The New Jersey Appellate Division ruled last month that a mother’s baseless claims of molestation made on behalf of her young daughter were the equivalent to abuse and neglect. The mother, named in the ruling as Sally, leveled false accusations against the child’s father, Charles, and taught her 6-year-old daughter “Amy” to mimic her claims, New Jersey family lawyers say. In DYFS v. C.o., A-2387-11, the court found that Sally had a “reckless disregard” for the well-being of her child, and subjected Amy to physical and psychological exams during an investigation into her mother’s claims.
Sally and Charles, who were never married, had Amy in 2006. Soon after, Charles won visitation rights, leaving Sally with sole custody. The accusations began a few years later, when Amy was three. Sally prompted Amy to claim that her father had used a vibrating device to molest her, which sparked a thorough investigation into the girl’s father and required several days of questioning and two invasive examinations for the young girl as well.
When the courts found that Sally’s claims were false, the New Jersey DYFS charged Sally with violating the state’s child abuse and neglect laws, and Amy’s custody was transferred to her father in New York. Sally appealed the initial ruling that claimed she had been coaching Amy into confessing against her father, and that her actions constituted a severe lack of regard for Amy’s health and well-being. However, the Appellate Division agreed with the initial ruling, pointing to the “repeated, unnecessary medical, physical and psychological examinations…” designed to “isolate Charles from any meaningful parental relationship with his daughter.”
New Jersey family lawyers warn that false claims of sexual abuse or molestation can be damaging for the accused as well as the accuser. In Sally’s case, her false claims have cost her Amy, and, should she fight to regain custody of her child, the law will take into account her previous behavior.