Caught Between Parents

Supporting children through the challenges of divorce

Oregon House passes bill outlawing purposely false child abuse claims

Should false claims of abuse be a crime?

House Bill 2183 would make it a violation -- punishable by a fine of up to $720 -- to knowingly and falsely accuse someone of child abuse. It's already illegal to purposely file a false report of a crime to a police or fire agency. This bill adds another type of false report to the list of crimes. Similar bills have already been passed in other states. While critics are rightfully concerned that this bill could discourage people from making child abuse reports when the abuse is real, the bill only applies to those who knowingly make a false claim of child abuse. Too often alienating parents file knowingly false claims of child abuse or domestic violence in order to interfere with visitation (which stops cold especially when the claim is sexual abuse). This must not be allowed to happen. At the same time, actual cases of domestic violence and child abuse must not be discouraged. It will certainly be interesting to follow the impact of this law on the number of cases that are filed in response to HB2183. The needs of children and parents to be protected from actual abuse by the other parent is no more or less important than the need to protect a child who is caught in a parental custody battle in which one parent knowingly files a false claim of abuse against the other parent. The needs of parents and children should not be pitted against each other. Both are legitimate. I am hoping that the impact of this bill and comparable ones in other states will be closely monitored in order to illuminate its impact and help guide the rest of the county in navigating the thorny and complex issues when domestic violence, child abuse, and parental alienation all may be at play in a single case. One solution, in my opinion, is to provide training to all mandated reporters about the signs of different types of abuse and the complex family dynamics that are involved in high conflict custody cases.

Amy J.L. Baker, Ph.D., researches parental alienation and children of divorce.

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