In Michigan Allegations of Criminal Sexual Conduct Often Come in the Context of Divorce

Love is Blind. Justice is Blind. But here is what we SEE in Divorce and the Criminal Justice System.

The Criminal Defense Attorneys at the Barone Defense Firm focus their practice on specific and complex criminal defense cases, like those involving allegations of criminal sexual activity and abuse. These criminal sexual conduct (CSC) and child abuse cases are handled in the District and Circuit Criminal Courts when charged by the State or County Prosecutor, and in the Family or Juvenile Court when authorized by Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) often referred to as Child Protective Services (CPS). The may also often have a federal component, especially when allegations involve allegations of possession, receipt or production of child pornography.  We have found that such allegations arise out of or are raised in the backdrop of divorce. The allegations of criminal sexual conduct and child abuse often come immediately preceding, during, or soon after divorce papers are filed, and therefore, the divorce is the common denominator.

According to the statistics in the 2018 State of Michigan’s Department of Community Health Report there were 56,374 marriages, and possibly not surprisingly, 28,186 divorces. This number may be surprising to the romantic, and validating to the cynic, but all can reasonably agree that there are significant emotions involved when a marriage is ending.  These emotions, when coupled with children being involved, can lead to allegations for legal leverage and quite frankly to hurt the other party. Motivated by money, or custody, or fear, or anger, allegations of criminal sexual conduct or child abuse put the accused in a very difficult position emotionally and legally.

There are no reliable statistics to support the number of cases that allege abuse during a divorce, but from the position where we as attorneys stand, we see it all the time. If these allegations are made, it means that your one costly court case (the divorce) could soon become three costly court cases.  The three separate but related cases would be the divorce in the Family Court, a criminal case in the District and then Circuit Court, and also a (CPS) or (DHHS) case that can take place in the Juvenile Court.  These all have difference legal procedures, and different standards or burdens of proof, and consequently have different potential outcomes or consequences. There is also a fourth legal issue that often will arise, a Personal Protection Order (PPO).  The PPO is the first major shot because of how quickly it can be imposed, and because of how minimal the information can often be to obtain it. A criminal or civil case require a significant amount of investigation before a decision is made, but a PPO only requires a few forms to be filled out and filed with the local court and can be signed by the judge. Additionally, there is a short period of time to respond to it, if signed, and it is necessary to consult and retain an attorney to properly fight it. But if successfully ordered it means you will be prohibited from your home, your children, records, and literally and figuratively on the defensive.

As soon as there is an allegation, or even a concern about an allegation, which is consistently a surprise, you must quickly shake off the shock and retain a sex crimes and abuse attorney.  However, there are many things that you can start working on to assist in your defense.  At the Barone Defense firm our mantra is information. Information. Information.  You must begin compiling documentation of your life, your life with your spouse, life with your children.  Finding and organizing pictures and videos, text messages, emails, records, and anything that will assist in presenting the truth.  Make notes of where important documents or records may be including medical records, counseling records, and school records. Furthermore, it is helpful to know how to obtain it if you are currently prohibited to legally or physically retrieve them on your own because your attorney will want to preserve them. We often will work in a complimentary function with your divorce attorney but it is important to understand our focus and legal issues are separate.

The big mistakes that we observe is the delay in seeking criminal defense counsel. You do not want to wait and see if there will be criminal charges or a CPS petition.  You do not want to talk with an investigator, or detective, or a CPS agent, without counsel.  You do not want your divorce attorney to handle that part of the case, just as you will not want us to handle your divorce.  The approach or mindset of “I did not do anything wrong” is the worst mistake you can make, and conversely is best reason to immediately contact the Barone Defense Firm. Your marriage may be lost, but don’t risk losing your children or your freedom by going at it alone.  Hire a team to fight for what you hold dearest.

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