Domestic violence usually has two direct implications in a divorce. It determines who receives child custody (and thus child support), and it can result in a protection order prohibiting the abuser from contacting or coming near the abused. Other less direct implications are the bias the court might feel towards the abuser and the decreased earning ability of a victim with emotional or mental scarring. Including these less direct implications, DV allegations can decisively change the outcome of every facet of a divorce: custody, child support, protection orders, spousal maintenance (commonly called “alimony”), and property distribution. No wonder domestic violence allegations have become nearly omnipresent in divorce proceedings. Given their importance, parties have exceptionally strong reasons to allege them, truthfully or otherwise. When legitimate, it becomes of paramount importance to prove the violence occurred. When concocted, it becomes equally important to demonstrate the accused’s innocence.
Also of no surprise, courts struggle to discern the legitimacy of DV allegations. The biggest complication tends to be the lack of witnesses. Typically no one was around to witness the averred domestic violence other than the parties themselves, who have opposite “recollections” of what occurred. Sometimes the children were present, but judges and commissioners often forbid litigants from placing children in the emotionally difficult position of testifying against one of their parents in a divorce proceeding. Or perhaps one of the parties’ parents say he or she witnessed the alleged altercation, but mothers and fathers of parties tend to offer highly biased testimony on behalf of their children when they think it is of critical importance. Put bluntly, experienced judges and commissioners know parents of parties lie for their kids about DV allegations. Right and wrong blur when the stakes rise and parents feel the need to protect their children. For better or worse, many parents would probably commit murder to save their own, and lying is of course a step down from murder.
These cases normally hinge upon whichever party does a better job proving his or her case despite the he-said, she-said nature of these disputes. The best attorneys in this subject area know where to find corroborating evidence and how to get it before the court properly. For example, appointing a guardian ad litem can often open the door to presenting a child’s testimony in a manner a court will allow. Appointing the guardian ad litem generally will not suffice in itself, but it is the first step in the process of presenting child testimony in most courts.
For more information on this and related topics, please explore our firm’s website, including the divorce and family law practice area webpages and our firm’s resources tab. For yet more information, call us to set up an appointment with one of our divorce attorneys. If considering whether to hire us, you can learn about our firm’s competitive advantages by clicking here and about each of our attorneys by clicking here.