Defending a false allegation of abuse in divorce or custody cases.
Oklahoma law provides that in a divorce or custody proceeding, a victim of domestic violence is entitled to their reasonable attorney fees being paid by the party guilty of the abuse. 43 O.S. § 112.6 is the law, and it’s frequently used like a weapon in divorce and custody litigation to deter litigants from pursuing their custody case for fear of the domestic violence allegation. The threat of a domestic violence allegation often creates a “he-said/she-said” scenario in which the credibility of the parties becomes the ultimate determining factor. It doesn’t have to come down to that.
If you believe a domestic violence allegation may be made against you, there are three things to do now to help your position later in the case.
Take photos and videos all the time
Our phones have become our best tool to defend against false allegations because we all keep a camera on us at all times. The data that can be pulled from a digital picture will allow your attorney to determine when and where the photo was taken, and the photo itself will show what was happening at the time, whether good or bad. Sometimes a video or pic taken at the right time will make the difference in defending a false allegation of abuse. The more pictures and videos your taking the better, you never know which one is going to make the difference.
Oklahoma is a one-party recording state so you’re free to record any conversation you’re a party to and the other side is not required to know or consent. Recordings of spouses have made the difference in some cases, as was exhibited in the Depp vs. Heard case in which Amber Heard was recorded talking about her allegations of abuse to Johnny Depp, proving they were not what she represented them to be. Recordings are important to protect yourself from a false allegation, so don’t hesitate to take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves.
Maintain relationships with friends and family
When relationships are bad, parties sometimes isolate, but this is a terrible idea. Witnesses are critical to an abuse allegation. If someone observes bruising on a spouse that looks suspicious, their testimony could substantiate the allegation, but the flip-side is true as well. No observations of bruising or physical abuse can be helpful, but it’s not always clear evidence no abuse has occurred. Communicate with friends and relatives regarding what’s happening in the home. Not only can they help corroborate your position later, but they can serve as a support group as you navigate a difficult time in life.
Allegations of abuse rarely come out of nowhere. It’s common to have an idea that your spouse is thinking they could raise the allegation in the event of separation or divorce based on things they say when upset or angry. If you’re concerned your spouse may make such an allegation you should take reasonable measures to prepare to counter their false claim. You also need to make sure you’re acting in such a manner that does not give validity to their claim. Don’t be emotionally or physically abusive or controlling within the marriage. And be mindful of how you want to present yourself to a judge if the need arises.
If a false accusation is leveled against you though, take heart because there’s still hope for justice. Just as Oklahoma law provides that abusers should pay reasonable attorney fees of victims, it also provides that false accusers should pay fees of the falsely accused. 43 O.S. § 107.3(D) provides that if the Court determines the allegations made against you to be false, the Court may find the accuser in contempt, consider the false allegation in any custody determination, and order the false accuser to pay all court costs and legal expenses arising from the allegation.
The key element to any case involving the false accusation of abuse is to establish the abuse did not occur. Following the suggested guidance above is a first step in that process and will help your attorney develop a stronger case on your behalf.
The lawyers of The Smith Firm battle against false accusations of abuse every day. If you’ve been falsely accused of abuse, you shouldn’t fight that fight alone You can contact us at (405) 843-1000 to discuss how we may be of assistance, or you can email email@example.com for more information on how we can help.