A Former Prosecutor Defending Clients in Wyoming and South Dakota

How Will a Domestic Violence Charge Affect My Divorce?

Allegations of domestic violence are always troubling. But if you’ve been accused of domestic violence before or during a divorce, the consequences can be devastating. Protect yourself by working with a team of dedicated and experienced criminal defense professionals who can minimize the effect of domestic violence allegations on your divorce case.


Allegations of Domestic Violence Complicate Child Custody and Support Decisions

When violence occurs in the home, police, your spouse, or your spouse’s lawyer may initiate criminal charges of domestic violence. In some cases, the alleged domestic violence is what leads one spouse to file for divorce. Even so, the spouse who is accused of domestic violence may still want to work through the criminal process with the hope of reuniting. Sometimes a couple will be able to get back together; other times, the alleged victim no longer wishes to pursue the relationship.  This can be a difficult and painful decision that can have a significant effect on a couple’s finances, as well as child custody, visitation, and child support arrangements.

The state of Wyoming takes allegations of domestic violence seriously and offers victims of domestic violence many protections. However, these protections often come at the expense of the rights of the person accused of domestic violence and can include loss of child visitation rights.

When one spouse claims that the other spouse has been physically or emotionally abusive toward them or the couple’s children, the judge assigned to the criminal case may enter a temporary restraining order, remove the children from the custody of the person who is alleged to have been abusive, and even prevent the allegedly violent parent from visiting with minor children.

A criminal court judge can also enter a No Contact Order that prohibits the spouse who allegedly committed the acts of domestic violence from having contact with the other spouse or children, and may require that the spouse accused of domestic violence leave the home. While the goal of a No Contact Order is to prevent any further incidents of violence, in practice they are often one-sided and prevent anything other than brief access to the home and do not include a visitation schedule with children.

If a couple files for divorce or has a divorce case pending, the domestic relations judge will be made aware of the No Contact Order in the criminal case. Unfortunately, this can cause the domestic relations judge to have a negative view of the spouse who is accused of having committed domestic violence. And once a spouse temporarily loses visitation or custody rights, it can be more difficult to acquire custody rights. In some cases, the judge may even increase the amount of spousal support and child support payments.

Wyoming Domestic Relations Judges Must Make Custody Decisions “In the Best Interests of the Children”

When making child visitation and custody decisions, domestic relations judges must evaluate the physical and emotional well-being of the children. Fortunately, Wyoming courts have decided a single episode of alleged domestic violence will not prevent the accused parent from sharing custody of the minor children.

However, if the allegations of domestic violence are proved, and especially if the allegations include repeated instances of severe domestic violence or a history of chronic abuse of a spouse or child, the domestic relations judge may find that sole custody with the non-violent parent and supervised visitation is in the best interest of the child.

In extreme cases, a conviction for domestic violence can result in the termination of parental rights. If there is clear and convincing evidence that that continuation of parental rights is not in the best interests of the child, the domestic relations court can choose to terminate a parent’s rights. If a parent is found to have sexually assaulted a minor child, chronically abused a child, is responsible for the death of a child or another member of the household, or committed a felony that results in serious injury to the child, Wyoming courts may suspend parental rights.

To minimize the chances that allegations of domestic violence will negatively affect a judge’s child custody decision, it is critical that you work with a team of criminal defense professionals who will vigorously defend you against allegations of domestic violence.

Conflicting Orders Can Cause Inadvertent Violations

Orders issued by the domestic relations judge are separate from any criminal proceedings. Therefore, it is important that you work with a criminal defense lawyer who will cooperate with your divorce lawyer to help in setting up a child visitation schedule. Once the domestic relations judge allows visitation, your criminal defense lawyer must work with the criminal judge and prosecuting attorney to ensure that any No Contact Orders issued by the judge in the criminal case are not in conflict with those issued in the divorce case. Failure to ensure that the two cases do not have conflicting orders can lead to confusion about what you are or are not allowed to do. You could be found in compliance with one judge’s orders but in violation of the orders issued by the other judge, which could result in you being found in violation of the order, in jail, or charged with a separate crime for violating the No Contact Order.

A Conviction for Domestic Violence Can Negatively Impact Your Divorce Case

Allegations of domestic violence also create the appearance that the party accused of domestic violence is dangerous, irrational, or unwilling to follow the law and the judges’ orders. When domestic relations judges see allegations of domestic violence, they are on high alert. Hiring a team of criminal defense professionals who will work closely with your divorce lawyer is critical to a successful resolution of both charges. You need a criminal defense team that will fight the allegations of domestic violence and show that the allegations are not part of a pattern of violence.

If you have been convicted of domestic violence, your spouse’s lawyer will, no doubt, use that information against you in the divorce proceedings. Many divorce lawyers believe that someone who has been convicted of domestic violence will be more willing to negotiate on other aspects of the divorce to prevent the allegations of domestic violence from coming to light. This can result in your feeling forced to accept less favorable terms in your divorce, such as property division, spousal and child support payments, and child custody decisions.

By working with a team of experienced criminal defense professionals, you can put the allegations of domestic violence behind you. At Just Criminal Law, we understand that if you are in the midst of a divorce, accepting a plea deal to allegations of domestic violence may not be in your best interests. We will vigorously defend you, and work with your divorce lawyer to minimize the effect of domestic violence allegations on your divorce.

Just Criminal Law — Protecting Your One Shot at Justice

At Just Criminal Law, we know that allegations of domestic violence can complicate divorce proceedings and that domestic violence allegations are often more complicated than what the police report says. Our team is committed to vigorously defending you against allegations of domestic violence, and we understand that a conviction for domestic violence can negatively impact your divorce. That’s why we will thoroughly investigate the charges against you and do our best to minimize the effect that allegations of domestic violence will have on your divorce and child custody case.

Learn more about our domestic violence defense practice and why clients choose us, then contact us today to schedule a personalized case review and strategy session. Call us today at (307) 656-6556, email inquiry@justcriminallaw.com, or complete our online form.

DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this article is offered for educational purposes only. This information is not offered as legal advice. A person accused of a crime should always consult with an attorney before making decisions that have legal consequences.

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