Violence between family members, or domestic violence, affects many households in DC. While incidents of family violence can be prosecuted in criminal court, survivors may also be able to seek civil stay-away or no-contact orders or recover certain damages or fees in a civil protection order case with the professional help and guidance of a knowledgeable family law attorney.
As a result, Washington DC’s family courts have the power to create and enforce an order of no-contact. The Domestic Violence Division is specifically dedicated to hearing these cases. A civil protection order can force a person to move out of a shared home and even to cease contact with their children.
Additionally, a domestic violence criminal conviction can affect how property is awarded in a divorce or how custody is determined in a child custody case. A qualified DC family violence lawyer can use a criminal conviction as evidence to support your case and your right to reimbursement for damaged property.
Characterizing Household Violence
District of Columbia Code §16-1001 defines domestic abuse as interpersonal, intimate-partner, and intrafamily violence. In other words, a person may face allegations of family violence if they commit or threaten to commit a criminal offense against a person who is:
- A spouse or former spouse
- A child
- A parent
- A romantic partner or former romantic partner
- A partner or former partner in common of a third person (love triangle)
- A roommate
In addition, a survivor of stalking or sexual abuse may file against the offender regardless of whether one of the relationships listed above exists.
The finding that an offender committed or threatened to commit a criminal offense against the victim means that the court has the authority to grant a civil protection order. A conviction of the offense in criminal court, when found beyond a reasonable doubt, usually means that a companion civil protection order is automatically granted. The strategy involved when the offender faces allegations in both criminal and civil cases can be complex. A well-versed and experienced DC household violence attorney can advise a survivor about options and can help an alleged offender defend themselves.
Impact on Family Law Issues
Normally, both parents enjoy the presumption of joint legal and physical custody of their child; however, a family court must make decisions that are in the best interest of the child, which may differ from either or both parent’s wishes. A finding of domestic abuse or violence may serve as grounds for granting sole custody to the non-abusive parent and, in extreme cases, the offending parent may lose the right to visitation, according to DC Code §16-914(a)(2).
Household violence can also impact a divorce case and what the court may consider to be an equitable distribution of marital property, a claim for alimony, or a child custody case. A skilled domestic abuse lawyer in DC can help investigate any incidents of family violence and work to modify a current court order which is no longer protecting you or your children or keeping you and your family safe.
A DC Family Violence Attorney Can Help
Family violence can affect relationships between couples, children, parents, and even roommates. Allegations of domestic abuse can lead to arrest and criminal prosecution, and a conviction may affect the abusive parent’s ability to retain custody of their child. Additionally, if the act of violence was a factor in a couple’s marriage dissolution or divorce, the presiding family law judge may be more likely to award alimony or to distribute marital property in favor of the survivor.
A DC family violence lawyer can help you argue the impact of domestic abuse on you and your family in the DC Superior Court’s Family Court and in the Domestic Violence Division. Our legal team can work with you to advocate for your rights in a civil protection order case, a criminal domestic violence matter, or a child custody case to help the court understand how domestic violence or the wrongful accusation of abuse has affected your family’s life in order to make the right decision in your case. Do not hesitate to contact one of our dedicated and experienced domestic violence and family law attorneys today to schedule an initial consultation.