Father Retains Joint Custody Despite Domestic Violence Allegation
The father of a ten-year-old girl retained us to preserve shared physical and legal custody of the girl. The mother had recently filed for divorce without representation. The parties had separated two years earlier, each maintaining their own residence where the girl had a room and spent approximately equal time. The mother alleged in the divorce proceeding that the father struck the mother in front of the girl. The mother claimed child support and sought sole physical custody of the girl. Our client, the father, maintained that no such incident had taken place and that the mother was instead manufacturing the allegation to win custody and support. The father also maintained that the mother had argued with the father and tried to slap the father in front of the girl just before filing for divorce when the father had only blocked the mother's attempt to strike the father across the face. We recognized that the case presented a he said/she said dispute that the judge would find difficult to resolve unless the girl testified clearly in one or the other party's favor. Our strategic approach was to point out to the judge that the other had not sought police protection, had not reported the alleged domestic violence to police, had not sought a PFA order, and had not otherwise availed herself of any domestic violence support. Our client did not want to involve the girl. Our approach worked in that the judge denied the mother's request and entered an order for joint physical and legal custody without child support.
Husband Avoids Domestic Violence Charge Relating to Divorce
The husband of a woman suing for divorce retained us to help him avoid unreasonable spousal support or property division in the divorce while managing a related domestic violence investigation. The wife's divorce papers alleged that our client had sexually assaulted her following an argument after the wife's disclosure of her romantic relationship with another man. The wife had complained to police after filing the divorce complaint, which she filed approximately a week after the alleged incident. The wife had not retained counsel but, our client believed, had acted on the advice of a sister who had also recently handled her own divorce. A detective had contacted our client for an interview over the alleged incident, which our client declined on our advice. The prosecutor had not yet filed sexual assault charges with a domestic violence enhancement. Our client maintained that he had done nothing of the sort other than to express his shock and anger over his wife's infidelity in an admittedly emotional manner. Our client's goal was to avoid those criminal charges and any convictions. Criminal charges and convictions would threaten our client's professional license as a psychologist. Our approach was not to aggravate the wife into further false and exaggerated allegations while firmly denying and attempting to disprove the existing false allegations. We were able to negotiate a reasonable consent judgment of divorce through a collaborative mediation service, during the course of which the wife acknowledged that her allegations were exaggerated.