Domestic Violence Accusations
Family issues, especially divorce and child custody battles, can bring out the worst in people. These issues can often lead to violence, exaggerated claims of violence, and even false accusations. Accusations of domestic violence can have devastating civil and criminal consequences.
In a family law setting, accusations of family violence can lead to the accused having limited visitation with his or her child or even lead to loss of parental custody. These accusations are serious and should never be tackled without seeking experienced, sound legal counsel.
Chester County Domestic Violence Attorney
If you are faced with domestic violence accusations, the attorneys at Ciccarelli Law Offices can prepare the best defense for you. The attorneys at Ciccarelli Law Offices have extensive experience in family law and criminal law. Using the team approach, the attorneys will use their combined knowledge to help overcome the challenges in your case.
Call us today at (877) 529-2422 or send an online message, and we’ll set up a free consultation. You can meet on-one-one with a dedicated Pennsylvania child custody lawyer at one of our many convenient meeting sites in West Chester, Philadelphia, Radnor, Lancaster, Plymouth Meeting, Kennett Square, Malvern, Springfield, or King of Prussia.
We represent clients in Chester County, Montgomery County, Delaware County, and Lancaster County and throughout the Philadelphia and Southeastern Pennsylvania area.
Pennsylvania Domestic Violence Law Resource Center
- What is domestic violence?
- How does a domestic violence accusation affect me?
- How can I dispute a domestic violence accusation?
- Where can I learn more about domestic violence?
In the state of Pennsylvania, there is not a specific statute that defines domestic violence. Generally, people think domestic violence must involve a physical altercation between spouses. Rather, there is a wide array of offenses and activities that constitute domestic violence.
Domestic violence is not always physical. Emotional or psychological offenses, like stalking or harassment, are also considered domestic violence. Most intentional or reckless acts against a family member or household member are considered domestic violence.
23 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 6102 defines family members or household members as the following:
- Spouse or former spouse;
- Persons who are living or have lived as spouses;
- Current or former live-in boyfriend, girlfriend, or partners
- Persons related by blood or marriage;
- Current or former sexual or intimate partners; and
- Persons whom have a biological child in common.
Generally, the following conduct or offenses are considered domestic violence:
- Purposefully or recklessly causing or attempting to cause bodily injury, serious bodily injury, rape, or incest;
- Causing another to reasonably fear imminent serious bodily injury;
- Course of conduct or repeated conduct which under the circumstances places a person in reasonable fear of bodily;
- False imprisonment; and
- Physical or sexual abuse of a minor child.
Pennsylvania domestic violence laws cover a wide variety of conduct, which based on the circumstances, can include conduct one might not consider domestic violence, including breaking an object or saying insults out of frustration. Should a family member make an accusation of domestic violence, it is imperative to consult an experienced domestic violence attorney immediately.
A domestic violence accusation can have criminal and civil consequences. Should the district attorney believe the domestic violence accusation has merit, criminal charges may be brought against the accused. In this instance, the accused may face jail time and/or fines.
From a family law standpoint, the accused may face a Protection from Abuse Order (PFA) also referred to as a restraining order. This is an order issued by the court which prevents the accused from engaging in certain activities. The particular activities are specified by the judge based on the circumstances of the case.
Under 18 Pa.C.S. § 4954 a PFA may contain the following provisions:
- Accused cannot commit any acts that constitute harassment or stalking;
- Accused maintain a specific geographic distance from any specified witness or victim
- Accused maintain specific geographic distance from particular locations, including the victim’s work, home, and school; or
- Accused cannot have any communication with the specific witness or victim, except through an attorney.
The statute permits the court to include addition provisions or prohibitions in the PFA. These provisions could be costly and invasive, including directing the accused to pay any losses incurred as a result of the abuse (medical bills, relocation expenses, lost wages, etc.). Learn more about Protection from Abuse Orders.
Following the issuance of a Protection from Abuse Order, an accused may face child custody issues. Depending on the circumstances, a PFA may include a temporary custody order. Within a time specified in the PFA, the alleged victim must petition the court for a formal custody arrangement.
When determining whether a child custody arrangement is appropriate the court considers the “best interest of the child”. The best interest of the child is a factual determination based on several, non-exhaustive factors. One of the factors the courts consider is “present and past instances of abuse committed by either party or member of that party’s household, and whether there is a continued risk of abuse”.
Should the family law court conclude, based on the evidence, that shared custody or any custody arrangement with the accused is not in the “best interest of the child”, the accused could possibly lose custody of the child or be subject to supervised visitation.
As soon as an accused is faced with a domestic violence accusation, it is important to contact an attorney immediately. A protection order may be issued based on circumstantial evidence, including hearsay. Should the PFA be issued, the accused often faces an uphill battle in child custody proceedings. An experienced attorney will know what evidence and information to gather in order to prepare the best defense available based on individual circumstances.
Domestic violence accusations are serious and can have devastating consequences. It is important to prepare as soon as one is faced with an accusation. In order to properly address or dispute domestic violence accusations, it is recommended to take the following steps:
- Contact an experienced domestic violence attorney immediately: Domestic violence cases often involve a lot of “he said she said”, an experienced attorney can assist in preparing a defense to these allegations. The attorney can inform you of the proper interpretation of the law, the rights available, and the evidence needed to dispute the allegations.
- Gather Evidence: Although the initial protective order is issued ex-parte (the accused is not given the opportunity to present a defense), an accused is given the opportunity to defend him or herself before the issuance of the final PFA. The accused may also provide evidence contradicting or undermining the domestic violence accusations in family court. Emails, text messages, audio recordings, video recordings, photographs, and any other relevant evidence are imperative to present a strong defense in court.
- Gather Witnesses: It is recommended to present witnesses with personal knowledge of you, the alleged victim, and your relationship. The witnesses can provide testimony asserting the claims of violence are untrue or exaggerated. The witnesses can also provide testimony regarding the alleged victim’s motivation for making a false or exaggerated claim of domestic violence.
Preparing a successful defense is a fact intensive and complex process. Although some individuals may choose to represent themselves in domestic violence related hearings, it is not recommended. Domestic violence accusations can jeopardize your freedom and relationship with your family. Do not go at it alone. Allow the experienced attorneys at Ciccarelli Law Offices handle this stressful matter for you.
Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence: The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence (“PCADV”) has several resources for individuals and families affected by domestic violence, including domestic violence prevention methods, tools, and publications.
Stop Abusive and Violent Environments: Stop Abusive and Violent Environments (“SAVE”) is a non-profit organization which is focused on finding solutions to end domestic violence by sponsoring interest groups of domestic violence survivors and individuals wrongly accused of domestic violence.
Domestic Violence Center of Chester County: The Domestic Violence Center of Chester County of the “DVCCC” is organization located in Chester County, Pennsylvania, which focuses on domestic violence intervention and prevention. The DVCCC provides several resources, including counseling, housing, and tools for domestic violence prevention.
Domestic Violence Defense Attorney in Pennsylvania
Domestic violence accusations can be stressful and seem difficult to dispute. Allow the experienced attorneys at Ciccarelli Law Offices prepare a strong defense on your behalf. With significant experience in both criminal and family law, the Ciccarelli Law Offices team of attorneys will work together for the best result in your case.
We work to defend the rights of men throughout West Chester, Downingtown, Coatesville, Lancaster, Lititz, Ephrata, Norristown, Villanova, King of Prussia, Media, Philadelphia, and surrounding areas. Call us today at Ciccarelli Law Offices or send an online message for a free consultation.