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Domestic Violence Impacts on Divorce – CT

Domestic Violence in a Connecticut Divorce

Westport firm provides counsel when abuse allegations are made

When someone is the victim of physical violence, “coercive control” (non-physical abuse), and/or sexual abuse in a marriage, it takes courage and fortitude to break free of the toxic relationship, but legal protections do exist to protect victimized spouses and their children. Invariably, your divorce process will be significantly more complicated if one or more of these elements are present in your case.

If and when any of these factors are involved or just alleged, it is important to secure an able legal advocate–as the depth of your attorney’s experience really matters in such cases. At Needle| Cuda in Westport, we provide comprehensive legal support for clients going through a Connecticut divorce where actual and/or potential charges of domestic violence exist.

Safety measures that can reduce the risk of domestic violence

If you or your children are in imminent harm or in fear for your safety and/or well-being, CALL 911 IMMEDIATELY.

If you are a victim or fearing for your safety, finding a safe place must be your top priority. As you look to leave a dangerous situation, you should consider taking the following steps:

  • Pack a “go” bag so you can relocate quickly
  • Locate a safe place where you can relocate
  • Confide in trustworthy people who can assist you
  • Be ready to contact the police if a confrontation occurs
  • Identify and contact resources on domestic violence in your Connecticut community
  • Deposit money in an account within your exclusive control
  • Document incidents of abuse and threats in a private diary
  • Maintain the privacy of your communications and records
  • Collect photos, videos or recordings demonstrating abuse and threats you’ve received
  • Consult an attorney about your legal options without notifying your spouse

Our firm will advise you on immediate measures that are available as well as how incidents of domestic violence, sexual abuse, and/or “coercive control” will affect your divorce proceeding.

Considerations for spouses accused of domestic violence

An accusation of domestic violence exposes someone to several types of legal consequences, including possible criminal prosecution. If your spouse reports abusive behavior or threats, they might obtain a restraining order or order of protection that requires you to vacate the marital home and could limit your access to your children. Your spouse could also seek a fault-based divorce based on alleged intolerable cruelty. We are ready to defend you against orders of protection that are not warranted and to push back against attempts by your spouse to obtain a more favorable divorce order by bringing charges of domestic violence.

What are the penalties for domestic violence or sexual abuse and their impacts on a pending divorce action?

The penalties for domestic violence greatly depend on the crime charged and the complexity of the situation involved. A domestic violence crime could be classified either as a misdemeanor or a felony. In either instance, it is likely that any serious domestic violence conviction will go on a criminal record, and it will be searchable by employers and other people interested in viewing such records.

There may also be fines, jail or prison time, and other consequences, such as probation or long-term monitoring handed down as elements of a DV-related sentence. In cases that involve sex crimes, the accused may also have to register with the state as a sex offender on a database that is searchable by the public. In many cases, registration on the list is an ongoing event and must be confirmed by the offender on a quarterly or yearly basis.

In any case, police interventions, related arrests, prosecutions and/or convictions on domestic violence charges will invariably have extremely serious implications on a pending divorce action or a divorce yet to be filed.  The abuser can be convicted and sentenced to jail time, lose their job and/or have a permanent stigma on their record — making future “gainful” employment difficult, at best. And, at the very least, the presence of such charges will create a divisive and difficult to manage dimension to your divorce proceeding with respect to child custody, visitation, and the parameters of your future “parenting plan.”

As such, decisions to engage or involve local police; levying accusations of domestic violence and/or sexual abuse against your partner; and related decision to prosecute such charges are extremely complicated and cut both ways.

The immediate safety and well-being of both you and your children comes first.  And next, the engagement of an experienced family law attorney to help you navigate this complicated path and guide your decision making could not be more strongly recommended or important.

Impacts of domestic violence on child custody, visitation and parenting plans

A court deciding child custody must rule in the best interests of the child, so a parent’s tendency to engage in violent or other abusive conduct will weigh strongly when a judge considers a parenting plan. If the child is the victim of one parent’s violence, the other parent might receive sole custody. Or, supervised visitation could be “ordered” for the abusive parent or they could lose their right to see their child completely. It is also important to remember the emotional impact on a child who has seen one parent harm the other, so domestic violence could affect a custody order even if the child was never physically abused.

How Jennifers’ Law applies in domestic violence divorce cases

Connecticut recognizes that abuse against spouses. romantic partners and children does not necessarily require a physical attack and that psychological abuse may be a forerunner of violence. Accordingly, the state adopted Jennifers’ Law, which expands the definition of domestic violence to include coercive control, which defined as a pattern of behavior toward a current or former intimate partner or family or household member which causes sufficient fear to limit the victim’s freedom of action. This might include stalking, isolation, financial control and manipulative lies. As a result, you don’t have to prove that you or your children are the victims of physical violence to obtain a restraining order or order of protection against your spouse. However, coercive control is also more difficult to prove than violence that causes a physical injury. Our attorneys can review the facts in your case and assess if it meets the standard set by Jennifer’s Law.

How domestic violence complicates divorce in Connecticut

Domestic violence can affect the Connecticut marriage dissolution process and the eventual divorce terms in a number of ways, including:

  • Evidence — If one spouse seeks to make their partner’s domestic violence an issue in the divorce, they must present testimony and documentation in support of their claim, while the alleged perpetrator can offer evidence to refute their account.
  • Criminal charges — Domestic violence is a form of assault and battery, which is a criminal offense, and could result in the alleged perpetrator being jailed or released on condition of having no contact with their family.
  • Orders of protection — Even without criminal charges, the court may issue an order prohibiting the alleged perpetrator from entering the marital home and/or contacting their family.
  • Alimony and property division — If a divorce is granted based on intolerable cruelty, alimony and property division terms might be adjusted to favor the victimized party.
  • Potential manipulation — There have been instances where a party to a divorce has fabricated domestic violence claims in order to gain an advantage in custody and financial matters.

Whether you have been a victim of domestic violence or are facing accusations of abusive behavior, our firm will help protect your rights as you go through the divorce process.

Contact a Connecticut lawyer if your divorce involves a charge of domestic violence

If you are divorcing and a spouse has been accused of domestic violence, the experienced Connecticut family lawyers at Needle | Cuda in Westport offer knowledgeable, personalized legal guidance. To make an appointment, please call 203-557-9500 or contact us online.

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