In this Article:
(click a link below to go right to that section):
- How Family Disputes Can Result in Criminal Child Abuse Charges in NY
- What Is the Family Court Act in New York?
- What Are False Allegations of Child Abuse and Neglect?
- Types of Child Abuse Accusations
- Child Neglect
- Types of Child Neglect
- Single Fathers and False Allegations of Abuse
- Parental Alienation and False Abuse Accusations
- How to Protect Yourself Against Child Abuse and Neglect Accusations
- Accused of Child Abuse or Neglect? Get Help Now
Child Abuse and Neglect Defense
Many divorce and family law cases on Long Island, NY involve allegations of child abuse or neglect. Because actual child abuse or neglect are such horrifying events, people can be quick to assume that the allegations are accurate and the person accused is guilty. However, all too often, these allegations are baselessly levied by a spiteful spouse trying to hurt their ex and their relationship with their children because they are angry about the divorce process.
Domestic violence and child abuse are serious charges and if you are wrongfully accused, your relationship with your children and your future are on the line. You need to act quickly to protect yourself, your children and your reputation from a guilty verdict.
Here’s how you can safeguard your rights under New York law and when you should think about getting an experienced Long Island divorce and family law attorney involved to protect you.
How Family Disputes Can Result in Criminal Child Abuse Charges on Long Island, NY
Family legal cases are wrought with emotion, especially when children are involved. It’s not uncommon for one parent to attempt to gain control over a divorce or child custody battle by falsely accusing the other parent of some kind of domestic abuse.
Because abuse tends to happen behind closed doors with few witnesses, little evidence beyond the initial testimony is needed to pursue criminal charges. Naturally, courts on Long Island, NY act swiftly in reports of child neglect or abuse to protect children from harm. However, even when the allegations of abuse or neglect aren’t legitimate, custody and visitation rights may be revoked from the accused parent without real cause.
In New York State, Neglect Proceedings are heard in Family Court and are usually governed by a statute known as the Family Court Act. The Act defines child neglect or abuse as “the act, or failure to act, by any parent or caretaker that results in the death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse, or exploitation of a child.”
It’s also important to recognize that accusations of child abuse and neglect, although lumped together in the definition above, are defined and treated differently by family courts on Long Island, NY.
Child abuse is a broad term that describes many types of mistreatment toward a child. Typically, child abuse is perpetrated by a parent, another family member like a grandparent or sibling, or a caregiver.
False child abuse allegations can include both acts that cause harm and those that can potentially cause harm and can occur in many places: at home, school, a friend’s house, and in some cases, a public place.
There are essentially four different categories that child abuse and allegations of abuse can fall into:
Physical Child Abuse
Physical child abuse allegations claim a parent has inflicted serious physical injury on the child or has allowed a third party to inflict a serious physical injury. These accusations often include shaking, beating, biting, kicking, punching, or burning.
Emotional Child Abuse
Emotional child abuse is typically defined as “the non-physical maltreatment of a child that can seriously interfere with his or her positive emotional development.”
The parent blamed for emotionally abusing a child may be accused of rejecting the child, terrorizing them, exposing them to violence or criminal behavior, excessive yelling at the child, or belittling and teasing them. They may also be accused of verbal abuse, where a child is verbally threatened, put down, and criticized.
The definition of child sexual abuse, or CSA, is any sexual activity that takes place with a minor.
New York and federal law recognizes that a child under the age of 18 cannot consent to sexual activity of any kind and these are some of the most serious false accusations that can be levied against a parent. These accusations can include but are not limited to indecent exposure, grooming, child pornography, inappropriate sexual games or touching, and penetration.
Neglect is a type of child abuse that is defined as the failure of a parent or caretaker to provide needed food, clothing, shelter, medical care, or supervision to the degree to which the child’s health, safety, and well-being are threatened with harm. Accusations of child neglect can include either action or inaction that causes or has the potential to cause harm to a child.
With this definition, there are many subcategories of child neglect allegations, some of which are discussed below:
Physical neglect refers to the failure to provide a child’s basic living necessities, including food, clothing, and shelter. A parent who has been falsely accused of physical neglect may be facing claims that there’s not enough food to eat at home or clean clothes that fit properly.
Many families who live in poverty are unable to meet the physical needs of their children, despite tremendous effort and willingness. A hateful ex can easily use this to gain control over your custody arrangements and make you look like a bad parent.
Emotional neglect is the failure of a parent or caregiver to supply the child with the love and support necessary for healthy development. You may be falsely accused of failure to provide warmth, attention, supervision, affection, praise, or encouragement to a child.
Educational neglect includes failure to enroll school-aged children in school, allowing unexplained absences from school, refusal of recommended remedial services without good reason, and failure to respond to attendance questions.
In New York, a child may not miss 10% or more of school days. In a 180-day school year, this is 18 days, or approximately two days a month. Even when an absence from school is excused, such as for a doctor’s appointment, it’s counted toward this total.
Vengeful exes can levy allegations of educational neglect against primary custodians, prompting an unwarranted investigation into the parent. Truancy is punished harshly on Long Island, NY and accused parents may face legal penalties or even jail time.
Unfortunately, single fathers are often the target of false abuse allegations. These men face the loss of their parenting rights, reputations, and even their job as a result. Disproving these accusations becomes a critical but emotionally draining task and it can negatively impact their relationship with their children and their standing in family court.
The toll of false abuse allegations on single fathers is profound, highlighting the importance of a fair and just legal process that carefully and objectively examines the evidence at hand. Support networks are crucial for men facing false accusations of domestic violence or child abuse to help them navigate legal challenges and protect their rights to maintain a healthy and meaningful relationship with their children.
When false abuse allegations are coupled with parental alienation, this creates distressing and emotionally charged family dynamics. Parental alienation happens when one parent systematically undermines the child’s relationship with the other parent, often through manipulation and lies.
False accusations can become a weapon as part of a broader strategy to estrange the child from the targeted parent, damaging the parent’s reputation and their relationship with their child in the process.
Addressing parental alienation and false abuse accusations requires a multifaceted approach, involving legal intervention, therapeutic support for the child, and efforts to rebuild trust between the targeted parent and their child.
Launching a multi-pronged defense strategy is critical after you’ve been accused of the neglect or abuse of a minor. Don’t rely on one single defense to prove your innocence or be enough to create reasonable doubt that you committed the crime. Always look for multiple ways to defend yourself and provide multiple forms of evidence that support your case. You should:
Collect Compelling Evidence
Evidence is going to be your most powerful ally, but sometimes obtaining it in cases of false abuse allegations is difficult or impossible.
If the accusations suggest you were at home with the child alone when the abuse occurred, but you were out with friends at a restaurant, you could bring forward the receipt or a witness from the restaurant that can testify they saw you there at the time of the alleged incident. Any evidence of an alibi may be enough to exonerate you, or at least create reasonable doubt.
You can also do this with character witnesses. If you have an employer, coworkers, friends, business associates, family members, or other individuals who are willing to speak on your behalf, they can provide a witness statement as evidence that the accusations against you are well outside of your normal character.
Expose Motivations for False Accusations
Perhaps you have no evidence that you didn’t commit the alleged act of abuse, but you have plenty of evidence to suggest that someone else has the motivation and means to levy false allegations against you.
For example, say you have text messages from your child’s other parent that demand you give up one of your visitation weekends and that if you don’t, they will report you for child abuse. The quid pro quo is clear and evidence of this nature can be used to illustrate the probability that the accusations against you are false.
You can also bring forward other evidence as motivation, such as witnesses that can speak to the character of your ex or instances where they have manipulated and lied.
Create a Record of Everything
Ideally, you’ve been using a co-parenting app or have been keeping your own records of communication between you and your child’s other parent. If you haven’t, it’s important to start now.
Log all messages, phone calls, pick up and drop off times, and any other information of importance related to the shared custody of your child. In particular, record your activities with the child any time you have time with them. Keep movie tickets, restaurant and store receipts, and other proof that can both provide necessary alibis and speak to your character.
Be Careful When Speaking with CPS
Child Protective Services (CPS) will make you believe that they’re there to help you, but they’re working to build a case against you. CPS agents are trained to look for each small piece of evidence that when combined can be used to form a solid case to prove your guilt.
After the death of 8-year-old Thomas Valva and the $200M lawsuit filed by his mother against Suffolk Child Protective Services for failing to adequately respond to years of abuse reports, CPS agencies in New York are likely to be hypervigilant about prosecuting cases involving violence or abuse against a child.
Cooperate with the Investigation, Up to a Point
That said, it’s also important that you’re not seen as uncooperative, aggressive, or standoffish. This is why working with an experienced lawyer is critical — your attorney can help you appear cooperative and genial to CPS agents and police officers who are working your case without providing information they can twist and use against you to prove your guilt.
You should never volunteer information to CPS or police during a domestic violence or child abuse investigation, and if asked questions by an agent or officer, politely refer them to your attorney. It’s possible to safeguard your rights during an investigation without creating a hostile, uncooperative, or otherwise problematic impression.
Know and Exercise Your Rights
Police officers and prosecutors may treat you as though you have few or no rights during a domestic violence investigation. Many already believe you’re guilty and will likely engage with you as if you were. However, you have the same rights as any U.S. citizen being investigated for a crime, including the right to remain silent and the right to speak with an attorney.
If you were accused of child neglect or abuse of any kind on Long Island, NY — be it physical, sexual, verbal, or emotional — it’s imperative that you secure legal representation as soon as possible. Child abuse and neglect charges can destroy your family, career, and your future.
When the charges are levied against you, the state begins building a case against you right away. Even if the accuser ends up recanting their testimony, the state still has an obligation to pursue the charges unless and until evidence proves that no abuse or neglect occurred, or you were not the perpetrator.
This means that you could still end up in court, even after your accuser withdraws their statement. Working with an experienced divorce lawyer or family law attorney is crucial to protecting yourself — and your loved ones — from the consequences of a guilty verdict.
Our Long Island, NY family law firm is dedicated to advocating for parents and caregivers who have been wrongfully accused of child abuse or neglect. We’ll work hard to get you back to seeing your kids again as soon as possible. Contact us today for a free consultation at 631-923-1910 or fill in the short form on this page and we’ll get right back to you.
When a custodial parent decides to move, particularly to a location that significantly impacts the current visitation arrangement, things can become increasingly complex.
Courts typically evaluate proposed relocations with scrutiny, weighing factors such as the child’s relationship with each parent, the reason for the move, and how it may affect the child’s overall well-being. The noncustodial parent often contests the relocation. In most cases, custodial parents need court approval before moving away.
How is Interstate Child Custody Handled on Long Island?
How Parental Relocation Affects Child Custody
5 Things You Need to Know about International Travel and Child Custody
Can I Relocate After Divorce if I Have Physical Custody of My Children?
Can Custodial Parents Relocate After Divorce?
Child custody arrangements during the holidays can be a delicate aspect of co-parenting, requiring thoughtful consideration and cooperation between divorced or separated parents.
Many custody agreements include specific provisions outlining holiday schedules, designating where the child will spend Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, or other important occasions. Flexibility is key, and parents often negotiate arrangements that alternate yearly or allow for shared time during the holiday season and even during summers and other school break times.
If you have more than one child, child custody issues can become even more difficult. Typically, courts attempt to keep siblings together because splitting them between parents has such a significant impact on the emotional and mental health of all the children.
However, there’s nothing that legally forces courts to award custody of both children in the same manner. If deemed to be in each of the child’s best interests, siblings may be separated.
Child custody and visitation schedules, whether created by agreement or by court order are legally binding on the parents. Failing to show up on scheduled visitation days or failing to return the child on time can be considered violations to the order, whether the acts are intentional, spiteful or passive aggressive actions.
The emotionally charged nature of child custody, where parents feel they are fighting to protect their child’s well-being and their access to their offspring, often fosters such high tensions that parents’ impulsive actions can have an adverse effect on their ability to achieve their child custody goals.
As experienced divorce attorneys on Long Island, NY we see many of these critical mistakes that occur at the beginning of a child custody case that put many parents at a disadvantage. Here are a number of common mistakes we see parents make regularly and how to avoid them:
Leaving the Marital Home
One of the biggest mistakes you can make in a child custody case is to be the one to leave the marital home. This essentially leaves your child with your spouse and gives them more foothold when petitioning for custody. If you want to retain custody of your child or children, you can’t move out of the home without your child, period. No matter how bad the situation is with your partner, if you leave without your child, you are basically giving up custody.
Allowing Your Spouse to Take the Children Out of the Home
As experienced divorce attorneys practicing on Long Island, NY we recognize that it can be difficult to prevent your spouse from moving out of the marital home with the children. However, there are steps you can take to protect your rights.
First, as soon as it is clear that you and your spouse are getting divorced, put in writing that it’s not okay with you for them to take the children. This can be done through texts and emails so you have a record. Be firm that your spouse is free to leave the marital home, but your children must remain until the divorce and child custody case is fully resolved.
How to Avoid Common Child Custody & Visitation Mistakes
Don’t Lose Your Long Island Child Custody Battle Before It Starts
6 Things to NOT Do When Negotiating Child Custody
5 Issues That Can Kill Your Long Island Child Custody Case
5 Red Flags to Look for In Your Child Custody Agreement
22 Key Child Custody Issues to Prepare For in Divorce
5 Ways to Help Win Your Child Custody Battle
When a couple decides to divorce, the support, custody and visitation of their children are often some of the most contentious aspects of the proceedings. Emotions can run high where the welfare of your child or children is concerned and too often they become pawns in a battle between parents who otherwise mean well.
Our compassionate and experienced attorneys are well versed in all areas of child custody and support issues and will help to ensure that your child’s or children’s interests remain at the forefront of any negotiation with your spouse.
Hornberger Verbitsky, P.C. protects your rights and the rights of your children to ensure they reside in the household that is in their best interest, have appropriate visitation with the non-custodial parent and are financially supported to ensure they receive the best childhood possible.
If you’re dealing with child custody issues, don’t wait to get experienced legal help — your children’s well-being depends on it. We’re ready to assist you with all aspects of your child custody case. Contact us now for a free consultation at 631-923-1910 or fill out the form on this page and we’ll get right back to you.
Being in family court especially when your children are on the line is extremely emotional and stressful but working with Robert and Christine put me at ease and made the process as pleasant as a situation like that can be. I have a now 3 year old daughter (who is the most important person in my life) and I’ve been working with them for over two years since my daughter was 7 months old, the case has been up and down and through it all Rob and Christine have never given up. My original case was due to a neglect charge. CPS is not easy to work with, but Rob and Christine were vigilant and I ended up getting my daughter back within 8 months and did not have to plead guilty to the neglect. Currently I am in family court to figure out a custody agreement. They are professional, empathetic, and patient. They have always explained everything thoroughly, informed me of all my options and advised me of what my best option would be. They always respond quickly when I contact them with questions or concerns and most importantly they fight for me in court and don’t give up even when things get rough. Before hiring Rob and Christine I met with other attorneys who did not make me feel confident or comfortable at all about my case, so I am very grateful to have found Rob and Christine and to be represented by such great attorneys. I highly recommend them for any family court matters and will definitely continue to use them in the future if needed.
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