New Jersey State Bar Association
Bergen County Bar Association

Spousal Abuse

Bergen County Lawyer Skilled in Navigating Domestic Violence Proceedings

Spousal abuse may be domestic violence and is taken very seriously by New Jersey courts. It can include physical, sexual, emotional, psychological, or economic threats or actions that intimidate, humiliate, frighten, terrorize, hurt, injure, or wound a spouse. Often, the victim succumbs to self-blame, but spousal abuse can happen to anyone and can happen in both opposite-sex and same-sex relationships, as well as to people of any race, religion, age, or gender. Whether you are a victim of spousal abuse or an alleged perpetrator of it, Bergen County spousal abuse lawyer Howard Leopold can provide advice, counsel, and legal representation. For example, he can help you pursue a restraining order as a victim or fight back against it if you have been wrongfully accused.

Understanding the Impact of Spousal Abuse Allegations and Charges

In most cases involving spousal homicide, the perpetrators are men, but either gender can be a victim of spousal abuse. Victims of spousal abuse often assume that they have not really been abused unless they were punched or kicked. However, spousal abuse can involve many different types of harm.

The Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 1991 includes a broad list of criminal offenses that are considered domestic violence, including kidnapping, imprisonment, harassment, physical assault, sexual assault, homicide, lewdness, criminal trespass, threats of bodily harm, and stalking. A spouse who commits any of these crimes may face criminal charges as well as repercussions in family law matters. An area in which spousal abuse may have a particular impact is child custody.

The court is supposed to make a custody determination by examining a child's best interests. Both legal and physical custody make up custody. Legal custody is a parent's right to decide important things about a child's life, such as where the child should attend school and who the child’s doctor should be. Physical custody consists of where a child lives and who provides daily basic care. Spousal abuse may be considered as one factor in connection with a determination of both legal and physical custody, as will be the safety of the child and either parent from physical abuse by the other parent. While in most cases, a parent's history of unwillingness to allow the other parent to have parenting time will be considered, when there is substantiated spousal abuse, the court will view the situation differently. A spousal abuse attorney can help Bergen County residents make sure that their voice is heard in these complicated situations.

Generally, even if an abusive parent does not get joint custody, judges grant visitation rights to that parent, except when visitation would not be in the child's best interest. It is obviously not in a child's best interest to be exposed to spousal abuse, so the court may protect both the spouse and the child by granting supervised visitation to the perpetrator of the abuse and not permitting overnight visits. Sometimes there are conditions on the visitation, such as completion of counseling or classes for anger management or abuse.

When there is a domestic violence restraining order in place, this can be used as the reason for a temporary custody award to the victim. When abuse toward the child is extreme, it is possible for a parent's rights to be terminated altogether. This means that the perpetrator of the abuse would lose all rights to legal and physical custody of a child. It is rare for parental rights to be terminated, but once it happens, it is permanent. The rights are not regained. Thus, you should make sure to retain a Bergen County spousal abuse attorney if you are in danger of losing your parental rights.

If you are a victim of spousal abuse, you are entitled to file a civil complaint for a restraining order as well as a criminal complaint. The civil complaint is supposed to provide protection, while the criminal complaint is designed to punish an abuser. As someone accused of spousal abuse, you may be served with a temporary restraining order in advance of a full hearing on a final restraining order. You should retain an attorney if you have been served with a temporary restraining order. If you disobey the restraining order, you can be found in contempt, which has criminal penalties.

Contact an Experienced Spousal Abuse Lawyer in Bergen County or Surrounding Areas

The team at Leopold Law may be able to help you file a restraining order and address child custody and related matters if you have been a victim of spousal abuse or if you are someone who has been falsely accused of spousal abuse. We handle family law cases in Bergen, Passaic, Hudson, and Essex Counties. Call Leopold Law at (201) 345-5907 or contact us via our online form to set up a free consultation.

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