When your client goes through a divorce, courts will notice any past criminal charges/convictions. Their behavior in court and the specific kind of charges they faced may be taken into account, which could jeopardize their case for spousal support or child custody.
By Ken Eulo, Criminal Defense Attorney
Divorce cases are complicated to resolve, especially since the courts must consider the wellbeing of multiple parties. Any financial support, child custody, and visitation issues all need to be worked out carefully to keep the children’s best interests in mind.
When your client goes through divorce proceedings, courts will notice any criminal charges/convictions in the past. Their behavior and the specific kind of charges they faced will be taken into account and may be a disadvantage in case outcomes. As a criminal lawyer, I hope to help you understand the impact this situation has on a difficult divorce-related matter.
Past Criminal Charges/Convictions and Divorce
Nature of the Criminal History
Your client’s criminal history and the details of their criminal record will impact the court’s decisions. For instance, if your client has a documented history of domestic violence, visitation rights will not be easy to secure. If the client’s spouse requests a restraining order because of assault charges, the judge’s agreement could also make divorce proceedings more difficult.
During divorce hearings, both partners tend to show the other in the worst light possible. Criminal charges could foreshadow all other issues in the marriage in favor of the other partner. This becomes especially notable when one parent has a criminal record while the other does not, despite participating in the same illicit activities. As the attorney representing your client, you need to work harder to support your client’s rights.
Facts of the Criminal Charges/Convictions
The judge presiding over the divorce case will examine the facts leading to criminal charges/convictions. They may focus on factors like:
- What was the type of offense?
- How long ago did the crimes occur? Were there single or multiple incidents of a similar nature?
- Who were the victims, and what were the effects of the criminal act on them?
- What was the sentence awarded? Did it include jail or prison time and/or fines?
- Has the defendant been accused of similar crimes again?
- Did the crimes involve children?
Any violent acts against children or other vulnerable sections of the population could severely limit visitation rights. The courts may permit limited-period visits under the supervision of child services personnel or any responsible authoritative figure. Charges like child abuse may result in the courts denying any kind of visitation rights.
Even so, your client may have to take on significant financial responsibility. Since the primary focus is on the child’s mental, physical, and psychological protection from any potential threats, as a child abuse lawyer you’ll create a defense strategy for your client accordingly.
Convictions in Drug-Related Cases
Drug-related charges are also serious. The passage of time can make a difference here, much more so than in cases of violent crimes. If a drug conviction happened a long time ago, you’d present a robust defense to prove that your client has been clean for a while. You might confirm that the incident was an isolated mistake for which the accused has paid up all retributions.
An experienced lawyer might also want to get witnesses to testify to your client’s moral character. Friends, neighbors, employers, and family members are all valuable resources as people who can vouch for your client. Of course, if the charges are more recent, getting visitation rights could be exceedingly tricky.
Spousal Support for an Addict
If your client is addicted to drugs or alcohol, getting spousal support may become a challenge. Courts maintain that if a person habitually abuses substances and cannot support themselves because of the addiction, their partner or family members are not liable for their maintenance and expenses.
You can also expect the judge to order an unequal division of assets and ignore allegations of hiding money and property. This situation is even more likely if the drug-dependent spouse is known to have recklessly spent the family’s money and assets to support their drug or alcohol addiction.
Counseling and Parenting Therapy
The law accepts that people should get the opportunity and resources to correct past misdeeds. In case your client with a criminal record is requesting permission to visit their kids, the courts may order them to attend counseling and parenting-specific programs. An evaluator could be assigned to your client to assess their parenting capabilities as part of the divorce proceedings. Typically, the partner undergoing therapy and evaluation is required to carry the costs. If your client is awarded spousal support, the expenses are deducted from the amount they receive.
Dealing with False Allegations of Domestic Violence
The criminal and domestic violence allegations against your client could be false: angry and disgruntled spouses may fabricate accusations to hurt or spite their partners in the divorce case. The courts award a 72-hour restraining order against the accused spouse immediately, and the other spouse can also request a Temporary Restriction or Restraining Order (TRO) preventing your client from approaching their partner or kids.
Domestic assault and violence charges are likely to create a negative perception of your client in the courtroom. Refuting domestic assault charges can be highly challenging; proving that the allegations are false will need an aggressive defense strategy. Your client stands to lose their home and all custody and visitation rights. Courts typically order the offending partner to move out right away and compensate the victims for all expenses they might incur for hospital visits to treat injuries. In case the house and property have been damaged, your client could be ordered to pay for repairs.
You’ll inform your client that domestic assault charges are typically handled as a separate case from the divorce proceedings that will likely follow. Advise them to keep their emotions in check and not react with angry outbursts in court. Judges may observe your client in order to evaluate their mental makeup and their capability of committing the crimes they’re accused of. Maintaining composure and staying calm during the arguments could make the difference between winning and losing – not just the divorce and criminal case, but also child custody and other damages.
As an experienced divorce attorney, you may have to guide your client through both the criminal charges and divorce proceedings – helping them resolve the case and arrive at outcomes for a secure future.
Ken Eulo is Managing Partner of Smith & Eulo, a criminal defense law firm located in Orlando, Florida. He graduated in the top ten percent of his class at Florida State University College of Law and subsequently served as a Criminal Defense Attorney for the Public Defender’s Office in Orlando. He has now litigated and resolved more than 1,000 criminal cases. www.smithandeulo.com
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