Divorce is hard. Facing criminal charges in a divorce is harder. How do the charges affect your divorce and why do you need an attorney experienced in both?
A Battle on Two Fronts
The end of a marriage is always difficult, but it can feel even more overwhelming when you are also facing criminal charges in a divorce. Sometimes, those charges arise because a spouse lets their emotions get the best of them, and a situation escalates into offenses such as domestic violence, child abuse, or harassment. Other times, criminal charges in a divorce are the product of false or exaggerated allegations made by one spouse either out of spite or a belief that it will give them an advantage in the divorce proceedings.
In either situation, facing criminal charges in a divorce is like fighting a battle on two fronts. What happens in the criminal case will impact what happens in the divorce case. If you find yourself caught in this dual dilemma, confronting divorce proceedings side-by-side with criminal charges, you must be careful and mindful to avoid creating more problems for yourself.
Domestic Violence Accusations and Restraining Orders
Perhaps the most common allegation or criminal charge that arises during a divorce is that of domestic violence. In El Paso and Teller Counties, police, prosecutors, and judges treat accusations of domestic violence with the utmost seriousness. So too does Colorado law, which imposes immediate and burdensome limitations on the accused’s rights, including the automatic entry of a restraining order.
This mandatory 72-hour restraining order can dramatically impair your rights, your relationships with your spouse and children, and almost every other aspect of your life. Additionally, violating the terms of the restraining order can expose you to new charges and penalties on top of those you already face for the underlying charges. Equally important, allegations of domestic violence, harassment, or child abuse can also negatively affect your rights in your divorce case and threaten the outcome of custody and visitation decisions.
What is particularly frustrating is that an El Paso County judge is obligated to enter the restraining order without any determination that you actually committed the crime prosecutors accuse you of. Even though you may have done nothing wrong; even if the allegations are false; it simply will not matter to the judge at this time.
You will be combatting the full power of Colorado’s criminal justice system, which is designed to protect victims against future acts of violence. As opposed to “innocent until proved guilty,” in many ways, Colorado law presumes that individuals accused of domestic violence and related crimes are guilty. Because of that fact, it is critical that you fight a restraining order and prepare an aggressive defense against criminal charges in a divorce. The last thing you want is an unjustified protective order or false accusations distorting the judge’s perspective in your divorce case.
Fighting a Restraining Order During a Divorce
As noted, if Colorado Springs police arrest you for domestic assault, El Paso County court will automatically issue a 72-hour restraining order against you that prevents you from coming within a specified distance of your spouse and/or children.
But your spouse can seek and obtain a temporary restraining order (TRO) against you even without your arrest, and without providing you any notice of their request. Making matters worse, if the judge finds that there is enough justification for issuing this TRO, they may enter the order without giving you any chance to fight the allegations – at least in the near term.
A TRO usually expires within 14 days. Before it does, you will have an opportunity to fight the order at a hearing before a judge. At that time, your criminal defense attorney will present evidence, testimony, and arguments as to why the judge should lift the limitations on your rights and vacate any restraining order.
When you fight a request for a restraining order during a divorce, obtaining a positive outcome at this hearing is critical. An experienced and skilled criminal defense attorney can tell your side of the story, discredit false allegations, and defend your rights and relationships in the face of a spouse and a legal system determined to take them away from you.
Keep Your Emotions In Check When Facing Criminal Charges In a Divorce
As noted, the deterioration of a marriage doesn’t necessarily bring out the best in the people involved. When divorce is pending or anticipated, a spouse who is determined to make things difficult for the other spouse may try to wield false allegations of domestic violence, child abuse, and harassment as weapons in the divorce proceedings.
In turn, false accusations can understandably cause anger, resentment, and feelings of betrayal in the wrongfully accused person. In an El Paso or Teller County courtroom, whether in your criminal case or divorce proceedings, those kinds of emotions can quickly get you into trouble. Any time you appear before a judge, keep your emotions in check, no matter how upset you are or how wronged you feel. The judge will be watching and paying close attention to how you behave, so don’t do anything that would make them think that you are prone to anger or irrational outbursts.
Be Careful and Retain Experienced Divorce and Criminal Defense Counsel
Your divorce case and your criminal case may be two separate matters, but you must handle each one strategically and carefully when facing criminal charges in a divorce.
You need a lawyer in your corner who can address the separate but intertwined issues involved in both proceedings. As an experienced Colorado Springs divorce and criminal defense attorney, Bryson Perkins can be your best shield – and best weapon – as you fight criminal charges in a divorce. Contact him today to arrange for your free initial consultation.