False allegations by a former partner are often one of the most common and devastating issues that arise during family law cases and child custody disputes. I cannot count the number of clients I have counseled who are shocked and saddened by false allegations of violence and abuse lobbed at them by their ex, both in and out of court. For many clients, there is a profound level of disappointment that someone they once shared and life with, and perhaps share a child or children with, would lie about their relationship or parenting to try and gain an advantage in court. Beyond the disillusionment, this also leaves them with the burden of setting the record straight to ensure the judge knows the facts, which can be complicated and costly. Having an experienced child custody attorney by your side is important to help you navigate this difficult situation.
Prepare a Defense to False Allegations
One of the most important things you can do is to gather evidence to refute your ex’s claims against you. Often, allegations of verbal and emotional abuse can be refuted by producing a record of text exchanged, Facebook messages, emails, etc., which can help show what was said and how it was said. If your house has security cameras, that footage can also be incredibly helpful in proving what actually happened. Likewise, if your ex claims that you acted a certain way in front of a third party, perhaps an adult family member or a friend, have your lawyer talk to them about the possibility of becoming a witness if the issue goes to a hearing. Presenting evidence that refutes your ex’s claims in their filing can be very persuasive to show the judge what actually happened and attack your ex’s credibility.
Be Honest With Your Attorney
Additionally, be honest with your attorney if details in your case are less than flattering. For example, if you had a substance abuse problem in the past, tell your attorney what you are doing now to address and manage that issue. Being honest about past mistakes can help to minimize any concerns the court may have and will help demonstrate your credibility to the judge.
In Preparing Your Defense, Don’t Discuss the Allegations with Your Kids
If your ex has made allegations against you involving your children, resist any temptation to speak to them about it. Likewise, don’t tell them that your ex made allegations against you. In short, leave the kids out of it and let the professionals, like your child or children’s therapist, an attorney appointed for your child or children, or a child custody evaluator, talk to them about the allegations if the professional deems it appropriate. The last thing you want to do is involved your child/ren in the dispute, and even if they did tell you something, you couldn’t repeat it in court because it would be hearsay. Trust that your lawyer will know how to create a strong defense against your ex’s allegations without having to involve the kids.
Stay Calm, and Civil
In family law cases, especially those involving child custody, it is common for tensions to run high and tempers to flare. When someone takes their former partner to court, things suddenly get ugly–text messages start flying, posts pop on Facebook and Instagram, and so on. It is critical to remember that anything you say or you write can potentially be used as evidence against you in court, whether it’s a voicemail, a text message, a DM on Instagram, or a Facebook post.
3 Dangers of “Losing Your Cool”
Do not kid yourself that saying or doing something in the heat of the moment doesn’t have consequences. The risks are real.
- Leaving an angry voicemail can be construed as a threat.
- Posting about your ex and the break-up on Facebook could be construed as harassment.
- Messages sent via text, Messenger, or direct messages on social platforms will not remain private.
Do not kid yourself that your text exchanges will remain private. Any statements you make that are aggressive or angry could hurt you in your case, as could publicly posting private information about your ex, the case, or your kids. Anything that can be reproduced in print or recording court could be used against you.
Tips to Protect Yourself During a Custody Dispute
Be thoughtful about what you say and how you say it to protect yourself and your time with your children.
- If a text from your ex makes you angry, put the phone down.
- If you see an ugly post on social media, do not respond.
- Don’t start fights that leave a paper trail or a recording.
- If your ex starts a fight, be the bigger person and walk away.
Following these tips will make your ex’s allegations that much harder to prove and easier to defend if your lawyer doesn’t have to try and explain away your ranting. It will also make you look like a more mature person and a better parent if you can show the court that you can maintain civility while your ex is trying to bait you.
Remember, The Judge Has Heard This ALL Before
While you may be shocked and appalled at what your ex has said about you, it’s important to remember that judges hear these kinds of false allegations in child custody cases on a daily basis. They also know that people lie in court all the time. It’s their job to listen to the evidence, and the attorneys’ arguments, to determine who is credible and what is true. Judges know that people lie about their exes in court all the time. So even if an initial order is entered against you, do not assume that you won’t be able to get the judge to change their mind once they hear your evidence and arguments. It happens every day.