October 26, 2013 /24-7PressRelease/
-- Putting Children First in Family Law Matters
Protecting the Best Interests of the Child
Family legal issues are rarely easy matters. They usually occur during particularly difficult and emotionally trying times in people's lives - when they are seeking to separate from their spouses, when they are fighting for custody of their children or when they are dividing up a life they have spent years building.
Family law issues become even more complex when children are involved. The courts are required by law to put the children's best interests first in family law matters. It is also important for the parents and the lawyers to put the children first.
Counseling programs can be a productive and meaningful way to work through difficult issues such as divorce, domestic violence and substance abuse - issues that can have lasting effects not just on the adults, but also on the children. Studies show that violence and abuse in families can be cyclical. Children subjected to abuse today may grow up to be the abusers tomorrow. Thus, it is important for parents dealing with hard times to focus on their children's needs, to make their children's stability and security a priority and to seek the appropriate type and level of help necessary to work through the family's issues.
The Intersection between Family Law and Criminal Law
Family legal issues do not exist in a vacuum separate from other legal matters. Criminal law, in particular, often intersects with family law and can impact the outcome in family law decisions. This is particularly true in cases of domestic violence.
Under Connecticut law, family violence is defined as "an incident resulting in physical harm, bodily injury or assault, or an act of threatened violence that constitutes fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury or assault between family or household members. Verbal abuse or argument shall not constitute family violence unless there is present danger and the likelihood that physical violence will occur." (CGSA 46b-38a(1)).
Domestic violence acts may result in criminal charges for assault or kidnapping. Charges related to domestic violence incidents can impact divorce and child custody proceedings, and abuse can be grounds for a fault-based divorce in Connecticut. Domestic violence is also one of the factors the state's family courts consider in determining child custody and visitation arrangements. (C.G.S.A. 46b-56(c)).
If someone receives a misdemeanor charge for domestic violence, he or she can petition the court to participate in (or the court may order that he or she attend) a Pretrial Family Violence Education Program. Upon successful completion of the program, the defendant's charges will be dropped. The defendant is only permitted to participate in the program once.
The Impact of Domestic Violence on Children
Children who live in homes with domestic violence may become abusers or domestic violence victims as adults. Psychologists believe the children are likely to see the parent who perpetuates the violence either as all-bad or completely justified in their actions with no middle ground. In cases where the father was the abuser, male children may mimic the father's aggressive behavior as a way to overcome their fears of him while female children may be more likely to identify with the mother and feel powerless in relation to men.
Children who witnessed or were victims of domestic violence also may act out and get into legal trouble. They may be involved with underage drinking and substance abuse and may commit crimes, like vandalism and theft. If there was sexual abuse in the home, children may repeat the behavior and become involved in sexually deviant acts, like sexting (sending sexually explicit images by text message) or more serious crimes, like sexual assault and pornography.
While children from families free of domestic violence also may exhibit these behaviors or become involved in juvenile crime, it is indisputable that domestic violence has a negative and lasting impact on children. No matter how the abusive relationship ends, with or without court action, the victims of the abuse need more help than the court alone can provide.
There are special counseling programs for adults and children who have suffered domestic abuse. Family counseling, one-on-one meetings or special group counseling may provide the best forum for treatment. In some instances, anger or stress management workshops may be needed. In other situations, more intensive drug and alcohol treatment programs may be necessary. With the right program and willing participants, counseling can help families overcome their difficulties and move forward in a positive direction.
Helping Families Work Through Tough Times
The law cannot right every wrong. Courts can decide how to divide assets in a divorce or how to split up parenting time, but they are not equipped to repair all of the damage that can be caused by family legal issues. Parents must be proactive in helping their children heal after a particularly difficult divorce, domestic violence in the home or the child's own legal troubles. Receiving proper professional help is an important first step for families to take in this long, but rewarding, healing process.
Article provided by Law Firm of Victoria T. Ferrara, P.C.
Visit us at www.victoriaferrara.com