That’s Illegal! Family Law and Crime
Family law disputes can be highly acrimonious, and accusations fly back and forth about the actions and behaviors of the parties. Among the worst of these exchanges are allegations of criminal activity. Criminal activity, and conviction for a crime may impact a party’s parental rights and may be a basis for adjusting the division of the assets of the marital estate. There are a number of ways that criminal law comes into play in a family law matter, when it does, conferring with counsel about how to proceed is particularly important.
Grounds for Divorce
Conviction of a felony, subject to specific additional conditions, is grounds for a fault-based divorce in Virginia. A fault divorce may impact whether a party is entitled to receive spousal support. In addition, Virginia is one of the remaining states where adultery is still a crime, and, subject to certain conditions, it is specific grounds for a fault-based divorce. If one of the parties in a divorce has a criminal record, or has committed a crime, this should be raised with the attorney as soon as possible.
The end of a relationship may be due to abuse perpetrated by one party against the other. While abuse is a spectrum, and none should be tolerated, it may rise to the level of criminality when there has been assault and battery. A victim of physical abuse needs to be prepared to demonstrate actual or threatened harm. One common remedy available to the person subject to abuse is a protective order. Domestic violence can be grounds for a fault-based divorce, and it is a factor considered in custody disputes. A family law attorney will help the victim to identify evidence and raise this issue as part of a family law dispute, and a family law attorney can help defend against an allegation of abuse.
White Collar Crimes
White collar crimes may come into play in a family law matter. Fraud, tax evasion, embezzlement and other non-violent criminal activity by one partner may implicate the other partner. For example, if a spouse files a joint tax return that includes false statements about the couple or a business owned by the spouse, then the innocent spouse may be exposed to criminal liability. If the innocent spouse suspects this is going on, it is important that they take steps to shield themselves from liability. One spouse may commit non-violent crimes against the other including cyber-crimes like illegally accessing a personal computer or disseminating revenge porn. Counsel can help advise what steps to take to deal with this illegal conduct.
Illegal Collection of “Evidence”
Marital strife and suspicion often go hand in hand, and it is not uncommon for a party to want to do some amateur sleuthing to catch their spouse in the act. For example, if one party suspects the other of having an affair, they may try to keep tabs on where the suspected spouse is going. Some individuals will go so far as to put tracking devices on their spouse’s vehicle, which may be illegal depending on the circumstances. Others will secretly record conversations, which may be illegal depending on where and how the activity takes place. There are legal ways to collect evidence, and it is important to work with counsel to make sure that these channels are being followed.
Interference with Discovery
The issue of criminal law can make its way into a family law dispute during the discovery process, and an attorney can advise about the availability of those protections. Parties may refuse to answer discovery requests because of the right against self-incrimination. This can be used as a broad shield by one party to avoid producing important information needed by the other party in the matter. Experienced family law counsel will know how to deal with this situation if it happens.
When criminal activity becomes an issue in a family law matter, the entire case can be impacted in a variety of ways. If a crime is known or suspected, reported or otherwise, conferring with counsel may help you to understand the implications and protect your rights. Do you have questions about criminal law in a family law dispute? Contact us here to set up a consultation.
If you are experiencing abuse, confer with a family law attorney about your options or contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.
DISCLAIMER. The material contained on this Website is not offered, nor should it be construed, as legal advice. The material on our Website has been prepared and published for informational purposes only. You should not act or rely upon information contained in these materials without specifically seeking professional legal advice.