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Study says courts side with fathers when abuse is alleged

Although some people in Georgia may have heard that mothers are usually favored in custody battles, research indicates that this may not be the case. According to a study conducted by a professor at George Washington University Law School, when a mother says that sexual abuse is occurring while a father says that the mother is engaging in parental alienation, only one claim out of every 51 of sexual abuse is substantiated.

In cases of parental alienation, a child may be manipulated into turning against the other parent, becoming ambivalent or even expressing hatred. The research indicated that a mother is two times more likely to lose custody if accused of alienation compared to a father. Of the 2,000 nationwide cases that involved domestic violence, child abuse and alienation, mothers' claims of child abuse were never substantiated in court if the court also believed that parental alienation was happening.

Parental alienation syndrome was a theory advanced by a psychiatrist in the 1980s. It remains controversial, but psychologists, attorneys, judges and others believe that it is a common problem. However, some mothers say they have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees and still lost custody of their children to an abusive parent. Maryland is now the first state to start revamping its system to use empirical data in these situations.

A parent may also be a danger to a child because of an addiction or physical abuse. Medical documentation, police reports and testimony from family members, neighbors or others close to the child may help a parent establish that a child is unsafe with the other parent. In some cases, a parent might be granted supervised visitation, which requires another adult to be present. This supervision could be lifted if the parent goes through rehab or fulfills other requirements set by the court.

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