Family Law

Domestic Violence and Abuse FAQ

Q: Can I file a domestice violence case against my abusive ex-fiance?

  • A:You may want to file a civil domestic violence petition with the hopes of obtaining a civil protection order restraining your ex-fiance from contacting you. The problem, however, is that each state with a civil domestic violence statute has its own definition of what constitutes a "household" or "family member" for purposes of bringing a domestic violence action. Depending on how these are defined in your state, you may not be considered a "household member" or "family member" to your ex-fiance.

    But even if your state doesn't include a fiance under the domestic violence laws, he'll still be subject to the normal laws that prohibit violence.

Q: Do I have a civil rights case against my abuser?

  • A:Several years ago, domestic violence litigation branched out into federal courts when the "Violence Against Women Act" was enacted. Under this Act, you could bring a civil law suit against an attacker where the violence was gender motivated. However, on May 15, 2000, the United State Supreme Court declared this part of the Act unconstitutional, and a federal civil remedy against your abuser is no longer available.

    Laws on domestic violence vary from state to state. A local family lawyer can tell you about the laws where you live.

Q: How can I protect myself from a husband who abuses me? My friend told me to go to the police, and someone else told me to hire a lawyer. What are my options and how do I best protect myself and my children from this abusive person?

  • A:You may have several options. Most states have both criminal and civil domestic violence laws. You could contact the police to report the abuse. Your husband will likely be arrested and charged. Depending on the outcome of the court hearings and whether he is tried and found guilty, he may be put in jail. The judge will likely order a temporary protection order that prevents him from contacting you, and possibly the children.

    Once you notify the authorities of the abuse, they usually have complete control over whether your husband will be prosecuted or not.

    Some states have laws that allow you to file for a protection order without contacting the police. A civil protection order will restrain your husband from contacting you, and maybe your children, and will give you temporary custody of your children.

    It's important to contact a family lawyer in your area to find out which laws apply to your situation.

Q: I have a protection order against my ex-husband, but he continues to call me and harass me. What can I do?

  • A:The police have a responsibility and duty to enforce a protective order. If your ex-husband is violating that order, he should be arrested. Violation of the order will be either a contempt of court, or its own criminal act. If it is a contempt of court, you'll want the police report to assist you in bringing a contempt charge. If it is a criminal act, you'll want the police to know about the problem so they can enforce the law. If you continue to have difficulties with your local police, you may want to discuss your situation with an attorney and file something with the court

Q: My estranged husband keeps threatening to break into my apartment. Is he correct when he says he won't be arrested because we're still married?

  • A:Many states have some type of law that neither spouse can be excluded from the other's separate residence. But several of those states don't apply the law where a crime has been committed (such as trespass or burglary). Depending on where you live, your husband may be charged with trespassing and/or burglary if he enters your apartment without your permission.

Q: My husband abuses me and isn't a U.S. citizen. Will he be deported if I bring charges against him?

  • A:The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act allows for deportation of non-citizens for domestic violence, child abuse, child neglect and abandonment, violation of a protective order and stalking.

    Keep in mind that deportation can affect your ability to receive and/or get alimony and child support. It will be very difficult, if not impossible, to collect support from a spouse who has been deported to another country.

    It is very important for you to contact a qualified lawyer in your area to advise you on how to proceed on your domestic violence matter, since it is trickier than the normal situation.

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