(Case Caption)

September 9, 1988

OMNIBUS MEMORANDUM IN SUPPORT OF DEFENDANT'S MOTIONS FOR:

1)  A PSYCHOLOGICAL EVALUATION OF THE PLAINTIFF;

2)  PHYSICAL EXAMINATION AND PSYCHOLOGICAL EVALUATION OF THE MINOR CHILD;

3)  REQUIRING ELECTRONIC RECORDING OF ALL INTERVIEWS OF THE MINOR CHILD;

4)  PROHIBITING THE MOTHER AND HER AGENTS FROM INTERROGATING THE MINOR CHILD;

5)  REQUIRING THE FILING OF UCCJA AFFIDAVITS.

 

PRELIMINARY STATEMENT

In the context of divorce and custody disputes, sixty to eighty percent of accusations of sexual abuse of a child by a parent are false or unsubstantiated.  See Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting and Investigation: Policy Guidelines for Decision Making, published by ABA National Legal Resource Center for Child Advocacy and Protection, October 8, 1987, and Wakefield and Underwager, Accusations of Child Sexual Abuse, published by C.C. Thomas.  A study of the increasingly frequent phenomena of allegations of sexual abuse in the context of divorce has led researchers to observe that the psychological profile of the accusing parent can be particularly useful in evaluating the likely truth or falsity of the accusations.  See Blush and Ross, Sexual Allegations in Divorce, the SAID Syndrome, 1987, Conciliation Courts Review, 25.  Blush and Ross, supra, find the child's alleged statements the least significant aspect of evaluating the situation.  Underwager and Wakefield, supra, suggest that it is most important to assess the adult interactions with the alleged victim as part of the evaluation process.

The real issue in this case is the level, nature, extent, and effect of adult social influence upon the minor child in encouraging or producing the statements the mother alleges the child made to her.  In particular, given the context in which plaintiff has raised these allegations, particular attention must be focused on her psychological make-up, psychological needs, hidden agendas, and her influence on the child in his making the statements alleged.

The purpose of the various motions filed by defendant is to minimize the trauma to defendant's son as a result of these false accusations by limiting interrogation of the child to qualified court-appointed professionals and minimizing the need for repetition of those events through comprehensive audiotaping and videotaping.  The defendant is seeking to afford protection to his son from the trauma associated with the legal process, and to satisfy the court that Steven will not be at risk in defendant's custody, due to the presence of various supervisors.  In addition, the defendant is seeking to have the court order the various evaluations and disclosure on an expedited basis, and set a date for a full hearing of the issues not later than November 30, 1988.

It is well known that uncertainty is difficult for children to deal with.  The Connecticut Bar Association's Guidelines for Courts and Counsel in custody cases states, with respect to counsel for children:

"... counsel should act to move the proceedings toward conclusion as speedily as possible, since undue delay in the resolution of the custody or visitation dispute is rarely in the best interest of the child.  The minor will suffer more than any of the adults as a consequence of the anxiety of uncertainty.  Counsel should keep in mind that cases can be expedited not only by moving for early trial dates but also by facilitating the completion of the various evaluations and investigations." 56 Conn. Bar Journal 484, 492 (1982).

The Court should do no less.

During the litigation, Steven's life of, necessity, is going to be somewhat uncertain.  However, to minimize both the intensity and the duration of that time, it is requested that Steven be permitted to reside with his father, as he has for the past year and a half, pursuant to a stipulation and order voluntarily entered into by the mother in early 1987 which gave sole custody of Steven to his father.  This way, Steven will be able to attend school and continue his normal activities and relationships in a manner that will be least disruptive to his life.  Uprooting Steven at this time, having him move to a new town and enter school there, only to have him ultimately returned to his father in the middle of the school year, would not be in Steven's best interest where he is adequately protected from the alleged danger of the defendant, and from the harm that would be caused were he to reside with his mother, who is of questionable emotional stability.

1) MOTION FOR PSYCHOLOGICAL EVALUATION OF THE PLAINTIFF

The defendant categorically denies the allegations of sexual abuse made by the plaintiff in her affidavit for an ex parte change of custody.  Assuming, for the sake of argument, that the child made the statements alleged in plaintiff's affidavit, the issue for the court is: "why did the child make those statements?"  Research has demonstrated that a principal reason in the context of divorce and custody disputes may be found in the psychological functioning of the accusing adult and adult agendas which impose ideas upon children, making those children the unwitting pawns and victims of those adults.

By raising the issue of abuse, plaintiff has put the psychological functioning of the entire family at issue in this case.  Thus, it is totally appropriate that her psychological status and functioning be evaluated to determine the effect that they have had upon the situation, and upon Steven allegedly having made the statements reported in plaintiff's affidavit.  If the plaintiff is confident of the validity of her statements, and is honest in the reason for making the allegations in the time and manner which she did, she will have absolutely no reluctance to undergoing whatever psychiatric or psychological evaluation the court orders.  The court certainly should be skeptical of the veracity of her allegations should plaintiff be reluctant to submit to such evaluations.
  

2) MOTION FOR PHYSICAL EXAMINATION AND PSYCHOLOGICAL EVALUATION OF THE MINOR CHILD

If it has not already been performed, a physical examination of the minor child by his customary pediatrician should be performed immediately to determine if any physical evidence of sexual abuse exists.  This examination can be performed in an innocuous fashion.  The child can be told he is going for a routine physical examination.  No statements should be made to the pediatrician indicating that the issue involves an allegation of sexual abuse of the child by the husband.  Any competent pediatrician doing a thorough job will make a complete head to toe examination of the child, including an examination of his genitals, and will report any physical findings he may make.  Such an examination is not inherently harmful to Steven.  It is in his interest as much as anyone else's that the existence or absence of physical signs of abuse be investigated and reported promptly.
  

3) MOTION SEEKING AUDIOTAPING AND VIDEOTAPING OF ALL ADULT INVESTIGATIVE CONTACTS OF THE MINOR CHILD

Cases involving allegations of sexual abuse of a child, when the allegations are made by one parent against another parent, customarily deteriorate into a series of interviews of the minor child and attempts by the plaintiff to introduce hearsay statements into evidence.  Usually the hearsay statements are reformulations by the party offering them in a manner which enhances their value to that party.  The defense against these statements is to question the circumstances under which they were made, the manner in which the interrogation was conducted and the competency, if any, of the "professionals" conducting such interviews.  The result can be lengthy and confusing testimony before the court which legitimately results in the court being confused and having a difficult time determining the validity, if any, of anything that has been offered in evidence.

One sure way to avoid this quagmire is to have each and every adult investigative contact with the minor child audiotaped at a minimum, and if possible, videotaped.  As any parent knows, and certainly any educator of children knows, children can be taught to say various things which may or may not be true.  The teaching can be direct, or subtle through reinforcement by body motions, facial signs, or other visual cues.  If a videotape recording is made of any interview between the child and the interviewer concerning the topic of sexual abuse, at the very least there will be no question as to what actually took place.  Thus, at the time of trial, the court will only have to deal with the issues of the validity and weight to be accorded such evidence, if found to be admissible.  Audiotaping and/or videotaping of all investigative contacts with the minor child will minimize the number of times the child must be interviewed concerning a delicate subject, and will eliminate totally arguments about the accuracy of reporting of the child's statements.
  

4) MOTION PROHIBITING THE MOTHER AND HER AGENTS FROM INTERROGATING THE MINOR CHILD CONCERNING THE ALLEGATIONS OF ABUSE

As noted above, the child can be taught to say various things, depending upon the cues received from the questioner.  Wakefield and Underwager, supra, have written extensively on "Interrogation as a Learning Process."  This is true just as much of what the mother says and how she behaves in relation to the child on a daily basis as it does to specific professionals, law enforcement personnel or others interrogating the child concerning the allegations.  Where, as here, it appears that the mother is serving her own needs by raising the allegations in the time and manner she has, rather than being truly concerned about the psychological and emotional needs of her son, Steven, it is appropriate that the court prohibit the mother, and her family members and friends, or anyone else, from discussing with the child the allegations of abuse other than in the context of a court appointed interview or evaluation which is audio- or videotaped.  Should the mother claim that the child raises the topic of abuse on his own and that she has an obligation as a parent to respond to that, the mother can very unobtrusively acknowledge the statements made by her son and simply suggest that it would be more appropriate to discuss the matter at another time, in the presence of the court-appointed professionals.  This will give the child assurance that his concerns, if they really are his, are being met by the mother, but again will minimize the extent to which the mother conditions or brain washes her son into making accusations against his father.

Defendant agrees to be bound by the same restraints concerning discussion of the topic of abuse with Steven.
  

5) MOTION REQUIRING THE FILING OF UCCJA AFFIDAVITS

The UCCJA, Connecticut General Statutes Section 46(b)-99, requires the filing by all parties of affidavits concerning the residence and custody of the minor child at the commencement of custody proceedings.  The filing of this affidavit is not discretionary with the court.  The defendant is requesting an order that these affidavits be filed since this statute, as a routine matter, seems to be honored in its breach.

Here, the father has had custody of the minor child pursuant to stipulation and order since early 1987.  In the context of allegations and abuse, there is national recognition that frequently one party absconds with the child and secretes the child in another state, thus depriving both the child and the accused of ever litigating the issues and preventing the court from ever making a determination as to the best interests of the child.  See, "Mothers on the Run", U.S. News & World Report dated June 13, 1988.  The obvious purpose of the UCCJA, and the Federal Parental Kidnapping Act, is to limit the extent to which a parent may be successful in fleeing one jurisdiction and instituting legal proceedings in another.  As a precaution, and pursuant to statutory mandate, the Court should require all parties to file UCCJA statements, forthwith.
  

CONCLUSION

For the reasons set forth above, and at oral argument, it is respectfully requested that the various motions of the defendant be granted in their entirety.

 

THE DEFENDANT

 

by _____________________
           His Attorney

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