Our divorce attorneys know that divorce cases sometimes involve serious domestic violence. In those situations, the divorce becomes more complex because domestic violence allegations can permeate nearly every aspect of the divorce - custody, visitation, child support and even alimony. It is like a domino effect that can dramatically change the divorce case's landscape and experienced and knowledgeable attorneys know the complications that can arise and how to best handle them.
We write this article from two perspectives - 1st, from that of the domestic violence victim. By "victim", we refer to the spouse that has made truthful allegations of domestic violence against his or her spouse. The second perspective is from that of the spouse falsely accused of domestic violence. By "falsely accused", we mean that the spouse being accused did not commit any act of domestic violence of which he or she is being accused.
We do not write from the perspective of a spouse who committed domestic violence or a spouse who is falsely accusing his or her spouse. That is because our firm does not represent either of such spouses.
Let's go through the checklist for true victims and those falsely accused. This domestic violence checklist is just a starting point. A consultation with an experienced divorce attorney is a must if you intend to give yourself the best chance of prevailing.
The Domestic Violence Victim Checklist
1. Have the police been contacted? I am often surprised when real domestic violence victims call a family law lawyer before they contact the police. That is backward. If your spouse has hit you or committed other acts of domestic violence, your first priority should be protection with the help of law enforcement.
2. Have you left the place of violence? Hanging around where your spouse resides and has access to you again only means you are placing yourself and your children in harm's way. Stay with family or friends, seek help at a Orange County domestic violence shelter. Once again, safety is your number one goal
3. Are you cooperating with law enforcement? Do you know what happens when you make a report of domestic violence and then don't cooperate with law enforcement? You look like the one that made false allegations or one who really doesn't need help. This often empowers the abuser and causes you to become a victim again, possibly more serious the second time around.
4. Seek a domestic violence restraining order. Often, you will receive an emergency criminal protective order from law enforcement but those can expire very quickly. If you have not received an extension of it and the abusing spouse is not restrained from contacting you, then you need the services of our divorce lawyers to seek a domestic violence restraining order against you. We can be in court in 24 hours or less, with and sometimes without notice.
5. Seek financial help through the family court. Domestic violence victims sometimes think they must financially fend for themselves. That is not true. You have rights. Along with a domestic violence restraining order, we can seek child support, alimony or orders to have debts paid and attorney's fees. This can be sought and obtained at the same time as the restraining order action.
6. Protect your children. If your spouse committed serious domestic violence against you, then you should consider your children in similar danger. Do not simply assume your spouse will do the right thing with the kids. You often need emergency custody orders while the process is pending.
Checklist for Spouse Falsely Accused of Domestic Violence
1. Are criminal charges being investigated? Get an experienced criminal defense attorney if the answer is yes and do not assume that you can figure it all out. We have seen cases where the spouse who is making the false allegations has inflicted injury to him or herself or has gotten family members or friends to lie for him or her. Just because you didn't commit the domestic violence doesn't mean you will be believed and law enforcement can sometimes be biased toward an allegation victim. You must protect yourself and getting an experienced criminal defense attorney who will work with our divorce attorneys is a must. Our law firm can give you referrals to such criminal defense lawyers.
2. Get an experienced divorce attorney involved at the outset. Don't wait. Don't attend court appearances on your own. Unless your goal is to play Russian Roulette with your rights, we strongly suggest a lawyer be retained immediately. If you have not been given notice of any restraining order hearing in family court and a divorce has been filed, you should still consult with our experienced domestic violence lawyers.
3. Gather evidence. Witnesses, text messages, emails, photos, videos, social media communications, you need it all. But you must be careful. If you have been served with a restraining order, you will be limited in what you can do because the restraining order often prevents direct or indirect contact. Having your lawyer gather the evidence you need is not only efficient but could keep from indirectly violating a restraining order.
4. Prepare for the hearing. Too many family law lawyers walk into domestic violence hearings unprepared. If you have witnesses, they should be present and ready to testify. If you have photos or videos, they need to be properly authenticated and ready for presentation. If you have evidence and don't produce it, you have nobody but yourself to blame if the court grants the restraining order against you. Think about it this way - all a person has to show to get a restraining order is that an act of domestic violence occurred by a preponderance of the evidence. That means the "tipping of the scales" or "51%" standard is all that is necessary. You want to rest your rights on a he said she said and that? Get our divorce attorneys involved and you won't have to.
5. Think about the children. The hardest thing to do, especially for a noncustodial parent, is to know what to do with the kids. Once you prevail, chances are you will get your custody rights back. But should you ask for custody or visitation to be partially or fully taken away from the spouse that falsely accused you? Maybe. But this kind of issue cannot be decided on a whim. You need the experience of an attorney who can evaluate all of the facts and the law to give you options so you make an intelligent choice.
Which Divorce Attorney is Right for You?
Only you can decide that. But you have nothing to lose by calling us and I believe once you read our family law client testimonials, case results and speak with our divorce attorneys, the decision will get a lot easier. We are ready to help you.