How to Document Incidents of Domestic Violence

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Unfortunately, many cases of domestic violence are not reported to police or New York’s Child Protective Services. As a result, it can be more difficult to obtain an order of protection if a party waits to get one at a later date. If you are the abused party and wait to file for an order of protection, the best course of action is to document any incidents of domestic violence to protect yourself and your children from physical harm as well as to aid you in the event of conflicts over child custody and visitation. Your log of what occurred can then be used when you later decide to file, which should be done close in time to a significant domestic violence incident.

What happens when there are delays in reporting? 

A recent case in our office involved the problems resulting from delays in reporting. The client was getting a divorce and there was an incident between her husband and their 16-year-old daughter. The husband had berated the daughter but also grabbed her at one point. The wife did not report the incident to anyone at the time but waited several weeks. In such a case, the concern is how the court will view the delay. Typically, the more time between a domestic violence incident and a victim taking action to notify law enforcement or seek an order of protection, the harder it is to get a court to agree to an order of protection because there isn’t an immediate threat of harm. The court will still consider the question of whether there is an immediate threat of harm even if you didn’t promptly file because there is no requirement that you must call the police the moment after a violent incident happens.

What should you do after a domestic violence incident?

However, to make your case easier to prove, it is recommended that you take the following steps:

  1. File a police report or seek an order of protection promptly after the incident occurred.
  2. If the incident involves a child under 18, notify Child Protective Services. 
  3. Write down the details of the incident close in time to when it happened. Courts consider notes written by a victim or witness while still under the influence of a startling event as presumptively true. This helps you obtain an order of protection even if you didn’t call the police right away or file a report with Child Protective Services.

If you are dealing with domestic violence, it is important to retain a lawyer to assist with obtaining an order of protection and to advocate for you in divorce and custody matters. Contact us for a consultation today to discuss how we can help you.

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