Florida Dads Ask Legislators to Combat False Allegations in Family Courts

Meanwhile, on this side of the Atlantic, Florida fathers were meeting with elected representatives in the state legislature to try to get some relief from false allegations of abuse used to separate them from their children.

This article tells us that fathers like William Dunn, James Petruska are trying to get legislators to protect fathers from false allegations and make parents whose allegations of abuse turn out to be false bear some form of responsibility for doing so (News Chief, 1/8/11).

James Petruska of Hernando Country said he lost his daughter, his $300,000 home, and his $150,000 business as a result of a false domestic violation injunction made by his ex-wife. Although it has since been found to be false, he said he has been unable to regain what he lost, especially his daughter.

Both Petruska and Dunn report that the Florida Department of Children and Families seem not to care about the severe consequences for fathers of false allegations.  As I’ve reported before, Dunn has a lawsuit against the DCF based on its placing his child in foster care due to allegations it knew at the time were false.  Here’s a piece I wrote about Dunn’s case last May (, 5/2/11).

Echoing what countless attorneys have said over many years about the use of false allegations to gain the upper hand in custody cases,

Tom Lemons of Spring Hill, who runs, said 80 percent of those injunctions are thrown out and used as a tactic in child custody cases.

He also alleged that the attorneys are the ones pushing the tactic, because it gives such a strong advantage.

Erik Romerhaus of SAVE (Stop Abusive and Violent Environments) added that,

If a woman makes a false claim of domestic violence, it can speed up the divorce process, Romerhaus said, so there is incentive to use it as a legal tactic, but it can drive the children out of the target parent’s life permanently.

In many cases, Romerhaus said, there is no due process for that accusation. Even if someone is innocent of the accusation, “you can kiss your kids goodbye.”

And all agreed that prosecutors should do more to bring charges against anyone who uses false allegations of abuse in courts of law. 

I would add that family court judges need to exercise their own powers of contempt to keep litigants honest.  That they routinely fail to do that simple, obvious thing has always struck me as one of the most egregious abuses of fathers’ rights to their children and children’s rights to their fathers in the entire family law system.

Did the legislators listen?  It’s hard to tell.  One, Senator Rhonda Storms, promised to work with domestic violence advocates and fathers to see if “they can agree on legal language that would help move the process forward.”  That response is pure milquetoast. 

Senator JD Alexander (R-Lake Wales) expressed empathy for the men who spoke, and encouraged them to continue to seek a solution within the legal system.

Uh, Senator Alexander, weren’t you listening?  If the legal system addressed the problem effectively, Dunn and the others wouldn’t be talking to you. 

Let’s see if I can help.  Courts routinely allow false allegations by mothers to deny basic parental rights to fathers.  False testimony in court is illegal and should not be used to deny parental rights to good fathers.  The courts are part of the problem, not part of the solution.  Therefore, it’s up to the legislature to change the laws to make sure that fathers aren’t wrongly denied their rights and that testimony in court be the truth.

From the sound of the article, it looks like Florida legislators who ignore the legitimate concerns of fathers need to feel it at the ballot box come next election.

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