When parents in California are going through a child custody process, there are many possible outcomes. While some cases are amicable and the parents can easily agree to shared parenting plans and custody, other cases might be more complex. One type of case that can have serious consequences for the family is one where one parent claims parental alienation against the other parent, especially when the other parent has claimed that there is abuse involved.

While the concept of parental alienation has been discredited as having no scientific basis, the findings of a study by a professor at George Washington Law School, funded by the Department of Justice, show the types of issue that arise when claims of parental alienation are made. The study looked at the published court opinions of 4,388 custody cases from 2005 to 2014. It found that when mothers had custody of the children and fathers claimed parental alienation, whether there were abuse claims or not, mothers lost custody 44% of the time. In reverse situations, fathers lost custody 28% of the time. Basically, in such cases where mothers claimed abuse and fathers claimed parental alienation, mothers were twice as likely as fathers in similar situations to lose custody.

Some even more alarming results of the study included that in cases where abuse was proven, mothers lost access to their children 13% of the time while fathers lost custody only 4% of the time. The study also found that in the 51 cases included where there were child sexual abuse claims, the courts only credited one mother’s claims.

Parents beginning the child custody process might speak to a lawyer with family law experience. A lawyer may explain the different options available to their client, as well as the possible outcomes. Additionally, a lawyer might also offer representation during court appearances and negotiations.