Claims of sexual abuse are taken very seriously in Pennsylvania child custody cases. In response, an accused parent may refute the claims and say that the other parent is trying to manipulate the child. This is sometimes called parental alienation.
A professor at the George Washington University Law School conducted a study that looked at 2,000 child custody cases from all over the country that had elements of parental alienation, child abuse and domestic violence. Of those cases, she found that when a father's claim of parental alienation is substantiated in court, the mother's accusations of abuse were never credited. Of the total cases in which a father asserted that parental alienation was taking place and a mother accused the father of sexual abuse, just one in 51 abuse claims was substantiated by the court. Furthermore, when a father accused a mother of parental alienation, that mother was twice as likely to lose custody than when the accusation was the other way around.
One mother in Maryland spend a year in a legal battle with her children's father that cost them $700,000 in total. Her ex-husband got full legal custody and the children were allowed to spend part of their time with him despite her accusations of sexual abuse. Many parents simply run out of money to pursue a claim.
Parents who are concerned about the safety of their children in a child custody case may want to talk to an attorney. Legal counsel could offer advice about what the parent's rights are and what kind of evidence might be helpful in court. In some cases, an accused parent is allowed supervised visitation. This is limited visitation that requires someone, such as a social worker, to be present at all times.