It's estimated that 25% of divorces contain an allegation of domestic violence, and a lot of them are either trivial or outright false. Some people will use a false allegation of domestic violence as a tactical weapon in a nasty divorce, especially where child custody is an issue. The consequences can be disastrous for the person falsely accused, whose life has just gone from bad to worse in the time it takes a judge to issue an ex parte order of protection. This is what you should know if it happens to you.
The Nature Of Your Divorce And Child Custody Case Has Just Changed.
Your divorce is now a vastly different divorce case than it was just before you were hit with the abuse charges. At this point, you are facing significantly more financial and legal impositions on your life than you were. In addition:
- Your accuser will likely be granted exclusive use of the home, forcing you to move out.
- You may still be required to pay the rent or mortgage, utilities, and even buy groceries for the household.
- You will likely have all of your visitation with your children either suspended or subject to supervision.
- Your future custody rights are in jeopardy.
- If your job requires the use of a weapon or a security clearance, you can end up facing long-term career consequences (or unemployment).
- You can no longer communicate with the accuser directly for any reason - including issues related to co-mingled debts, your divorce, or child visitation.
- You run the risk of jail time for any violations of the order (including trying to talk to your accuser about what's happening).
Additionally, you've also got the emotional impact of having the stigma from being labelled abusive in front of the people you work with, your friends, relatives, and even your children's school (who will no doubt be given a copy of the temporary orders against you).
How You Choose To Proceed In Court Is Critical To Your Future.
All of this upheaval in your life is usually accomplished by means of an emergency hearing and an ex parte order of the Court. You don't get a chance to respond to the allegations until the return hearing. In many jurisdictions, your choices at the hearing will be:
- Agree to a restraining order with no findings that abuse occurred.
- Contest the allegations in court.
A lot of people in your situation will choose the first option, thinking that the concession will be enough to mollify their accuser somehow. At the very least, it seems like the first option will be less expensive. Plus, it sounds like a relief to have the Court say, officially, that no abuse occurred.
The problems with that solution are multiple. First, you're still under a restraining order. That means that your ability to contact your spouse, and possibly your children, is still limited. Your access to your home is still denied.
Second, people will often assume that if the restraining order exists you must have "done something," even if there's no finding of abuse. You are in a situation where a lot of people will treat you like you are guilty until you prove yourself innocent.
Third, any violation of the order can result in criminal charges. That puts you in a precarious legal situation where it's easier for you to make a mistake that will have far-reaching legal consequences in your life. And remember: your accuser has already demonstrated a willingness to make a false accusation before, so you run the risk that it will happen again - with worse consequences!
You Need An Attorney To Represent You Against The Charges
Unless you are willing to take the risks that come with agreeing to a restraining order without the finding of abuse, you need an attorney (such as Jeffrey D. Larson, Attorney at Law) who can represent you against the domestic violence charges. Your attorney can attack the allegations, expose the motivation, and address the lack of evidence against you in court. In some cases, it may be possible to ask for a reciprocal protection order, in order to protect you against further harm.
Never allow a false allegation of abuse against you to go unchallenged. Not only is it unfair, it rewards the actions of your accuser and can impact your life for years to come.