In the past few years we have seen a number of high profile domestic violence cases involving sports and entertainment celebrities, as well as political and public figures. With the increased focus on domestic violence in the media, law enforcement and prosecutors are taking these types of cases more seriously than ever before.
But unfortunately, sometimes the laws regarding domestic violence are used by individuals and their lawyers in an effort to get a more favorable settlement in a divorce. These laws can be used to turn the kids against their mother or father, to get attention, to get even, or as leverage during a divorce.
Allegations of domestic violence in divorce invariably have an impact on the outcome of a divorce case. Unfortunately, in many cases, these allegations are unfounded, without merit, and are an unfair tool used to broker a better divorce settlement.
So how do you protect yourself from allegations of domestic violence in a divorce, and what can you do if you have been accused of domestic violence before or during a divorce case?
Allegations of domestic violence are a criminal charge. Having a criminal record can negatively impact your divorce. It can also have a negative impact on your ability to get a job or obtain decent housing, which can also impact how you will fare in your divorce.
If you are facing allegations of domestic violence, you stand to lose some or all of your marital assets. You could lose custody of your children. You risk losing your standing in the community, and might be passed over for certain jobs.
If you are accused of domestic violence, your spouse or domestic partner will often automatically be granted temporary custody of the children. You will not be allowed to contact your domestic partner or your kids while the case is open, and the family home will likely go to your partner until the domestic violence allegations are sorted out.
To prevent allegations of domestic violence in a divorce case, it’s helpful to first have a clear understanding of what types of behavior can give rise to allegations of domestic violence.
Obvious behaviors such as rape and beating your spouse or domestic partner can give rise to allegations of domestic violence in a divorce case. But other behaviors can also lead to allegations of domestic violence, such as:
In theory, a domestic violence tag could be attached to any crime. Even crimes like reckless driving or disorderly conduct could be prosecuted as domestic violence crimes.
You can protect yourself and avoid allegations of domestic violence in a divorce case by not engaging in these types of behaviors, and by avoiding getting into an argument with your spouse or domestic partner. If you have a difference of opinion, try not to use derogatory words, and do your best to diffuse the situation. Using abusive language is an element of disorderly conduct.
If you’re concerned that you have a vindictive spouse who will try to use false allegations of domestic violence in a divorce case, take proactive steps to create a strong defense.
Start by making a record of your partner’s erratic behaviors and threats.
Find witnesses who can vouch for your good character, strong parenting abilities, and the active role you take in your children’s lives. If possible, try not to be alone with your spouse. It is difficult for a prosecutor to obtain a domestic violence conviction if third party witnesses can testify that the allegation is not truthful.
Tell your family and friends about your concerns.
Be known as a good person in the community - don’t yell or raise your voice, and don’t speak poorly of your spouse or domestic partner. By being the bigger person, it can make it more difficult for your spouse or domestic partner to succeed in using allegations of domestic violence in a divorce case to gain leverage.
Sometimes a spouse or domestic partner might seek a restraining order against you by making false and unsubstantiated claims to tip the balance in child custody and increase the likelihood of getting primary custody of the children.
The burden of proof to have a judge grant a protective order against you is surprisingly low, yet the impact of such an order on a divorce case can be huge. Sometimes the terms of a protective order will specify that you must stay away from the children, or be restricted to supervised visitation. Not being able to spend time with the children will have a large impact on the child custody portion of a divorce case. The parent who sought the order can then unfairly claim that since the children have been spending most of their time with her, it would be disruptive to go back to sharing parenting, or even allowing visitation.
If you are concerned about allegations of domestic violence in a divorce case, try to create an environment it would be difficult to believe that such allegations are true.
If you have filed for divorce and are concerned about allegations of domestic violence, it’s important to act quickly to take steps to clear your name by having a protective order against you dismissed, or at least modified so that the playing field is level when it comes to child custody proceedings.
To succeed, you’ll need to skill and advice of an experienced lawyer.
Washington criminal defense attorney Justin Campbell has helped hundreds of people throughout the Pacific Northwest, in places like Anacortes, Mount Vernon, Burlington, and Sedro-Woolley, as well as Oak Harbor, Coupeville, Langley, Freeland, Clinton, and Friday Harbor.