Posted by: koherston | June 8, 2010

Cone v. Cone

Facts:  During the divorce litigation, Mother temporarily had primary residential custody of Child in Tennessee.  Father, a veterinarian in Missouri, had regular visitation.   Mother began expressing her concerns to Child’s physicians that Father had sexually abused Child.  “These concerns arose in part out of the fact that Father’s father, a psychiatrist, had been convicted and imprisoned for sexual abuse of patients and Mother’s suspicion that sexual problems ran in Father’s family.”  Doctor after doctor confirmed there was no evidence of sexual abuse but this did not assuage Mother, who kept trying to find someone who would find evidence of abuse.  Tennessee’s Department of Children’s Services  investigated Mother’s allegations and administratively “indicated” Father as a perpetrator of child abuse despite the lack of evidence.  The Missouri Department of Social Services also investigated and found the allegations to be “unsubstantiated.”  After six days of testimony from several expert witnesses, the trial court found Mother’s allegations to be untrue and, acting upon the expert’s recommendations, awarded primary residential custody to Father.

In a lengthy opinion, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court, concluding that “there is overwhelming evidence that Mother’s falsely founded obsession [with the sexual abuse allegations] has and will harm the child.”  The Court further found

[t]here is no evidence of physical or emotional abuse of the child by Father.  However, Mother is convinced that the father has sexually abused the child.  This falsely held belief on her part and her false accusations against Father is in and of itself abuse of the child according to Dr. Ackerman. . . .  The most significant factor is that the Mother has not been willing to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent child relationship between the child and the other parent.  This is evidenced by her continued attempts to convince health care professionals that the Father is a sexual victim and abuser and that this child has been abused.  She continues to insist that there should be supervised visitation between the child and the father. This heavily weighs in favor of the father.

Noting that Mother “had become preoccupied with the notion that Father was abusing the child and refused to let go of that obsession despite the lack of evidence to support it,” the Court of Appeals affirmed the award of custody to Father.

Cone v. Cone (Tenn. Ct. App. Apr. 29, 2010).

Information provided by K.O. Herston, Tennessee Divorce Lawyer.


Responses

  1. Nice decision, counsel. I always love to see cases where judges understand false abuse allegations and mother’s psychopathology can be detrimental to the child’s best interest.

  2. False allegations and psychopathology are not gender specific and are not the sole province of mothers. Parents of both sexes can and do make false allegations and possess psychological disorders adversely affecting their children.

  3. Very true, counsel, but both anecdotally and empirically speaking, studies show more women and mothers make false accusations of sex crimes. Moreover, Underwager & Wakefield documented evidence that many of the same suffer from undiagnosed and untreated mental health disorders – http://www.ipt-forensics.com/journal/volume2/j2_3_1.htm

    • Dean Tong, the master of capitalizing on Men’s Rights” movements, which is another name for abuser organizations. Underwager? Are you kidding?

  4. Because most sex offenses are committed by men, it would seem logical that men are statistically more likely to be on the receiving end of sexual abuse allegations, both truthful and false.

  5. […] said it before and I’ll say it again: a parent should do everything he or she can to encourage, foster, and promote the […]

    • I would say encouraging a relationship with someone who is raping your child would be difficult at best.

      • Obviously.

  6. Dr. William Cone was arrested on August 30, 2012 on four counts of child rape and one count of agg sex battery after his son, now nine, gave a detailed account of the abuse he has suffered for the last year after the court placed him in the custody of his father. What do you think now?

    • If those allegations are true, then obviously that’s a terrible thing to have happened to the child. What else could one think?

  7. Parental alienation is real. The horrible effects on a child are every bit as bad as physical abuse. My “blended” family lives with PAS everyday. Not a day goes by that we do not think about and cry over the alienated child. After 10 years as a legal assistant, i have one semester at MTSU until graduation. Application to law school this spring. I will fight for the children. Great article.

  8. William Cone was charged with raping his son, it has been over 3 years and the prosecutor’s office has yet to bring the case to trial. According to DA Glenn Funk “This case has been indicted and is an open, pending case. It is being evaluated and reviewed. This process is consistent with every other case in our office.”

    Source: http://www.fox10tv.com/story/28399513/child-advocacy-group-blasts-funk-over-handling-of-child-rape-case#ixzz3odyXxUUL

    Part of the problem is that there is a backlog of more than 130 cases involving crimes against children, many that went ignored for years, recently discovered in the DA’s office. Several attorneys, many specializing in domestic violence, were fired. Attorney Kristen Menke was working on the Cone case, and resigned in the midst of the scandal.

    “Funk said 74 child sexual abuse cases, some as old as 2010, that had not been followed up on were found in mid-January. He said 60 to 80 child physical abuse cases, some as old as 2001, were found about two weeks ago.” (The Tennessean) http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/2015/04/01/nashville-da-longtime-child-abuse-prosecutor-departs/70766926/

    This case is far from being over.

  9. I am Cynthia Cheatham attorney for Georgia Dunn in this case. The father in this case has since been indicted for raping this child. He goes on trial on 5/16/2016. This time the state and FBI are the accusers. “False allegations” may not be false after all. I handled the appeal and not the custody case. I was appalled by all the junk science in the custody case.

  10. It is time for lawyers to stop capitalizing on these “false allegations” cases when the literature clearly demonstrates that this is an extraordinarily rare occurrence (less than 5% of cases involve abuse and less than 2% are false). This post should be retracted at this point, or at least modified. Sensationalizing the change of custody, now tragic in hindsight, is wrong.

    • If one objectively looks at the Finkelhor study from 1992 – 2006 and combines those numbers with the approximate 2/3 unfounded rate of child sex abuse within high-conflict divorces/custody battles, the actual incidence of child sexual abuse is closer to 10% – 15%.


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