Accusations of domestic violence, especially threats of violence, are not uncommon during divorce. Domestic violence needs to be taken very seriously and dealt with from a position of strength. Unfortunately, due to the pressure and stress brought on by a failing relationship and divorce, some spouses make exaggerated or false claims of domestic violence. These are serious concerns no matter whether you are the abused or a person being accused of violent behavior. It is a particular danger for those who serve in the military. A conviction for domestic violence could end your career in the military.

Divorce and Domestic Violence

Everyone going through divorce needs to fully understand the lasting consequences that even an accusation of domestic violence will have on their lives and future. Orders of protection, restraining orders, and even arrests for domestic violence can come from words misspoken in anger and taken as a verbal threat. ALWAYS avoid any situation with your spouse or ex that may lead to a physical confrontation.

  • Go immediately to a safe place and seek protection for yourself and your children, if need be.
  • If you are the abuser, turn and walk away before things start to escalate. If a restraining order is in place, comply with the order even if you do not agree with it.
  • Absolutely DO NOT violate any court order restricting your contact with your spouse or children. Seek an attorney that can assist you in protecting yourself and reestablishing your rights.

The Military and Domestic Violence

A service member who is convicted of domestic violence faces a range of adverse consequences, including and in addition to state law responses and remedies. A service member may be disciplined by the military, up to and including a court-martial, for engaging in domestic violence. A domestic violence conviction can impact future promotions and the longevity of a service member’s career.

The divorce process is an emotionally charged and high-pressure time for both spouses. Your spouse may do many unfair and hurtful things. No matter how tempted you may be to lash out or strike back at them, nothing good can come from yelling, arguing, threatening, or physical violence. You risk losing access to your children, your career in the military, and even arrest and a criminal conviction. Stay calm and avoid confrontation to protect your future.

Military Protective Orders

The military takes charges of domestic violence extremely seriously. The military justice system often works faster than civilian courts. If you have been accused before military authorities of domestic violence, you will have less opportunity to appear in court and challenge the charges than in civilian cases. It is always better to avoid any situation that could result in an accusation of domestic violence.

Commanding officers may issue Military Protective Orders, which are similar to civilian Orders of Protection. These orders can include a prohibition on the service member contacting a domestic violence victim or ordering the service member to reside in the barracks. Military Protective Orders require no advance notice to the service member or a hearing. Military Protective Orders are not enforceable in civilian courts but violating such an order is a violation of a direct order and carries the military penalties associated with such. Civilian court protective orders may also be entered against a military service member.

Once a domestic violence report is made, the commanding officer may order the service member and family to participate in the Family Advocacy Program, where a Case Review Committee will find the domestic violence allegations substantiated, suspected, or unsubstantiated.

Lautenberg Amendment to the Gun Control Act of 1968

Under the Lautenberg Amendment, anyone, including a service member, with a misdemeanor conviction of domestic violence is barred from possessing or using firearms. If a service member is convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence, he or she is not allowed to possess or use a gun, even in the course of standard military duties. Similarly, it is a crime for anyone, including other service members, to give an offending service member a gun. If a service member is required to be proficient in firearm use and demonstrate such, be ready to stand guard, or be able to perform any other activity requiring the possession of a firearm, this prohibition can lead to a discharge for inability to perform duties. In other words, a domestic violence conviction can end a service member’s career under the Lautenberg Amendment.

Issues Due to Military Service

As a member of the armed services, you risk life and limb to keep America safe. Over the course of your service, you have experienced traumatic events few civilians will ever comprehend. Combat duty takes a tremendous physical and emotional toll. As a result of your dedicated service to our country, you may bear physical and emotional scars. You may suffer from conditions, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, which make you more vulnerable to stressful situations.

Your spouse may be tempted to use the emotional wounds you suffered in war to paint you as an unfit parent, claim you are a threat to others or even accuse you of domestic violence.  If that is the case, you need an attorney experienced in defending military members against baseless attacks.

If you are the victim of abuse, you need a strong legal team to support you and help structure your divorce in a way that protects you from further abuse and bullying and in reaching a settlement and as you go forward with rebuilding your life in the future. 

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