Many people have a preconceived notion that custody battles favor the mother.
Well, research doesn't back that up. In courts all across the country, mothers tend to be the losers in custody battles -- even when abuse by the father is alleged. In fact, a mother who alleges abuse of the child by the father may increase her risk of losing the custody case because she may be accused of intentionally alienating the child from the father.
What if the child tells social workers or hospital workers about the abuse? Then, the mother is accused of "coaching" the child -- particularly if the child is inconsistent or vague about details (which is normal for both children and victims of abuse in general).
Research shows that only one out of every 51 claims of sexual abuse by the father are substantiated in court. When the father claims parental alienation syndrome on the mother's part, however, her risk of losing custody doubles.
What's the problem? According to the legal director of Child Justice, a group that exists solely to advocate for the victims of abuse, there is a pervasive belief among psychologists, judges and attorneys that parental alienation is common. The theory of parental alienation was first promoted in the 1980s by Richard Gardner, a noted psychiatrist. Although he claimed not to be biased against women, there's a host of other psychiatric professionals who are critical of his work, and it is not recognized as legitimate by the American Medical Association.
In some ways, the problem may come down to human nature: People would rather believe that a mother is lying about a father than believe that a father would sexually abuse his children.
If you're in a custody battle for your child -- or expect to be -- the smartest thing to do is to get legal advice early. Strategy is very important in any case of this nature.