Domestic Abuse in Maine
Domestic violence is the term used when abuse occurs in a household or between people who share an intimate relationship. Abuse can be physical, psychological, emotional, sexual, or financial and can consist of threats of violence or actual acts. According to Maine's Attorney General, on an annual basis at least 30,000 adults in Maine may be subject to domestic abuse. Common domestic abuse offenses include the following:
- Sexual assault
Domestic abuse can affect children in many ways. In addition to the abuse they may suffer, children raised in households where abuse occurs have been found to have trouble in school and often show emotional damage and cognitive development problems. For these reasons, a history of domestic abuse can play a big part in parental rights and responsibilities issues.
Because of the seriousness of the results, Maine offers victims of domestic abuse several options for protection. If you would like to learn more about domestic abuse in Maine, contact our office right away to speak to an experienced family law attorney.
Protection From Abuse Orders
Anyone who is the victim of domestic abuse in Maine can petition the court for a protection order. Protection orders are also known as restraining orders or no contact orders. They bar the defendant from contacting or going near the petitioner, their family or their child. The purpose of these orders is to protect victims from further abuse. In domestic abuse situations, an order can even keep the defendant from entering the shared household for a given period of time.
If a victim fears for their immediate safety, they can ask a judge to grant them an emergency temporary order. This is a short-term order that will be in effect until a hearing can be conducted to determine whether a long-term order is necessary. Orders of protection exist to keep victims safe so there are no fees associated with requesting an order and criminal charges do not have to be placed against the defendant.
There are two kinds of protection orders: protection from harassment and protection from abuse. Protection from abuse orders can be requested in cases where any type of domestic abuse such as assault, threats, coercion or any other type of physical abuse occurs. Protection from harassment orders apply to stalking cases as well as situations that involve at least 3 acts of intimidation, confrontation or threats.
Domestic Abuse and Child Custody
Domestic abuse charges can have a big impact on parental rights and responsibilities in Maine. Under section 1653, the court can establish conditions for contact between a parent and child in cases that involve domestic abuse. A parent who has committed domestic abuse will have more difficulty gaining primary custody or contact with their child than a parent normally has. Courts will always act in the best interest of the child so a parent can be awarded primary residence or contact with their minor child if the court feels that it would be beneficial to the child.
Before any kind of contact between a parent who has committed domestic abuse and their child is allowed, the court will have to make sure of 2 things:
- That contact would be in the child's best interest
- That precaution will be taken to ensure that the child is safe during contact
This means that the parent will be subject to additional restraints when it comes to their relationship with their child. Under Maine law this can include any condition that the court feels is necessary to protect the minor child including the following:
- Contact with the child must be supervised by another person or agency and the parent must pay a fee to cover the cost of the supervised visitation
- Exchange of the child must occur in a protected setting
- The parent must attend and satisfactorily complete a domestic abuse intervention program or other type of counseling
- The parent must abstain from possessing or consuming alcohol or controlled substances during visitation and for 24 hours before contact with the minor child
- The parent is prohibited from having their child stay with them overnight
In addition to these provisions, the court can also establish other rules for the parent who committed domestic abuse. This can include stipulations like having the parent undergo counseling before they are allowed contact with the child or keeping the other parent's address confidential.
If you are dealing with a domestic abuse issue that may affect your parental rights and responsibilities, contact our office to find out more about your rights.