In divorce cases involving children, determining child custody is frequently one of the most hotly contested issues between the parents. In some cases, one parent may make unfair or even false accusations of domestic violence against the other to gain an advantage in child custody proceedings. This unfair tactic can lead to serious consequences, including the immediate loss of custody or visitation rights. If you find yourself wrongfully accused of domestic violence, what steps can you take to minimize or reverse the impact on your custody rights?
Domestic Violence and Child Custody Rights in North Carolina
North Carolina takes domestic violence allegations very seriously, both for the sake of the alleged victim and any children involved. If you're so accused, you'll eventually have your day in court, but it's not uncommon for law enforcement to make an arrest strictly based on probable cause without any real proof of your guilt. You may also be served with a temporary protective order as a precautionary measure until your case can be heard. Whether or not any criminal charges are filed, the very accusation of domestic violence can impact your custody rights in two key ways: through protective orders and during the custody hearings themselves.
Protective orders are designed to protect victims against further acts of domestic violence, barring the defendant from contact with the accuser. They can also immediately alter the defendant's custody or visitation rights. If your ex asks for a protective order, the judge may issue a temporary order on an ex parte basis (meaning without your presence) and possibly make the order permanent after a hearing. These orders can award temporary custody of the children to your ex and even restrict your ability to visit them, especially if the judge is convinced there is a tangible threat to the children's welfare.
Regardless of whether a protective order is in place, domestic violence charges can weigh heavily on future custody negotiations in front of a judge. When determining custody and visitation, the courts are obligated to rule in the best interests of the child. In a custody hearing, your ex may argue that you pose a threat to the child because of an alleged history of violence against her or other family members. If the court agrees, your custody may be revoked, and your visitation rights may be severely restricted and even eliminated.
Defending Against Unfair Domestic Violence Charges
The good news here is that being accused of domestic violence doesn't automatically mean you're guaranteed to lose custody. You'll have the opportunity to appear with an attorney and refute the allegations both at the protective order hearing (if one is issued) and during custody hearings. A judge will weigh many factors when determining custody and visitation, including whether there is any evidence that domestic violence took place, and if so, whether the child was directly abused, endangered, or made to feel threatened. Another factor to consider is that if you can successfully prove your ex made a false accusation against you as a tactic to gain custody, it could actually backfire against the spouse.
Regardless of how unfounded the charges may be, you don't want to face domestic violence allegations without the help of a skilled family law attorney, especially where child custody is concerned. Jerkins Family Law can work to protect your rights. Call us today at (919) 719-2785 or contact us online.