In the 1980s, one child psychologist’s work asserted that mothers falsely claiming abuse in divorce court resulted in fathers being denied a relationship with the children. According to his theory, this was due to the mother’s vengeance. While parental alienation syndrome is not supported by science, family courts often recognize it and use it to determine custody cases.
Recent research has found that mothers are more likely to lose custody of their children if they inform the court that the father was abusive and the father then claims parental alienation. The study funded by the Department of Justice found, based on data from 2005 to 2014, that in cases of abuse, mothers were twice as likely to lose custody of their children if the father claimed alienation.
According to this study, mothers were likely to lose custody of their children even when the abuse claims were proven. In 13% of cases where a mother reported abuse in her custody claim, she lost custody to the father. On the other hand, when fathers brought up abuse by the mother of their children, the likelihood of them losing custody was only 4%. However, when the case did not involve abuse, the results were similar across genders when a parent convinced a judge that the other parent was guilty of alienation.
Family courts tend to favor shared parenting, which could be challenging in cases where one parent has been proven to have abused their child. A divorce attorney who focuses on child custody may help a parent present their case to the court in an effort to protect the best interests of the children. An attorney may also assist a parent with a post-divorce modification to their custody agreement if the abuse occurs during scheduled parenting time.