The court of appeals released an opinion on July 17, 2012 affirming the trial court's decision to award sole legal and sole physical custody to the father and to suspend the parenting time of the mother until further order of the court where the mother had made numerous unsubstantiated CPS reports alleging sexual abuse of the children.
Unsubstantiated allegations were made to CPS in 2009. It was recommended that defendant mother’s parenting time be suspended until further order and until after she engaged in counseling to address her suspected Munchausen syndrome by proxy.
In September 2010, the father moved for a change in custody based largely on the continued and unsubstantiated allegations of sexual abuse. Following four days of hearings on custody, the hearing referee issued a report and recommendation finding that plaintiff should be granted sole legal and sole physical custody of both minor children.
Central to the trial court's analysis of the best interests of the child factors was the cour's finding that the evidence clearly demonstrated that Defendant Mother either coached the children regarding the fabrication of stories of sexual abuse perpetrated upon them by Plaintiff Father or fostered any stories concocted by the children regarding the alleged and unsubstantiated sexual abuse.
The trial court concluded that Defendant Mother either coached the children into fabricating allegations of sexual abuse or fostered the children’s fabrications of sexual abuse after it became clear those allegations had no basis in fact was central to its weighing of most of the best-interest factors. Psychologist Frank Langer testified that “based on the psychological evidence, [plaintiff father] does not appear to . . . be abusive as has been alleged, that these allegations of abuse, you know, have been damaging to the children and that constitutes a form of psychological child abuse, and that the children should be protected from further such abuse by being placed with [plaintiff father].”
The court of appeals affirmed. You may read the case here: Download Sandel_v_Shining_Water_Eagle