False accusations of paedophilia damage fathers involved in custody battles
Investigations can cost dads over a year away from their children
When a mother accuses her child’s father of being a paedophile during custody battles following divorce proceedings, the father immediately loses his visitation and custody rights. It can be virtually impossible for the father to then regain the right to see his children, even if the accusations are later found to be completely unfounded.
Bente Koudal Sørensen from Statsforvaltningen, the government administrative office whose duties include handling divorce and custody cases, said that although there are no official numbers, she estimated that accusations of paedophilia are levelled at fathers at least once a month, according to Kristeligt Dagblad.
Jesper Lohse, the head of Foreningen Fars, a father’s association, said that number is closer to 100 every year, and that most of the accusations are without merit.
Statsforvaltningen is required to respond if a parent accuses their partner of abuse. Accused parents almost always lose contact with their children right away. Sørensen acknowledged that it is hard on both the fathers and the children.
"We are aware of the dilemma,” she said. “We cannot tell right away who is telling the truth, so we have to investigate any allegations. We know that some of the cases are without cause, but we cannot take any chances.”
No consequences for false charges
Although visitation rights are typically suspended for three months while a case is being investigated, Lohse said that processing and administrative red tape can often cause fathers and their children to be separated for over a year.
There are no immediate consequences for a mother for filing a baseless accusation against a father. In fact, the time the father is forced to be away can help the mother strengthen her relationship with the child, which in turn strengthens her position in any custody cases.
“Courts often decide custody based on which parent has a stronger relationship with the child,” said Sørensen.
Lohse said that a specific court needs to be established to handle charges of paedophilia in custody cases that responds immediately to any accusations.