who was the accuser admitted to making false accusations that she knew wasn't true, admitted that she was the one who had the relationship with the child that was broken, not my client. Even she had the opportunity to go through the entire power and control wheel at trial to talk about how she was abused and it just wasn't there. And she was the only one who received a finding of domestic violence at trial. So it completely flipped on what she had said it was. And so now she's going to wind up having lots of fees. You know attorney's fees under the domestic violence statute, reimbursement for visitation supervisors for your expenses, you know all sorts of things. It can be an extremely expensive prospect if it turns out that you're found to have falsely stated allegations of domestic violence, because there's another statute in Oklahoma that provides all sorts of civil sanctions, additional sanctions for a person who interferes with a custodial relationship, and I think that making false allegations could be said to interfere with the custodial relationship of the non-abusive partner in the child. So you open yourself to all sorts of things.

Speaker 2:

What are the biggest reasons for that? I would think actually as far as interfering goes Right.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I agree.

Speaker 2:

And the most damaging, for the longest time. I just wow. I'm starting to imagine larger than that.

Speaker 1:

And you run the risk of getting your family in trouble too, Because if you've convinced your family that this acts as an abuser, then they may go too far trying to be on your team and they may interfere in the custodial relationship which is going to set them up for all sorts of problems Right.

Speaker 2:

Frequently All right.

Speaker 1:

And then for the kids, linda. So what are some of the risks to children of unfounded allegations or false allegations of domestic violence being made?

Speaker 2:

Well, like I said earlier, they just don't know who to believe, for one thing, because probably what one, maybe even both parents are saying happened they didn't experience and or their experience was quite different, and so it's very difficult for them to believe one or the other. Frequently they will tell me one parent is lying or one is the only one that they can believe to tell the truth, and then they will obviously see the parent that has been alleged to be the abuser as unsafe for themselves. If they were unsafe for the other parent, they may see themselves even as having caused some of the alleged abuse toward what are their parents. You know, many times the children are unsafe themselves by putting themselves physically or emotionally or both, in the path of something between the two parents. Even, you know, let's say, after a separation, they may be literally between the parents, in the parking lot, at an exchange or something. So they you know even how they will behave toward that parent in a supervised visitation will be very, very different.

Speaker 1:

Right and just. We know that there's so much trauma associated with children from any separation or divorce, and having this entire false narrative put forward about one of their parents only makes the whole thing more traumatic. That's so unfair to the children when people, when adults, make false accusations and massive violence to gain advantage and illegal proceeding.

Speaker 2:

And if they are observing it and know that it's not quite true or not as severe as it's being alleged to be, then the parent alleging is teaching the child how to do a false allegation, right yeah.

Speaker 1:

Lots of downstream effects from that. And then let's look at the others. So this is that other category. So what's the effect on just your local community, on society in general, when you have these false allegations? I mean, you know, you see this, we had the the Me Too movement and believe all women, and you would want to be able to do that. You want to be able to believe that if a person makes an allegation, that you can trust that no one would make an allegation falsely, because of all of these concomitant reasons we had discussed, but unfortunately we know that's not true. You can't believe all women because you can't believe all people, and women are people, and just like you can't believe all men, and so it requires discernment. And when you have these false allegations it makes it so much harder for real victims of domestic violence to get the resources that they need.

Speaker 2:

Right and it keeps coming back to. Unless the children are in the room when this is happening and observing it and old enough to be, you know, observers that can remember things in detail and articulate old enough to be articulate about you know what they're observing. Then it's really just between the two intimate partners as to what happened and of course, everybody remembers things. That's why it's your personal story. You know, everybody remembers something differently and I remember talking to an OHP officer up years back and asking him how it goes when he's taking observer reports from a scene where there was an accident. And you know he says he gets as many different viewpoints and perspectives and stories as there are people, you know, standing on the side of the road at the end of it all. So it's, of course we would expect that to happen between the two people that are that, you know, in the middle of something happening, between the two of them.

Speaker 1:

Right. I mean, we just all have our preconceived notions about what we're going to see and we try to put things into a cognitive framework that just makes sense based on our experience. And when you're young you don't have a lot of experience yet, and so it just makes it so difficult. Well, all right, I think. To wrap this up about false allegations of domestic violence and how that affects co-parenting, I want to reiterate that neither you nor I are advocates of domestic violence. We are both yeah so against any hint of domestic violence. We're absolutely against any form of coercive control. Don't want anything we're saying here to indicate any support for any form of abuse whatsoever. We know, that there's all sorts of domestic violence that goes on, whether it's physical violence, sexual, coercive control. Those are all elements of domestic violence and we understand that they occur. We would not be intellectually honest with ourselves or you if we try to say that false allegations of domestic violence do not occur, because they do so that's the reason why we're bringing it up in this context, because it's important to talk about, because for every person listening who maybe has had experience with domestic violence, there might be a person out there who has been falsely accused of domestic violence and we need to speak with those people as well.

Speaker 2:

Yes.

Speaker 1:

All right, so that is it for today. Remember, if you have questions, concerns, if you're just really furious at Linda for this, I mean, I'm okay, I'm sure, but if you're mad at Linda, just leave us comments, questions, anything at podcasts, at coparentacademycom, or email address. If you want to come on the show and share your story, whichever side of the story you're on, we would love to listen to you and love to talk with you about it. For sure, next week we're going to continue our series with talking about the abuser as parent. So part of the coparent relationship is just this abusive person being a parent. And how are people who commit to domestic violence? What are their traits as parents? Are there some things that we can think about where they may have traits in common and we need to understand what these deficiencies in parenting might be when we're thinking about having an abuser in a coparenting relationship.

Speaker 2:

So that's it for this week.

Speaker 1:

We'll see you guys next week.

Speaker 2:

Goodbye.

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False Domestic Violence Accusations
Understanding Abusers as Co-Parents