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The Effect of Domestic Violence on Divorce and Custody Cases

Hint: The effects of domestic violence allegations or charges go well beyond the criminal courtroom…

Family violence “means an incident resulting in physical harm, bodily injury or assault, or an act of threatened violence that constitutes fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury or assault, including, but not limited to, stalking or a pattern of threatening between family or household members.” Conn. Gen. Stat. § 46b-38a(1) (2013). Domestic violence, in a simple description, is term used to describe various family violence crimes that occur between a very select group of people: family and household members. Connecticut law expands the traditional definition of family and household members to include: spouses or former spouses, parents of their children, persons related by blood or marriage, other persons residing together or who have resided together, persons who have a child in common regardless of whether they are or have been married or have lived together at any time, persons in, or who have recently been in, a dating relationship. See Conn. Gen. Stat. § 46b-38a(1) (2013).

Domestic violence is extremely serious. If you are a victim of domestic abuse, you should contact police and seek assistance from a professional organization, like the Domestic Violence Crisis Center (which has a 24 hour hotline: 888-774-2900), right away.

There are a number of different ways in which CT laws try to hold those accused of domestic violence accountable. If the accused is found guilty by the court in a criminal proceeding, she or he can face significant jail time or be fined, or both. Additionally, while criminal protective orders will be issued – protecting the victim from any or unwanted contact with the accused – the victim also has the right to file for a civil restraining order which, if granted, can provide even greater protection to the victim, and possibly remain in effect even longer than the criminal protective order.

Depending upon against whom the domestic violence was perpetrated, or alleged to be perpetrated – or, if the safety and welfare of minor children are in jeopardy as a result of domestic violence or threatened domestic violence – a criminal protective order or civil restraining order may extend to children as well. This can clearly have an effect on custody and visitation proceedings. Even if a criminal protective order or civil restraining order does not extend to the child or children involved in a family law case, a domestic violence incident can still have an impact on custody and visitation proceedings. If it is alleged that the child or children’s well-being is in danger, the court may limit parenting time, or require that the visitation be supervised by a responsible third-party.

It is also important to know that if a criminal protective order, or civil restraining order, includes an order prohibiting the person subject to the restraining order access to wherever the victim or victims reside, this can also impact living arrangements, and use of the marital residence.

One other important consideration is how domestic violence allegations factor into “fault” in a divorce, and the impact this has on property and alimony awards. The issue of fault was explored a little previously in another blog post, but in relation to domestic violence may just have to be another post for another time. It’s a big deal. Without delving into the final judgment considerations, just consider the “pendente lite” (or, before judgment, while the case is pending) ripple effects of the primary income earner being excluded from the marital residence – how will bills associated with the marital residence be paid? Not only that, but how will the person excluded from the marital residence pay for his or her own living arrangements? Now that the parties are living separately, will alimony come into play? Now, to add to those considerations, what will happen if children are involved – if that primary income earner does not have physical custody of the children, child support will also need to be paid (this is true even if that person does not have any parenting time with the child or children), and regaining parental access will be significantly more difficult.

Whether you need protection due to domestic abuse, or need help responding to a restraining order, Attorney Emily S. Lucibello can help. To learn more, contact us today to schedule a consultation. We look forward to helping you protect your rights, your life, and your family.