|Number of children affected by divorce each year|
|Number of families with allegations of child abuse and/or severe domestic violence (13%)|
|When investigated, percentage of cases found to be valid or suspected to be valid. (Research suggests that the number is between 43 and 73%, with most data showing the rate is closer to 70%. To be conservative we will use 60%)|
|Percentage of children left unprotected. (Research suggests that the number is between 56-90%, with most data showing the rate is closer to 90%. A conservative estimate is 75%)|
|Estimate of children in the U.S. who are left in the unprotected care of an abuser after their parents' divorce|
Brown, T., Frederico, M., Hewitt, L., & Sheehan, R. (1997). Problems and solutions in the management of child abuse allegations in custody and access disputes in the family court. Family and Conciliation Courts Review, 36 (4), 431-443.(Researchers reviewed court records of some 200 families where child abuse allegations had been made in custody and access disputes in jurisdictions in two states, observed court proceedings and interviewed court and related services' staff.The allegations of abuse were usually valid. 70% were determined to involve severe physical and/or sexual abuse. The overall rate of false allegations during divorce to be about 9%, similar to the rate of false allegations in noncustody related investigations.)Faller, K. C., & DeVoe, E. (1995). Allegations of sexual abuse in divorce. Journal of Child Sexual Abuse, 4 (4), 1-25.(Researchers examined 214 allegations of sexual abuse in divorce cases that were evaluated by a multidisciplinary team at a university-based clinic. 72.6% were determined likely; 20% unlikely; and 7.4% uncertain. Of the 20% of cases that were judged to be false or possibly false cases, only approximately a quarter (n = 10) were determined to have been consciously made. The remainder were classified as misinterpretations.)Thoennes, N., & Tjaden, P. G. (1990). The extent, nature, and validity of sexual abuse allegations in custody and visitation disputes. Child Sexual Abuse & Neglect, 14(2), 151-63.(Researchers examined court records in 9,000 families in custody/visitation disputes. In the 129 cases for which a determination of the validity of the allegation was available, 50% were found to involve abuse , 33% were found to involve no abuse, and 17% resulted in an indeterminate ruling. [*note: Court records provide less reliable than evaluations by multidisciplinary teams trained in recognizing child abuse].)Jones, D.P.H., & Seig, A. (1988). Child sexual abuse allegations in custody or visitation disputes: A report of 20 cases. In E.B. Nicholson & J. Bulkley (Eds.), Sexual Abuse Allegations in Custody and Visitation Cases: A Resource Book for Judges and Court Personnel. Washington, DC: American Bar Association, pp. 22-36.(This article reports on 20 cases evaluated by the C. Henry Kempe Centre which involved both sexual abuse allegations and a parental custody dispute. 70% of cases were found to be reliable and 20% of the cases appeared fictitious.)McGraw, J.M., & Smith, H.A. (1992). Child sexual abuse allegations amidst divorce and custody proceedings: Refining the validation process. Journal of Child Sexual Abuse, 1(1), 49-61.(This study describes 18 cases of child sexual abuse allegations made during divorce and custody disputes. The cases were reviewed using the clinical process of validation used at the Kempe Center in Denver, Colorado. The number of cases categorized as founded was eight [44.4%]. In two cases [ 11%]) there was insufficient information to make a determination, and five were judged to be based on an unsubstantiated suspicion. Three cases were judged to be fictitious [16.5%], only one of which came from a child.)Paradise, J. E., Rostain, A. L., & Nathanson, M. (1988). Substantiation of sexual abuse charges when parents dispute custody or visitation. Pediatrics, 81(6), 835-9.(Researchers systematically evaluated child sexual abuse cases in a hospital-based consecutive series and one author's practice were systematically reviewed. Abuse allegations made within the context custody or visitation dispute [39% of the sample] were compared with cases in which custody or visitation was not an issue. Cases involving custody problems were found to involve younger children [5.4 vs 7.8 years]. Sexual abuse allegations were substantiated less frequently when there was concomitant parental conflict [nonsignificant] but were nevertheless substantiated more than half of the time.)Trocme, N., & Bala, N. (2005). False allegations of abuse and neglect when parents separate. Child Abuse & Neglect, 29(12), 1333. (PDF) Using data from the 1998 Canadian Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect (CIS-98), this paper provides a detailed summary of the characteristics associated with intentionally false reports of child abuse and neglect within the context of parental separation. The national study examined abuse and neglect investigated by child welfare services in Canada.When there was an on-going custody dispute the substantiation rate by CPS was 40% and an addition 14% were suspected but there wasn't enough evidence to make a final determination. 12% were believed to be intentionally false. Allegations of neglect was the most common form of intentionally fabricated maltreatment. Substantiation rates varied significantly by source of report, with reports from the police (60%), custodial parents (47%), and children (54%) being generally most likely to be substantiated, while noncustodial parents (usually fathers) have a lower substantiation rate (33%), and anonymous reports being least likely to be substantiated (16%). Of the intentionally false allegations of maltreatment tracked by the study, custodial parents (usually mothers) and children were least likely to fabricate reports of abuse or neglect.Hlady, L.J., & Gunter, E.J. (1990). Alleged child abuse in custody access disputes. Child Abuse & Neglect, 14(4), 591-3.(Researchers reviewed the charts of all children involved in custody access disputes seen by Child Protective Services (CPS) at British Columbia's Children's Hospital in 1988. Of the 370 such children evaluated by CPS, 34 involved allegations of child sexual abuse (CSA) that arose during custody/access disputes. These children's physical examinations were then compared with the 219 children seen during the same one-year period for alleged CSA not involving custody/access disputes. A similar percentage of positive physical findings were found in both groups. It is concluded that the concern that allegations of CSA that arise during custody/access disputes are likely to be false is not borne out by these findings.)
Neustein, A., & Goetting, A. (1999). Judicial Responses to Protective Parents, Journal of Child Sexual Abuse, 4, 103-122.http://www.haworthpressinc.com/store/SampleText/J070.pdf (go to page 109 of pdf)(Examined judicial responses to protective parents' complaints of child sexual abuse in 300 custody cases with extensive family court records. The investigators found that only in 10% of cases was primary custody was given to the protective parent and supervised contact with alleged abuser.Conversely, 20% of the cases resulted in a predominantly negative outcome where the child was placed in the primary legal and physical custody of the allegedly sexually abusive parent (see p. 108). In the rest of the cases, the judges awarded joint custody with no provisions for supervised visitation with the alleged abuser.)Lowenstein, S. R. (1991). Child sexual abuse in custody and visitation litigation: Representation for the benefit of victims. UMKC Law Review, 60, 227-82.(This study examined 96 custody and visitation disputes involving allegations of child sexual abuse from 33 states. Visitation was the principal issues in 36 cases. The father was alleged to have sexually molested their child in each of these 36 cases. Yet in two-thirds (24) of these cases the alleged perpetrator was granted unsupervised visitation.Custody was the principle issue in 56 cases. In 27 of the 56 cases (48%) mothers lost custody. In 17 of these cases (63%) the mother lost custody to a father alleged to be a perpetrator. In two cases (3.6%) fathers lost custody. No father lost custody to a mother whose household included an alleged perpetrator (either the mother, a stepfather, the mother's boyfriend, or one of mother's relatives).Kernic, M.A., Monary-Ernsdorff, D. J., Koepsell, J. K., & Holt, V. L. (2005). Children in the crossfire: Child custody determinations among couples with a history of intimate partner violence. Violence Against Women, 11(8), 991-1021.(Examined the effects of a history of interpersonal violence on child custody and visitation outcomes. Mothers in cases with a violent partner were no more likely to obtain custody than mothers in non-abuse cases. Fathers with a history of committing abuse were denied child visitation in only 17% of cases.)Saccuzzo, D. P., & Johnson, N. E. (2004). Child custody mediation's failure to protect: Why should the criminal justice system care? National Institute of Justice Journal, 251, 21-23. Available at http://ncjrs.org/pdffiles1/jr000251.pdf(Researchers compared 200 child custody mediations involving charges of domestic violence with 200 mediations that did not.Joint legal custody was awarded about 90% of the time, even when domestic violence was an issue.)See also: Johnson, N. E., Saccuzzo, D. P., & Koen, W. J. (2005). Child custody mediation in cases of domestic violence: Empirical evidence of a failure to protect. Violence Against Women, 11(8), 1022-1053.