Unfortunately, it seems as though the people we love most are usually the ones who end up hurting us the worst. In a family setting, emotional hurt generally makes up the bulk of this pain. However, in the wrong circumstances, the vulnerability of family relationships can easily be twisted, leading to things like domestic violence, abuse, and other serious crimes.
Because of this, family law often shares real estate with criminal law—despite the fact that they technically fall under different court systems. Here, we will discuss some of those crossover situations, and when you might want to include a San Joaquin criminal defense lawyer in your family law case.
Civil and Criminal Crossover Cases
Most of the time, family law matters fall under the civil court system. In civil court, individuals bring suits against each other, and usually arise over things like divorce, property disputes, torts, and contractual obligations. This is different from criminal court, where the government (either state or federal) brings a case against a citizen, directly.
For example, take domestic violence. While it is a family law issue (and thus, subject to civil court), as a crime protected by California’s domestic violence laws, these actions are also subject to criminal ramifications. Here, the government would not need your permission to press its own charges. Once a case has been filed, the government—as an entity—can choose whether or not it wants to pursue other penalties—regardless of how you feel about the matter. Thus, in these situations, a perpetrator could end up facing consequences in both civil and criminal courts.
As family law attorneys, here are some of the most common crossover cases we see between family and criminal law.
Domestic violence is defined by harm caused inside of an intimate relationship, and it is one of the most frequent crossovers to come up family court. While most people think of harm as hitting, bruising, and breaking bones, domestic violence actually extends beyond that. Harassing, stalking, threatening, destroying property, making threats—even if they are against another person, and not to you, personally—are all behaviors that fall under the domestic violence umbrella.
In addition to whatever civil court consequences can be earned here (such as divorce orders, damages, and possible alterations to child custody and visitation), the state might also choose to press charges. Depending on the facts, domestic violence can either be classified as a misdemeanor or a felony. Perpetrators could be fined, charged with probation, earn jail time, and even end up in a state prison.
In addition to general provisions regarding sexual assault and rape, California’s penal code specifically mentions spousal rape—because being married doesn’t mean you get to have sex whenever you want. Consent is still critical. Thus, individuals convicted of spousal rape could face the better part of a decade behind bars, pay steep fines, and end up as a registered sex offender for life. Other types of sexual abuse (such as nonconsensual groping, oral, or other touching using threats, force, or harm) can also trigger a crossover cases between family and criminal courts.
The penal code further clarifies that community property cannot be used to assuage liability under these charges. So basically, even if your ex tries to bribe you, by offering a favorable property split in your divorce if you drop the charges, this wouldn’t eliminate whatever penalties are coming from the state in criminal court.
Other common crossover cases involve children, where abuse, endangerment, neglect, and abandonment are most likely to surface. Typically, California courts do not look kindly on individuals who have committed these crimes, and can levy a sentence of up to six years in state prison, if convicted.
A person who has:
- Intentionally hurt a child;
- Leaving visible injury; whose actions were,
- Outside normal disciplinary actions,
Would likely be guilty of child abuse. In California, spanking your child is legal, however since there’s a lot of interpretation involved in this, if your discipline has been called into question, it’s best to discuss options with your San Joaquin criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible.
Because children haven’t yet reached the age of majority, most juvenile cases are handled outside the general criminal system reserved for adults. Baring unusual circumstances, juvenile crimes are treated more like civil offenses, or rather “family,” matters, and are exempt from the full force of California’s criminal code. In a juvenile criminal case, the parents are expected to appear in court with their child, and can even be fined on behalf of their child’s behavior.
For these reasons, many family law attorneys also cover a range of juvenile criminal cases.
False Allegations of Abuse
On the other hand, it’s possible you are on the receiving end of abuse allegations. California is a no-fault divorce state, meaning that fault (including abuse) cannot be factored into things like property division. However, that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t affect your divorce at all. Especially if children are involved.
In California, every decision involving a child is analyzed based on the best interest of the child. Naturally, placing a child with an abusive parent would not be in their best interest, and so, abuse allegations—even false ones—could certainly damage a potential custody and visitation schedule in your divorce.
Because the state takes child abuse so seriously, if your spouse has falsely accused you of abuse in order to influence a custody order, it’s critical you notify your San Joaquin criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible.
San Joaquin Criminal Defense Lawyers
While family and criminal law operate under two different systems, because of the emotionally charged nature of families, the two often go hand in hand. If your family law issue has turned ugly, and you believe you need the assistance of a San Joaquin criminal defense lawyer, we can help. Call us at (209) 989-4425, or get in touch online to schedule your consultation today. Most of the time, your situation can be handled in house by our competent team of experienced family law attorneys. However, if needed, we can refer your case to other, highly qualified criminal defense lawyers.