Stuckle & Associates PLLC
(972) 423-4405
Schedule Your Free Consultation
Proudly serving the
entire state of Texas.

Questioning Experts In False Allegation Cases

As a defense attorney prepares to defend a client who has been falsely accused of child abuse, frequently they find that the prosecutor has had experts working with the child or children. In many cases the "experts" are nothing more than "allegation validators," who are working with the child to prepare them for testimony. Normally, the interviews they conduct with the child are not audio or video taped and there are few, if any, notes made.

Whether these "experts" are questioned during a deposition or on the witness stand, asking the proper questions can be critical to the overall defense. Based on that, the following are among questions that can potentially be used when questioning a psychologist, social worker, therapist, psychiatrist or custody evaluator:

  • State your full name, age, date of birth and social security number.
  • Are there any other names by which you have ever been known?
  • What is your business address and phone?
  • What is your hourly rate?
  • Are you married?
  • Have you ever been divorced? If so:
    • How many times?
    • Each time, where and when?
    • Do you have children and if so, how old are they and with whom do they live?
    • Was custody an issues in any prior divorce you have had?
    • Has any type sexual allegation ever come up in any divorce or custody matter you have personally been involved in?
  • Have you ever been accused of any type child abuse?
  • Have you ever accused anyone of any type child abuse?
  • Have you ever been personally involved in any situations involving false allegations of child abuse?
  • Have you or any member of your family ever been personally involved with any allegations of child abuse or allegations of sexual abuse?
  • Have you ever been arrested? What was the disposition?
  • Have you ever filed bankruptcy? If so, when and where?
  • Are you under contract, written or unwritten, with any courts specific to your profession and if so, identify each court, the services you were retained to provide and the length of time those services have taken place?
  • Are you under contract, written or unwritten, with any child protection agency and if so, identify each agency, the services you were retained to provide and the length of time those services have taken place?
  • Describe your total involvement and relationship with any child protection agency that you have been under contract with.
  • How many referrals per year do you receive from the courts?
  • Have you ever been sued for malpractice? If so;
    • State the name of the plaintiff and the location of the action.
    • Identify the nature of each malpractice action.
    • Identify the disposition of each action.
  • Have you ever had a grievance filed against you with any state licensing board? If so;
    • What was the nature of each grievance filed against you?
    • What is the disposition of each grievance?
  • Have you received any awards or acknowledgments for your contribution to your field?
  • Name the title and publisher of all articles and books you have authored or co-authored and the dates of each.
  • Are continuing education credits required in your profession and if so, how many credits have you acquired in your professional career?
  • Identify professional occupations that you have been trained for.
  • Identify professions that you have actively worked in, as well as when and where each took place.
  • Detail your educational background.
  • What courses have you had that you believe equipped you for dealing with children?
  • Are you licensed?
  • Are you certified?
  • Have you ever assisted in any research projects?
  • Did you ever do a residency?
  • What professional organizations do you belong to?
  • Have you held any positions of administration or authority and if so, identify each?
  • Is there a professional code of ethics for your profession?  What is it?
  • How many conferences or seminars relating to child sexual abuse have you attended?
  • What does validation of child sexual abuse mean?
  • What books and scholarly articles do you believe to be authoritative on the issue of child custody?
  • What courses have you taken that you found useful in child custody cases?
  • Do you believe that the subject matter of the validation of child sexual abuse is a subject which requires expertise?
  • Would you agree that not "just anyone" could decide whether a child had been sexually abused?
    • Does this area require special skills?
    • Describe the skills needed in your professional opinion.
    • Do you believe that the validation of suspected child abuse cases requires specialized knowledge based on training, education and experience?
    • What specialized knowledge, training or experience do you have that would quality you as an expert in the subject of the validation of child sexual abuse?
  • Do you consider yourself to have good interviewing skills?
    • Please describe your protocol for interviewing.
    • What professional literature supports your interviewing protocol?
  • Do you believe that you have the ability to distinguish between people who are telling the truth and not telling the truth?
    • Please describe your protocol for this.
  • Do you believe that interviewing children who are alleged victims of child abuse requires specialized knowledge based on particularized training and education?
  • Do you consider yourself to have competent or expert ability to interview alleged child sexual abuse victims?
  • Do you ever videotape any sessions with alleged child sexual abuse victims?
    • If not, why not?
  • Did you videotape or audio tape any portion of your interviews in my client's case?
  • Do you ever audiotape any sessions with alleged child sexual abuse victims?
  • Did you ever record any interviews with the child accuser?
  • Do you believe that recording adversely influences the accuracy of the response which you would get from a child?
  • Do you believe that your future sessions ought to be audio or videotaped?
    • If so, why?
    • If not, why not?
  • Are there standards in your field concerning taping of interviews with alleged child sexual abuse victims?
    • What are those standards?
  • Do you take notes during or after each interview?
    • Are you aware of any literature on the accuracy of reports written from memory?
    • Do you take contemporaneous notes as to the quotes or did you write it up afterwards?
    • Do you believe those notes to be accurate?
    • Are the notes verbatim or are they your interpretation of what was said?
    • How can you be so positive about the quotes you have in your report and notes?
    • Do you believe it is possible to be inaccurate about the specific quotes you may have listed in your report or in your notes?
  • Are you aware of any position held by the American Psychological Association regarding the suggestibility of children?
  • Are you aware of any publications endorsed by the American Psychological Association regarding the suggestibility of children?
  • Are you aware of the Ceci and Bruck research in the suggestibility of children? (Published Psychological Bulletin, 1993, Vol 113, P.403439 - APA)
  • Are you familiar with the book, "Jeopardy in the Courtroom," by Ceci and Bruck?
    • Who published that book? (The American Psychological Association)
    • Have you read that book?
    • Do you agree or disagree with Ceci and Bruck's findings?
  • Are children suggestible?
  • In what specific ways do you believe children can be influenced?
  • Could an adult unknowingly influence a child to believe something of a serious nature that is not true?
  • Could an adult knowingly influence a child to believe something of a serious nature that is not true?
  • Can you convince a child to truly believe something that is not true? (If not, how is it then that a child believes in Santa Claus, Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, Superman, etc?)
  • Do you believe that children often want to accommodate their parents or persons in authority?
  • Can a child's desire to accommodate produce unreliable statements from a child?
  • Would you agree or not that a child;
    • Can be taught to believe things which are not true?
    • May give answers to an interviewer to please the interviewer, whether the child believes them to be true or not?
  • Are you familiar with any work or studies on human memory and misleading information?
  • What happens to the memory of a child that is talked to over and over again by someone who believes that terrible things have happened to the child?
  • How much intentional or unintentional influence does it take to contaminate a memory?
  • How many interviews does it take to contaminate a memory?
  • Do you believe that a child could be contaminated as far as any ability to produce objective, valid, or reliable information?
  • What protocol do you use to tell the difference between a true memory and a contaminated one?
    • What scientific literature supports this protocol?
  • How do you determine if a child has been influenced to believe something or not?
  • Prior to interviewing a child accuser, as you initially begin to gather history and background, would knowledge that someone influenced a child to believe something that was not true be critical to the manner in which you proceeded?
  • Identify everyone that you have had any conversations with regarding my client or his family since beginning your involvement.
  • Regarding my client personally, and the allegations made against him by "the child accuser":
    • Has my client told you that he did not molest anyone?
    • If my client did molest the child accuser, wouldn't you expect him to deny it?
    • Wouldn't you also assume that if he was innocent and had done nothing that he would also deny it?
    • So whether he admits or denies it, it would have no probative value in your mind, correct?
    • Wouldn't you expect denial if one is being falsely accused?
  • Do you consider yourself an objective professional?
  • Does your professional code of ethics require you to obtain as much information as possible before rendering a professional opinion?
  • What scientific literature have you read regarding the outrage one feels when one is falsely accused?
  • Would you agree that "outrage" due to a false claim of child sexual abuse might have some relevance?
  • Would you expect outrage if someone is being falsely accused?
  • During your meetings with my client, did you observe "outrage" on his part?
  • How could you determine if such denial is valid?
  • Would you agree that "depression" due to a false claim of child sexual abuse might have some relevance?
  • Would you expect depression from one who had sexually abused a child after the child accused them?
  • Would you expect depression if one is being falsely accused?
  • In my client's case, have you ever had the opportunity to personally observe any depression on his part?
  • What is a syndrome?
  • What syndromes do you specifically rely on with regards to assessing children alleged to have been abused?
  • What syndromes are you aware of regarding family dynamics and false allegations of child sexual abuse?
  • What is your definition of a false allegation of sexual abuse?
    • Do you believe it occurs?
    • How often do you believe it occurs?
    • Have you ever determined an allegation to be false?
    • How did you determine it was a false allegation?
    • How often do you believe it occurs?
    • How many times have you determined an allegation to be false in your career?
  • Do you believe that a mother could manipulate a child into believing a lie about sexual abuse?
  • Have you personally experienced cases where a mother or a father coerced their child into making a false allegation of sexual abuse against the other in order to gain the upper hand in a custody dispute?
  • Would you agree that if a mother convinced a child of a lie about sexual abuse that would be a form of emotional abuse by the mother?
  • Are you aware of any studies indicating the percentages of false allegations of sexual abuse in a divorce or custody setting?
  • Are you aware of any other reports or studies which concern the validity of allegations of sex abuse in the context of divorced or separated parents?
  • Is there a generally recognized protocol in the validation of suspected child sexual abuse and, if so, describe that protocol?
    • What protocol do you use?
    • Do you work for an organization?
    • Does your employer have a protocol?
    • Is there scientific literature supporting the protocol you use?
    • Specifically, what does your protocol consist of?
  • Describe in as much detail as possible, exactly what you did, step by step, to validate any allegations of abuse in my client's case.
  • At any time, did you challenge the credibility of the allegation? If so, explain each incident in detail and if not, why not?
  • What is the definition of a therapist?
  • What is a clinical psychologist?
  • What is a forensic psychologist?
  • What is a forensic interview and how is it conducted?
  • What is the danger of any therapist assuming a the dual role of treating therapist and forensic investigator?
  • What exactly was your role in my client's case, clinical psychologist or forensic psychologist?
  • How many children, 12 years old and under, have you seen or treated?
  • How many children, 12 years old and under, that you have seen or treated, have you determined were sexually abused?
  • What is borderline personality disorder and what are the symptoms?
  • What is a histrionic personality disorder and what are the symptoms?
  • What is bi-polar?
  • Have you personally seen any evidence, since beginning your involvement in my client's case, that anyone you have had contact with regarding this matter has had a histrionic or any other type personality disorder and, if so, please explain?
  • What is pedophilia and what are the symptoms?
  • Can a pedophile be generous with a child?
  • Can a pedophile be stingy with a child?
  • Can a pedophile be very attentive to a child's needs?
  • Can a pedophile be neglectful to a child's needs?
  • Can a pedophile be nurturing to a child?
  • Can a pedophile be cold and callus to a child?
  • Can a pedophile have a nonsexual emotional bond with a child?
  • Can a pedophile have a nonsexual emotionally abusive or indifferent feeling toward a child?
  • If an accused does not admit to pedophile behaviors, how do you determine if he is a pedophile?
  • Can a person falsely accused of child sexual abuse be generous with a child?
  • Can a person falsely accused of child sexual abuse be stingy with a child?
  • Can a person falsely accused of child sexual abuse be very attentive to a child's needs?
  • Can a person falsely accused of child sexual abuse be neglectful to a child's needs?
  • Can a person falsely accused of child sexual abuse be nurturing to a child?
  • Can a person falsely accused of child sexual abuse be cold and callus to a child?
  • Can a person falsely accused of child sexual abuse have a nonsexual emotional bond with a child?
  • Can a person falsely accused of child sexual abuse have a nonsexual emotionally abusive or indifferent attitude toward a child?
  • Can someone be falsely accused of child sexual abuse?
  • If all of the above pedophile and nonpedophile behaviors apply to both abusers and people falsely accused of child sexual abuse, how can you make a determination that this person abused a child?
  • Were you ever told how the allegations made by the child accuser, against my client surfaced? What specifically were you told?
  • Are you aware of the concept of false negatives?
  • Are you aware of the concept of false positives?
  • What steps should be taken, in the investigation of child abuse charges, to insure that you do not end up with a false positive result?
  • Would you agree that a false positive result, involving an issue of child sexual abuse, would have enormous consequences for not only the child, but the falsely accused parent as well?
  • What education have you had in the selection of standardized tests in the evaluation of;
    • Custody?
    • Allegations of sexual abuse?
  • What education have you had in the administration of standardized tests?
  • What education have you had in the interpretation of standardized tests?
  • Are you qualified to administer and score psychological testing?
  • What tests do you usually administer in the process of validation?
  • Do you consider yourself to be an expert in determining the validity of a claim of sexual abuse?
  • Do you believe that there are any differences between the child who fabricates and the child who does not?
  • Do you believe that there are differences ascertainable by psychological testing between the mother of the child who falsely accused, and the mother of the child who has been abused?
    • What differences would you expect to see?
  • Would you agree with protocols that insist on the opportunity to see the father, mother and child?
    • Why or why not?
  • Explain with as much specificity as possible the exact statements, questions, answers, comments, body language and demeanor of the disclosure of the allegations made against my client.
    • Who was present in the room with you at the time of each disclosure?
    • Specifically, what did you say and/or do to test the validity of the disclosure?
  • Describe the bond between a patient and therapist.
  • How do you specifically nurture the bond into existence?
  • Isn't this bond really a dependency on you?
  • Specifically, how did you counsel and/or give therapy to my client's children?
  • Are inconsistent disclosure statements by the alleged victim common in true allegations of abuse?
  • Do children who have been abused deny the abuse?
  • Are consistent disclosure statements by the alleged victim common in true allegations of abuse?
  • Normally, do children who have been abused admit it right away?
    • So the timing of the disclosures really doesn't mean anything, correct?
  • What is your professional belief concerning disclosure of alleged abuse?
    • What scientific literature supports this belief?
  • Were my client's children pleasant or happy the first time they saw you?
  • Please describe in detail their exact demeanor during their first visit with you?
  • Did you find either child to be angry with my client?
  • Are you aware of any studies which indicate that play therapy has any positive effect?
  • Are you aware that play therapy does not improve the interpersonal adjustment of children who participate in it, according the McBiren & Nelson study?
  • Are you aware of any empirical studies which indicate that play therapy has any beneficial results?
  • When you were initially brought into this case, what were the presenting complaints specifically?
  • Specifically, what were you asked to do in this case and by whom? What was your task?
  • Do you believe that you had any duty to my client at all, specifically, to resolve issues and allow him to continue his relationship with his children?
    • If so, what exactly was the nature of that duty?
  • Did you have a written agreement as to the services which you would provide?
  • Identify each and every person who provided you with information as to why they believed my client's children needed evaluation or treatment and the specific information that you were given.
  • Have you ever talked with either of my client's children's pediatricians or family physicians to determine whether they had ever seen anything that would indicate that either of those children had ever been sexually abused?
    • If so, what specifically were you told?
    • If not, why not?
  • What was your preliminary diagnosis in terms of presenting symptoms or problems during your first interview with the child accuser?
  • In your preliminary diagnosis, describe any and all information you relied on that resulted in your diagnosis.
  • Based on your training and experience, describe what symptoms you would expect to see in a child that is separated from a parent.
  • With regards to my client's children, did you ever make or have any type treatment plan?
    • Exactly what did the treatment plan consist of?
  • What specifically did you see as your overall objectives in this case?
  • What specifically regarding my client's case have you ever discussed with any professional colleague?
    • Who and when?
    • What was discussed and why?
  • At any time during your involvement in this case, have you changed your initial opinion or diagnosis?
  • Have you ever talked personally with any of my client's children's school teachers?
  • How many times did you see each individual in this case in order to complete your assessment process?
  • Specifically, what did you do with my client and his children, or the child accuser to complete your assessment task?
  • Specifically, what diagnostic tests were used with my client, his children or the child accuser to complete your assessment task?
  • How much did you charge to complete your assessment task?
  • Identify anyone by name, billing address and date billed who you billed for your total involvement in my client's case?
  • Did or does any party billed by you regarding my client's case require the use of a DSM number?
  • What was the specific diagnosis number(s) you entered for each billing party claim concerning relevant individuals to this case?
  • Did or does any billing party with regards to my client's case have a dollar limit and/or a time limit as to your services or psychological services in general?
    • What is that limit?
  • Specifically, how much were you paid by each and every party you billed regarding my client's case?
  • Are there any outstanding balances owed you with regards to your involvement in my client's case and if so, identify each balance and the name, address and billing date(s) of the party or parties who has been billed.
  • Have you ever provided any supporting information for any claim you have submitted regarding your involvement in my client's case?
  • Identify each and every court where you testified regarding child sexual abuse issues as to;
    • Location and identity of each court you have testified in.
    • Dates you testified.
    • Identify the cases you testified in.
    • Identify the disposition of each case you testified in.
  • Identify each and every person by name, address and telephone number that you have discussed my client's case with, the dates of the discussion and the exact content of each discussion.
  • Identify any current or prior involvement you have had with any child advocacy programs.
  • Do you believe that, in order to treat, it is important to identify the symptoms?
  • Do you believe that, in order to treat, it is important to find the causes of the problem?
  • Do you believe that everything the child says is accurate?
  • Can you give me some examples of what my client, his children or the child accuser said that you did not believe was accurate?
  • How specifically do you determine what is accurate and what isn't accurate?
  • If a patient believes something to be true, would it not be dangerous to treat the person without knowing whether the belief of the patient was true or not?
  • With sexual abuse, if the child was not being abused, for you to treat the child as a victim of sexual abuse would be wrong, wouldn't you agree?
  • What is the Parent Alienation syndrome?
    • What do you know about it?
  • What is the S.A.I.D. syndrome?
    • What do you know about it?
  • Is it fair to say that the first thing you wanted to do in my client's case was to obtain an accurate history regarding his prior relationship with his children?
  • In my client's case, do you believe that you did obtain a true and accurate history?
  • In my client's case, did either of his children personally have any prior therapists and, if so, did you talk with them?
  • During the course of assessing, treating, etc., is detail important to you and if so, why?
  • Specifically what does your protocol instruct or advise regarding detail?
  • Specifically, what does your protocol instruct or advise regarding what might be considered an absurd allegation?
  • How do you make an objective determination on the absurdity or lack of, in an allegation or statement?
  • Specifically, what did you do in my client's case to determine the absurdity or lack of, regarding allegations made against him personally?
  • How do you define inconsistencies in statements regarding an issue?
  • Did you find any inconsistencies in anything you were ever told since beginning your involvement in my client's case?
    • Please explain each and every inconsistency.
    • What did you determine regarding each and every inconsistency?
  • How do you define contamination?
  • Did you find any contamination during your work in this case?
    • Exactly what contamination did you find?
  • Did you objectively look for the opportunity for contamination in any of the statements?
  • Is independent evidence important in a case?
  • What do you determine independent evidence to be?
  • What independent evidence did you seek in my client's case and from whom?
  • Do you believe that detail is one of the ways that you judge credibility? In other words if the child can be specific and detailed as to the events, isn't that more credible than a child who just makes vague statements and cannot supply any detail about being abused?
  • Did any statements from anyone you have talked with since beginning your involvement in my client's case seem to have a rehearsed quality?
  • Did either my client's children or the child accuser seem preoccupied with other things when they met with you?
  • When my client's children or the child accuser met with you, did either want to talk about other things besides issues you wanted to discuss?
    • If so, how did you handle that?
  • Did you obtain any factual evidence at all that tended to corroborate any statement you got from anyone alleging that my client was in any manner guilty of the allegations made against him by the child accuser?
  • If a child says, "I hate going to see my father," one way to test the truth of that statement might be to observe the father with the child, correct?
    • Was that ever done by you in this case?
  • Is psychology an exact science?