There’s no question that domestic abuse is a serious problem in our society. Unfortunately, false claims of domestic abuse are often used as a weapon in divorce and custody cases, and these are no less serious. Such charges can be difficult to fight, since the laws which govern domestic abuse are very broadly written, so much so that they tend to encourage false allegations.
The language which defines domestic abuse in most states is, at best, vague and imprecise, lumping together everything from outright assault to so-called “fear of harm,” which could be something as ostensibly harmless as raising one’s voice in an argument. This lack of precision in the law can be leveraged by one party in a contentious divorce or custody hearing, where relatively innocuous actions by the other party can be perceived as abuse. Because men are generally perceived to be physically stronger than women, and frequently viewed as by nature more aggressive, law enforcement, and even judges, can carry that perception into court, and into the middle of your case.
An allegation of domestic abuse is a serious matter, in both civil and criminal proceedings. If the allegation is believed, it can result in a fine, an order to leave the family home, a restriction on seeing one’s children, a restraining order, and even imprisonment. If you have been falsely accused of domestic abuse, you need strong legal representation from a competent criminal defense attorney. He or she will ensure your rights are protected and increase the chances for a positive result.
In consultation with your attorney, you need to consider these 6 general guidelines to protect yourself:
- Avoid conflict—this is easier said than done in the midst of a difficult divorce, but it’s important not to engage in heated exchanges. You need to be aware that something as simple as banging the phone on the receiver could be viewed as abusive and come back to bite you.
- Have witnesses—if you and your spouse are planning to meet and there’s any chance of conflict, bring witnesses. They can attest to what actually occurred and protect you in court.
- Counter with your own restraining order—in some cases when a restraining order has been filed against you, you can counter by filing a restraining order of your won. This permits in many cases both petitions being entered in the same hearing.
- Highlight factual inconsistencies—find evidence of inconsistent statements by your spouse, or independent evidence which refutes testimony. You might, for example, have an alibi for the time the abuse supposedly occurred. You can also find independent evidence in phone records or receipts from stores, etc.
- Compare documents to find inconsistencies—divorce and custody cases can produce a mountain of documents, such as police reports and affidavits. Carefully compare these to spot inconsistencies.
- Demonstrate inconsistent behavior by your spouse—this could be behavior that doesn’t comport with that of a victim, such as socializing with the alleged abuser within hours of the time when the abuse allegedly took place, or waiting a protracted period of time before filing a complaint.
If you’re involved in a divorce or custody case, there’s the possibility it will become contentious. You have to protect yourself and your rights, and the best way to do that is to hire a competent Tampa divorce attorney, one who will provide you with personalized service and quality representation custom tailored to your specific legal needs.
To learn more about the ways you can protect your rights, contact us today.