Wednesday, February 17, 2010

"Criminal" Law In Civil Cases

Lawyers are prohibited by our ethical rules from even raising the threat of criminal prosecution in order to obtain an advantage in a civil case. Increasingly, however, private citizens in divorce cases are using the "criminal" laws to try to gain an advantage over their spouses. For example, in Virginia, parties have to live separate and apart for a court to grant a divorce. Most judges will not even enter temporary orders regarding custody or support if the parties still are living together.
Your spouse won't go, and you have no money to go. What can you do? More and more people are going to the magistrate or the court, swearing under oath that their spouse has abused them in some way, and getting a protective order. This carries with it exclusive possession of the house-at least for a time. To add icing to the cake, they also may have the spouse charged criminally with domestic assault. Both of these are done initially with no notice to or input from the other party. Just because one person says so. Unfortunately, people will say a lot of things that just are not true. And they do not that that oath very seriously. Some courts have become so fed up with this that they are actually prosecuting people for making false reports. Bottom Line: It's wrong. Don't do it.

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