Nobody wants a messy divorce, but sometimes spouses fight dirty. It’s not unusual for false accusations of domestic violence, child abuse, or sexual abuse to be made at some point in the process. If such an accusation is made against you, make no mistake: it’s not a joke. You must defend yourself vigorously against it. The fallout from the accusation could be steep — it could cost you your children, your home, your job, and even have the potential for jail time. It’s important to take it seriously.
Here are some important steps to take if you’ve been falsely accused:
1. If your spouse has filed a temporary restraining order, you have a short period of time until the hearing — so find a family law attorney immediately. Ideally, this attorney will have experience defending clients against false charges, criminal law experience, or both.
2. Cut off all communications with your accuser immediately. Any contact, even if initiated by your spouse, can do you further harm. If your spouse calls you, don’t answer (or hang up as soon as you realize who it is)—but give your attorney a record of the call. Don’t respond to emails, texts, tweets, or Facebook posts from your spouse, but again, record them and give the info to your lawyer to use in your defense.
3. As soon as you learn the details of the accusation, sit down and write out everything you remember about the time frame in which the accuser says you harmed him or her (or, your child). Try to recall your interactions with your spouse/children, what you did, where you went, who you spoke with. If you can remember dates and times, so much the better (Facebook posts, tweets, and text messages can be used to jog your memory). The goal is to establish an accurate accounting of your activities to help discredit your spouse’s story.
4. Cooperate with law enforcement — to a point. Police and district attorneys are obligated by law to investigate, particularly if you’ve been accused of harming or sexually abusing a child. If you’re served with a restraining order, honor it — and report your spouse to the police if he or she should attempt to cause you to violate it (by showing up at your office, for instance). But if you’re brought in for questioning, you do have the right to have an attorney present. Be polite, but be firm, that you will not answer questions without one.
5. Set up a new bank account — preferably at a different bank from the one you normally use — so you have resources if your spouse cuts off your access to shared bank accounts. Make sure any direct-deposit payments from your employer, investment accounts, or other sources are switched over to the new account.
6. Keep a journal. It doesn’t have to be detailed — times, dates, and short notes are fine — but it helps to document your actions and movements in case your spouse tries to escalate the accusation.
7. Don’t talk about your spouse’s accusation publicly. As angry or bitter as you may feel, “venting” may make matters worse—and could even be seen by law enforcement as evidence that the threat against your spouse is real. This includes venting on Facebook, even if your spouse is blocked.
Make no mistake — this will be a painful and difficult chapter. Exercise self control and forethought, and with a little luck, you’ll come out on top in the end.
Are you facing false accusations of domestic abuse and need an experienced family law attorney on your side? For a completely confidential initial consultation, call Weinberger Divorce & Family Law Group at (973) 520-8822 today.