CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- West Virginians could soon face criminal charges for falsely reporting child abuse or neglect to influence a custody case.
The House of Delegates voted 85-13 Wednesday to send the Senate a measure that would also slap any parent making a false report with a $1,000 fine or paying the other side's lawyer fees.
The misdemeanor crime would also carry a punishment of up to 60 hours of community service.
The bill is among the goals of groups that allege West Virginia treats fathers unfairly in awarding custody and child support. Lawmakers have debated the prevalence of false reporting.
Kanawha County Democrat and House Judiciary Chairwoman Carrie Webster said the bill was amended to ensure its provisions do not chill the reporting of actual abuse or neglect.
A True Report
A House of Delegates bill says it would be a crime to falsely report child abuse and neglect as part of a custody case.
The House of Delegates approved a bill 85-13 Wednesday that's supported by the group Men and Women Against Discrimination.
House Judiciary Committee Chair Carrie Webster says those accusing the false reporting must meet a high standard.
"They have to prove there is a report. That they knew at the time they filed the report that it was false and that there was intent the information influenced a child custody proceeding," she said Wednesday before the vote.
Webster says the misdemeanor conviction does not provide jail time, instead those convicted would be sentenced to community service and parenting classes.
Webster says she doesn't believe the bill will "chill" the reporting of child abuse and neglect. She says the House is trying to strike a balance.
"People are contending that these false allegations are going unchecked versus the large number of instances in which we know child abuse and neglect occur," she said.
The bill has been sent to the state Senate for consideration.
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