Ideally, every divorcing couple would treat each other with respect and negotiate a settlement agreement which fits each person’s needs. In the real world, divorces are often messy and some spouses may play dirty to get what they want. Unfortunately, this means that many people have had their reputations tarnished by false allegations in divorce court.
False allegations arise most often during heated custody disputes. If you have been accused of something you did not do or are worried that your ex will try to smear you in court, learn more about how to protect your character and your rights.
Understand That All Allegations Must Be Investigated
First and foremost, every family law judge is charged with acting in the best interest of any children involved in the case. This means that state law requires the court to investigate all allegations of abuse or neglect, even if they may seem meritless. Try not to be insulted if a judge will not take your word about issues like accusations of physical, sexual, or emotional abuse or neglect—he or she is required to investigate the report.
Second, remember that it is easy for a person to get a restraining order in a family law case with little actual evidence. Courts will err on the side of caution and grant a temporary restraining order just in case the allegations are proven true. Usually, these types of temporary orders are granted without giving the other person an opportunity to defend themselves.
Even when a temporary restraining order is granted, you will have the opportunity to tell the judge your side of the story. A hearing will be scheduled within a few weeks of the order, and you and your attorney will be able to attend a hearing and attempt to lift or rescind the order.
Fighting False Allegations
If you have been accused of domestic violence or child neglect, it is important to seek help from an experienced family law attorney immediately. Many people who are falsely accused get extraordinarily angry at their former spouse and can appear unhinged or unstable when in court on their own. With the help of an attorney, the allegations can be discussed in a calm and rational manner.
If you are accused of abuse or neglect, you can take steps to protect yourself. First, keep a journal or record of the times you speak with or see your former spouse. Document dates and times, as well as the content of the conversation. Try to have as little contact with your ex as possible—do not give him or her additional ammunition to use against you.
Second, gather any potential witnesses who can testify as to your character and personality. If people see you interacting with your spouse or your children on a regular basis, they may be allowed to speak to the judge on your behalf as a character witness.
Third, make sure to comply with all court orders even if they seem unfair. After a false allegation, you may not be able to have contact with your children, or you may be forced to temporarily leave your home. The court may appoint a social worker or guardian ad litem to speak with you and your children, and you may be required to take parenting classes or speak with a therapist. It is of the utmost importance to comply with all of these requests—disobeying the court’s order will not help your case.
Finally, do everything in your power to keep the situation from escalating. Many parents use restraining orders or allegations of abuse as tools of power meant to influence a custody decision. No matter how angry you are, do not lash out at your former partner. Trust that your attorney will handle these allegations on your behalf, and resist the urge to talk things out.
Help For Accused Parents
At Pacific Northwest Family Law, we know that people don’t always play fair. When a parent is unjustly accused of abuse or neglect, we will fight to expose the truth. Our attorneys understand the legal and procedural requirements involved in proving allegations of abuse, and will not let your name be unfairly tarnished without a full response.
For more information about your options after an accusation of abuse, contact Pacific Northwest Family Law today by calling 509-572-3700.