What Happens If Children Are Present During A Domestic Violence Situation?
I’ve done a lot of these domestic violence cases over the last twenty-five years and whenever there’s children present during a domestic violence that makes things much more difficult to resolve. The prosecutors and the judges tend to be much harsher when a child is involved. Especially if somehow the child is being abused in any way, the prosecutors will come down particularly hard on those type of cases.
I’ve also done restraining orders and a lot of times the judges don’t like to let children testify when it comes to parents and domestic violence. They don’t want the child involved at all. But, in the criminal court, it’s just the opposite. The prosecutors and the police, and even I think judges to some degree — even though they never admit it — they think the children are the best witnesses because they’re not going to lie when it comes to a father striking a mother, and therefore, the child is going to be believed.
A lot of times juries who listen to these domestic violence cases sit there and listen to what the child has to say and they tend to believe those children. The issues become, does the child have an axe to grind? Is the child somebody who would lie for one parent over the other? Have they been coached in some way? Have they been coerced? Once you get past that hurdle, the jury is going to believe what those child see, because the child is just seeing what they see and they’re just dealing with whatever it is.
So, children are a powerful witness for prosecutors and defense. Sometimes the defense can use children and say listen, the child was there. The child was present. The wife, for example, is claiming that the husband hit her or pushed her or did something illegal to her, but the child didn’t see it. The child was right there and would have seen it if it really happened. So, this is one of these situations where I see individuals trying to get an upper hand in a divorce-related case and as part of trying to get that upper hand, they’re now going to try to claim that somebody battered them, hurt them, cut them, threatened to stab them, threatened to kill them, and these are horrible crimes. If the person gets convicted of them, not only do they have a criminal record or have all sorts of issues in the criminal court — potentially jail time or a strike if it’s a criminal threat — they’re going to lose the advantage in a divorce case and the other spouse knows that. So, a lot of time they’re going to try to use that and if there’s a child present, the next thing you know, the spouse that’s complaining they were domestically abused is in a position where they can now take full custody of the children, and if the person’s working, then they’re going to have to pay them more money and it’s a real nasty thing sometimes when spouses make things up related to children and it’s a situation where the child is now put in a very difficult position in having to testify potentially for or against one of the parents.
But the bottom line is this, if there are children present during a domestic violence situation, they’re going to put extra enhancements on. I’ve seen them put child endangerment charges. They’re going to want jail time. They’re going to want all sorts of extra punishments because they don’t children to be a part of a situation where there’s domestic violence in the home, so they will charge that person with a very serious crime.
So, if you’ve got a domestic violence case where children were present, there are a child endangerment charges, you’re looking at losing custody of your children, you’re looking at jail time, give me a call. We’ll sit down and talk and we will get a game plan together.
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