A prominent New Jersey psychologist has had her license revoked by the state Board of Psychological Examiners following evidence of malpractice in dealing with a three-year old child at the centre of a contentious divorce case. The board acted on a recommendation by the state Administrative Law Judge Edith Klinger who ruled in July that Dr. Marsha Kleinman had deliberately manipulated interview sessions with the child to make it appear that she had been sexually abused by her father. The ruling follows an initial complaint that had been laid against Dr. Kleinman in 2007 by the state Attorney General's office.
Marsha Kleinman's professional involvement with the case began in 2003 when she was assigned by a family court judge to work with the then-three-year old client during a divorce and custody hearing. Following a verbal report by the child's mother that the father had sexually abused the child, Dr. Kleinman carried out a series of weekly therapy sessions between 2003 and 2004 in which she reportedly attempted to manipulate the child into admitting abuse. During the videotape evidence of the sessions spent with the child presented during Dr. Kleinman's trial, the child was repeatedly pressed to admit the abuse and was even bribed to do so with the threat of withholding toys.
Since the first complaint against Dr. Kleinman came though, other parents have also come forward accusing the therapist of implanting false memories in children and otherwise manipulating children into making allegations that have been used as testimony in abuse cases. Some parents (primarily fathers) accused Kleinman of being responsible for adverse legal decisions that cost them custody, and even access, to their own children.
In making her ruling, Judge Klinger stated that Dr. Kleinman "engaged in gross and repeated malpractice" and that she exploited the child's trust and used her relationship with the client to poison her relationship with her father. As well, though no investigation was carried out by police or child protection workers, the allegations of abuse that Dr. Kleinman attempted to extract from her client might well have been used as evidence against the father. Given that Dr. Kleinman had frequently served as an expert witness in child abuse cases, Judge Klinger concluded that Dr. Kleinman "must not be allowed to engage in course of action with another child."
Dr. Kleinman continues to deny the charges and maintains that she is a dedicated professional whose only motivation is to protect abused children. In an online statement, she places much of the blame for the legal decision on "Father's rights groups". She particularly focused on the New Jersey Council for Children's Rights which she accused of filing multiple complaints against her to overwhelm the Board and "and create a false impression that the licensee has done something wrong". She also accused the Council of launching a smear campaign against her and applying political pressure on the state Attorney General's office to lay a complaint against her.
For their part, fathers' rights groups such as Fathers and Families, welcome the legal decision against Dr. Kleinman. In one public statement, Dr. Kleinman is referred to as "the bane of fathers in the Garden State and the go-to shrink for every mother who wanted to cut the dad out of their children’s lives. Put simply, Kleinman has apparently never seen a child who hasn’t been sexually abused by its father. And if there’s no evidence of abuse, Kleinman could be relied on to manufacture some."
With the ruling against Marsha Kleinman, her role in numerous other custody cases will likely come under intense scrutiny. Given that she has acted as a forensic expert in custody cases for more than three decades, the legal fallout is likely to be considerable.For more information.