In Connecticut and beyond, domestic violence is a major issue affecting not only families but society as a whole. The impact of domestic violence extends from the household to the law enforcement community to the legal arena. Whether you’re the victim of domestic violence or you have been accused of engaging in domestic violence, below we discuss some important things to keep in mind—particularly if you’re in the divorce process or fighting for child custody.
The Connecticut Judicial Branch defines family violence, often called domestic violence, as “an event between family or household members that either causes physical injury or creates the fear that physical injury is about to happen.” Family or household members, according to the law, include:
There are three different types of protection orders that victims of domestic violence can request a court to issue. Below we provide a brief look at each:
In 2018, Connecticut courts issued 7,297 restraining orders, 26,975 protective orders, and 1,695 standing criminal protective orders.
Some of the rights that victims of domestic violence have include:
Being accused of domestic violence-related crimes is a very serious matter that can impact your quality of life, your ability to obtain or retain a job, and your relationship with your children and other family members. If you are arrested in Connecticut for a family violence crime, a family relations counselor will meet with you before your first court appearance, and will provide a recommendation to the court after your arraignment as to whether the court should refer you to the state’s family services department for an in-depth assessment. Other items that will typically occur at your first court date include the following:
If the court turns your case over to family services for pre-trial management, you should do the following to ensure the successful completion of your supervision period before trial:
Many individuals who are accused of family violence may avoid trial by agreeing to complete a Family Violence Education Program. You must apply to these programs through the court. If you’re eligible for the program, you will complete nine 90-minute sessions focused on reducing any future family violence. Successful completion of the program, along with any other requirements set forth by the court, may result in the dismissal of the family violence charges against you. An attorney with experience in domestic violence cases can advise you on your eligibility for the program and provide guidance during the application process.
Not all accusations of domestic violence are factual. Emotions often run high during a divorce or breakup and can sometimes result in false claims of domestic violence. If you feel you have been wrongly accused, an attorney can help protect your rights and reputation. Your attorney will use a combination of the following to help support your defense:
Whether you’re the victim of domestic violence or stand accused of a domestic violence-related crime, the decision to drop or dismiss domestic violence charges rests with the prosecutor and the court, not with the victim. Victims can (and many do) recant their statements given to police or investigators, but this doesn’t mean an automatic dismissal of the underlying criminal charges, and it may even put the victim at risk of facing charges for providing false information in a police report.
Call a family lawyer if you are involved in a divorce in which you or your spouse is alleging domestic violence. Without question, if you are a survivor of domestic violence and are ending a marriage or fighting for custody of your children, tell your family lawyer. A family lawyer will know about the legal and other protections available to you and answer any questions you may have.