One coParent Files An Untrue Court Order
Dear Dr. Jann: My ex and I had a horrible break-up and she is on a campaign to get me back for leaving her. Last week my son fell off a swing at school and bruised his back. It was on the day that he was with me. By the time he returned to his mother two days later the bruise had darkened. She immediately applied for temporary orders with the court and included a picture of the bruise stating I hit my child with a belt. The temporary orders were granted and I cannot see my child until the court date which is over a month away. She knows I would never hurt our child, yet she’s making these false allegations. What can I do?
Dr. Jann: A child depends on his parents to keep him safe and secure. He trusts both of you and when one undermines the other, it upsets the child’s sense of balance. Granted, a break-up upsets a child’s balance, but add ongoing conflict and one parent undermining the other and your child will flounder both emotionally and psychologically. Recent studies even show that a child’s brain development is affected by ongoing parental conflict. So, keep it up and you are contributing to your child’s mental illness. This is serious stuff.
I always hope that when parents do things like you describe that they have no idea what they are doing and once explained, stop immediately. Sometimes that is true, sometimes a parent is so deep into revenge that he or she loses sight of what is important—their child’s well-being. (Ex-etiquette for Parents rule #1, “Put your children first.”) The judge will take this into account when hearing the case.
Since the court granted temporary orders, there’s not much you can do until the court date. But, start gathering information to prove this is a false allegation.
For example, when temporary orders are granted the incident is often reported to Child Protective Services. This initiates an investigation by a social worker. Hopefully your child will tell the truth when interviewed and the physical abuse allegation will be unfounded. You can also ask the school for a letter stating the bruise happened on the playground. Try to keep your child out of it. Don’t bring him to court so he can tell the judge his mother is lying. If the judge or a mediator wants to speak to him they will arrange a private meeting.
What’s your part in this? As a supportive coParent, you should have told mom about the bruise as soon as you saw it. If it was necessary, you could have taken the child to the doctor and asked mom to accompany you, if she liked. The doctor would then tell both of you how to tend to the bruise and this would have diminished its importance. Keeping it secret just fueled mom’s anger.
False allegations are very serious and I have seen judges reverse custody when it is proven that the parent had full knowledge that the allegations are false. Unfortunately, a change of custody vindicates the accused parent, but the child is still severely affected. They then know their parent is capable of lying, capable of being vindictive, and this sets a very poor example. They may no longer feel safe in the lying parent’s care—“If she lied about dad, she may lie about me…”
The key, parents, is to love your child more than you hate your ex. That’s good ex-etiquette.