03/04/2011 AT 08:55 PM EST
Breaking his silence, David Birney issued a forceful denial of ex-wife Meredith Baxter's allegations
he abused her during their 16-year marriage.
In a statement to PEOPLE on Friday, the actor, 71, calls her claims "an appalling abuse of the truth" and derided her new memoir, Untied,
as "a kind of fairy tale."
After their divorce 20 years ago, he says, Baxter "conducted a relentless and brutal assault" for eight years against their shared custody of their three children in what he called an attempt "to destroy that arrangement and replace it with herself as sole custodian."
"During that time she arrived in court repeatedly with various lawyers and several therapists, 'recovered memories,' accusations of abuse – a common charge in custody disputes – and tales of our life together that bore little resemblance to truth – a mean spirited process that battered us all, especially the children," he says. "The court denied her suit on every occasion."
The pair continued to have shared custody until their children went to college, he says, adding, "This current recycled version of our family story is no more credible now than it was then."
Birney says he found it "immensely sad and truly absurd" that in the memoir Baxter "is unable to reclaim a single instance of joy or pleasure in all that time, not one occasion of love or delight or accomplishment in our entire life together as we built a family. Not one.
"Nothing from our first meeting to divorce. Nothing, in sixteen years. Really?" he continues.
"This blanket omission, this unrelieved denial of even a single instance of joy or pleasure in the creation of a family, the substance and amazing joy of raising children together, of simply being together with them during that time, is incomprehensible. And sad."
He concludes by saying, "Meredith’s own account of these years is its own rebuke to her credibility. "
In the memoir, Baxter, 63, who came out as a lesbian
in 2009, claims that Birney struck her on more than one occasion.
"It was so sudden and unexpected, I couldn't tell you which hand hit me, or even how hard," she writes. "I do recall thinking, 'I'd better not get up because he's going to hit me again.' "
Please note: Comments have been suspended temporarily as we explore better ways to serve you. Your opinion is important to us; you can find current discussions at facebook.com/peoplemag.