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The Spouse Who Cried Wolf

Last week we were rocked by breaking news out of the Entertainment Industry - Brangelina is no more. Angelina Jolie-Pitt filed for divorce and for custody of the minor children, followed soon after by her allegation that Brad has abused the minor children. Since then, there has been a media frenzy of who exactly is investigating this abuse. Is it Child Protective Services? Is it the LAPD? Is it the FBI? Is it anyone? While the investigation continues, while the divorce winds its way through the court, the allegations will continue to hang over Brad head as temporary custody and visitation is established.

Brad's predicament is not all that uncommon, unfortunately. Frequently we see cases where one parent will fabricate, or exaggerate, instances of abuse to attempt to bolster their custody claim and make a better case for themselves. This presents an obvious problem of unfair outcomes for parties who are unfairly accused of these actions, but what does it do to the children?

Let's come to Brad's defense for a minute, and presume that these allegations are untrue. Let's pretend the man who has been posing for "Dad of the Year" photos for the better part of a decade is not abusing his children, but the courts fail to believe him based on Angelina's allegations, and award Angelina primary custody and give Brad either a small portion of visitation time, or worse, orders for supervised visitation. The children are now wondering why their father, who they knew did not abuse anyone, is no longer allowed to see them or not allowed to talk to them as frequently. Over time, they may begin to wonder if something did happen. Then, the only person around to answer those questions will be their mother, who, under these facts, is manipulative enough to exaggerate and falsely swear to the courts in order to ensure she wins her case, regardless of whether that is in the children's best interests. This is a quick recipe for parental alienation and for children who are confused and scarred by the process.

The standard for child custody, in most jurisdictions, is some variation on "the best interests of the children." This usually means a close and continuing relationship with both parents, while living in as stable an environment as possible, and having the freedom to focus on school and friends, like most of their peers. So, obviously, if these allegations of abuse are true, the courts have a duty to help protect the children and ensure they are placed in the best possible situation. This leaves judges between a rock and a hard place. If the court believes the mother, it is either protecting the children from abuse, or locking the children away with someone who is so manipulative that they put their own immediate interests above their children's. Some may consider that conduct emotionally abusive itself.

If there is an abuse situation, it is VERY important to seek help, and do not delay. If there are legitimate concerns for abuse, call the local Family and Child Services office, call the police, and seek immediate medical attention where applicable. Be very cautious, however, of claiming abuse in a situation where there is none. If it comes to light you have exaggerated or fabricated the incident, you are in a position to look just as dangerous to a judge as the person you allege commited the abuse.

Further, it is awful to put your children through those investigations if they do not need it.

If you are confused or unsure, you should always speak with an attorney, or with a domestic violence help shelter to determine the best way to get help and have the least shocking impact on your children.

If you have been unfairly accused, it is important you speak with an attorney as soon as possible to determine how to best defend yourself against these allegations. And I will certainly update my post if Brad Pitt decides to call us (which may not be a bad idea, considering the international implications in his child raising).

Regardless of who Brad calls, however, he has to defend against the scarlet letter now burned upon him, he has to crawl out of the child abuse hole dug by the accusation. Angelina will have to explain why her first allegation of abuse was best raised in the divorce, rather than in any forum that responds more swiftly and certainly than the divorce court.

Movie stars, sometimes they really are just like the rest us.

Savannah Steele 

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