Domestic violence and abuse remain troubling problems here in New Mexico and across the country. Often these issues arise through divorce proceedings, but domestic abuse can affect anyone regardless of their marital status. Although domestic abuse and violence are punishable by the state’s criminal courts, civil relief is also available.
On the other hand, there are also cases in which parties make false allegations to gain an advantage in a domestic case. These can be difficult to defend against, which is why you need a skilled attorney.
If you’re a victim of civil domestic abuse, or the other party has falsely accused you of it, Matteucci Family Law wants you to know that assistance is available. Attorney Bob Matteucci understands the unique challenges and sensitivity of these cases, and he is ready to help.
What is civil domestic violence?
Domestic abuse, sometimes called domestic violence, is a term that refers to a wide range of physical, sexual, emotional, or psychological acts committed by an intimate partner or a family member. Although most people associate the term with physical violence, it is broad enough to include a number of other behaviors. If you, your children or a loved one have experienced these issues, you should speak with an attorney or other professional who handles abuse cases:
- Controlling or obsessive behavior
- Belittling, constant insults, or other verbal abuse
- Changes in behavior due to drug or alcohol use
- Threats to you, your children, your family, or others
- Jealousy and paranoia about your whereabouts
- Distrusting or making unfounded accusations against you
- Property destruction
- Rape or sexual assault
- Violence towards or in front of an intimate partner or child
- Harassment including telephone/text harassing
These and other behaviors can quickly spiral out of control, but violence and abuse often come out of nowhere with little warning. Any conversations you have with an attorney are confidential, so don’t be afraid to seek help.
What can the New Mexico Civil Courts do?
Victims of domestic abuse and violence can obtain an Order of Protection against the spouse, dating partner, or another individual (see more below) who is harming or threatening to harm them. An Order of Protection is a court order, sometimes referred to as a restraining order, that protects the victim from being hurt, threatened, or harassed. Violation of the order and its various restrictions could result in the abusive person being arrested.
State district courts issue these orders. To ask for one, you will need to file a Petition for Order of Protection from Domestic Abuse either in the county where you live or where the abuse occurred. A judge will review your request for an Order of Protection the same day you file it. Having a complete, accurate petition is therefore critical.
It’s important to note that the court cannot assist you with filling out this form, so it’s a good idea to speak with a knowledgeable lawyer.
Who can I obtain an order of protection against?
Anyone who has experienced domestic abuse by a household member can ask the court to issue an Order of Protection. An Order of Protection is also available if you’ve been sexually assaulted or stalked by another person, regardless of your relationship with that individual.
New Mexico considers the following to be household members:
- Spouse or former spouse
- Parent, present or former stepparent, or present or former parent-in-law
- Grandparent or grandparent-in-law
- Child, stepchild, or grandchild
- Someone you’ve had a child with (regardless of whether you were married or lived with the person)
- Someone you have dated or had an intimate relationship with
Same-sex partners are also protected. And despite the term, you do not have to live in the same household as a “household member” for the law’s protections to apply.
Who is not considered a household member?
These individuals do not count as household members under New Mexico law:
- Roommate (the law requires there to be an intimate or close family relationship like the above)
- Brother or sister
- Aunt or uncle
- Relatives of your boyfriend or girlfriend
- Relatives of your child’s family, if you’ve never been married
- Niece or nephew
- Other in-laws, such as brother-in-law or sister-in-law
Protections for Sexual Assault and Harassment Victims
As mentioned above, you can also obtain an order against anyone who has sexually assaulted or stalked you, regardless of the relationship you have or don’t have with that person. “Stalking” is a term that refers to a pattern of conduct (two or more acts occurring on more than one occasion) designed to place someone in reasonable fear of:
- Bodily harm
- Sexual assault
Harassment is defined by law as knowingly engaging in a pattern of conduct designed to annoy, seriously alarm, or terrorize another person, and which serves no lawful purpose. This is conduct that would cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress.
How Civil Domestic Violence May Affect Your Family Law Case
Many victims of domestic abuse have family law cases with the abuser. If you have an ongoing custody case, the consequences of abuse can be substantial. The court may award you temporary custody of the children if the judge believes the abuser poses a threat to their safety. The judge may also place limits on the abuser’s ability to visit with the children – such as supervised visitation – or deny visits altogether, depending on the circumstances.
The abuser may be ordered to pay temporary child support for a temporary period. This is separate from long-term child support, so be sure to speak with an attorney if you need assistance.
Abused spouses are often afraid to take their abusers to court, and may even feel trapped in the relationship. Bob Matteucci will explore all options for protecting your safety, such as shelters or other safe places you can stay. The key is to be upfront with your attorney about all of the details concerning the abuse. Although this is a difficult topic to discuss, he wants to get you the help you need.
Defending Parties Against False Allegations of Civil Domestic Violence
Not all accusations of civil domestic abuse are made in good faith. Parents sometimes falsely allege abuse in order to gain custody of a child. In divorce cases, one spouse might accuse the other of violence in order to make the person look bad in court. This is an obvious misuse of the court system, but it’s one that could have significant consequences on your future.
Courts rightly take domestic abuse allegations seriously, and often act out of an abundance of caution in siding with the alleged victim. Sometimes all it takes for a judge to enter a protection order is for one party to claim they felt threatened by the other. In cases like these, it’s not enough to simply deny the allegations and hope for the best. You risk losing custody, losing your divorce, losing your job and having your civil liberties curtailed – among other complications.
That’s why Bob represents spouses and partners who have been wrongly accused of civil domestic abuse. He does so by considering the accuser’s motivations to determine if there was an opportunity and motive to lie. Then, he takes an extensive look at the evidence, including calling upon witnesses as necessary. Finally, he presents a strong case refuting the statements made against you. Bob understands the law and what it takes to defend against false allegations.
Contact a New Mexico Civil Domestic Violence Attorney Today
Although courts take a close look at civil domestic abuse cases, remember that the accused also has due process rights. That person will likely retain an attorney to challenge your claims. On the other hand, you may have had untrue accusations leveled against you from a spouse or partner who wants to gain an upper hand in the case. Whether you’ve been abused or threatened, or you’re defending against false allegations of the same, you can count on the experience of Matteucci Family Law. Contact our office today!
Matteucci Family Law Firm helps families with domestic violence matters all across New Mexico including Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Los Lunas, and Rio Rancho.