Copyright © Gary R. Spritz, Esquire, Delaware Divorce and Family Law. All rights reserved.
Domestic violence is an epidemic in Delaware like other places and unfortunately, it can be the first thing filed in a dissolving relationship. In Delaware, folks routinely go to jail as a result of it and people die. Many allegations are true and some are brought not because of fear, but to gain an advantage in what will be a divorce or custody case.
So what do you do if you are a victim, First, if you are in present danger, call 911. This is not a joke. Nobody makes somebody hit you. Then, you should make a safety plan. Where can you go where you will be safe? Now it very well be that the abuser is in the "Nice period". That does not mean it will not happen again, but perhaps it gives you time if you have it to contact an attorney if you can afford one and if not, please be aware there is a Domestic Violence Help Desk at the lower level 1 of the New Castle County Courthouse at 500 N. King St.,Wilm., DE 19801 where there are people to help you prepare a Petition for Protection from Abuse to obtain a stay away order.you make a safety plan as to where you can go safely in the event abuse occurs. Now a Petition for Protection from Abuse is not a criminal action, it is a civil one and is not governed by what occurs in a criminal action if there is one. It leads to the issuance of stay away orders which become enforeceable by the copy which the copys always have access to thanks to Computers and if they are violated folks are arrested. Now it is a piece of paper not able to stop bullets but if the behavior is less such that the abuser continues to contact you after the issuance it can and does lead to arrests so it is valuable. For example the person who has one has to turn in their firearms. It can force the other party out of the house and prevent the other party from contacting you. It can make the other person responsible to pay temporary support and give temporary custody. It can order the other parent into anger management counseling or drug testing and or treatment. Furthermore while most ordered issued by consent or hearing, last a year, there are very bad circumstances where I have obtained 99 year or essentially lifetime orders.
Now what if you are falsely accused, what do you do. The first thing you do is you follow any court order precisely because if you do not you can very easily worsen the situation and even wind up in jail. Second, if the other side gets an order which you did not have an opportunity to respond , and a hearing is scheduled, you will have your opportunity to respond at that hearing. You may need an attorney and what you do is you make a call for a low cost consultation. It is not necessarily hopeless. Nor is it the end of the world if you were initially partially wrong as different situations are treated differently in Family Court. As some practical measures, if the police sere called, what police department. You can obtain a copy of the report by going to the correct department and should do so. Then think to yourself who were the witnesses to the alleged events. If there are children involved think of when and under what circumstances you would like to see the children and lastly, make a list of the items in the home by picturing what is in each room and write it down and then create a separate list of what you need from the house to survive for a year, These items will help you assist your Delaware Family Lawyer or focus you if you cannot afford one..
Now whether you are the alleged victim or perepetrator it is helpful to review the court's definition of abuse set forth in 10 De; C. Sec. 1041:
a. Intentionally or recklessly causing or attempting to cause physical injury or a sexual offense, as defined in § 761 of Title 11;
In the definition above abuse includes not just causing a physical injury but it includes an attempt.
b. Intentionally or recklessly placing or attempting to place another person in reasonable apprehension of physical injury or sexual offense to such person or another;
In the definition above abuse includes not just attempts but causing a physical injury but it includes placing somebody if fear of abuse.
c. Intentionally or recklessly damaging, destroying or taking the tangible property of another person;
d. Engaging in a course of alarming or distressing conduct in a manner which is likely to cause fear or emotional distress or to provoke a violent or disorderly response;
e. Trespassing on or in property of another person, or on or in property from which the trespasser has been excluded by court order;
f. Child abuse, as defined in Chapter 9 of Title 16;
g. Unlawful imprisonment, kidnapping, interference with custody and coercion, as defined in Title 11; or
h. Any other conduct which a reasonable person under the circumstances would find threatening or harmful.