Most domestic violence claims are legitimate cries for help, and should be treated as such. Unfortunately, false claims do occur. False claims of domestic violence are a grave disservice not only to the accused, but to genuine victims everywhere. Because of the severity of domestic crimes, law enforcement must investigate all claims of domestic violence.
Because men are usually larger than women—and thus capable of doing more physical harm—and because the prototypical image of domestic violence is a man physically harming his spouse or significant other, courts and officers of the law tend to take domestic violence allegations by women more seriously. Additionally, the courts tend to “err on the side of caution” when it comes to domestic violence claims by women, which means that it may require less evidence than to back up a claim made by a woman against a man.
In most situations, this is a benefit to victims who need to leave a dangerous situation quickly. But in rare instances, women may use this bias to their advantage. False claims by men, since they are unlikely to be taken very seriously without compelling evidence, are not without precedent, but far less common.
How do people do this?
Broad Definitions of Violence
The wording behind the legal definition of “violence” is vague. This is meant to protect victims who may be enduring abuse that is not strictly physical, but still creates an environment of violence and fear for the victim.
The Florida statutes concerning domestic violence point to assault as one of the justifications for a claim. Assault, however, is not physical violence. Assault refers to a threat of harm that leads to the victim’s fear of imminent harm.
This makes the definition subjective. And while doing so protects many citizens from more insidious types of abuse, it also makes it easier to exploit the law. Individuals may falsely claim they feared for their own safety, and this is enough to base a claim on.
Now that you understand the how, it’s time to look at the why. What leads people to make false claims of domestic violence? It’s a tactic that can arise from many different situations.
Gaining Advantage in Custody Cases. In a custody case, the safety and well-being of the child is paramount. If one parent wants to gain leverage over another, he or she may file for a restraining order on allegations of domestic violence.
The court may rule in favor of the alleged victim in this situation, citing concern for the child’s safety. In many states, including Florida, there is a statute for the “Rebuttable Presumption Against Joint Custody.”
According to the statute: “Whether or not there is a conviction of any offense of domestic violence or child abuse or the existence of an injunction for protection against domestic violence, the court shall consider evidence of domestic violence or child abuse as evidence of detriment to the child.”
Unfortunately for the victims of false claims, this can often mean that the burden of producing compelling evidence is on them. It can be difficult to prove a claim of domestic violence is true, but it is next to impossible to prove it is false.
Monetary and Property Incentive. In many jurisdictions, the courts have the ability to award alleged victims of domestic violence relief in the form of money or property. This is another provision meant to protect genuine victims—in this case, those who refrain from filing claims because they are financially dependent on their abuser.
In Florida, there are no laws specifying financial or property remedies. However the court will likely issue a temporary restraining order against the alleged abuser, which goes into effect immediately after the claim has been made. In instances of a shared home between the accuser and the accused, the court will usually award the alleged victim exclusive rights to the property while the claim is investigated.
If you are the victim of false domestic violence claims, you should contact an experienced legal team immediately. Doing so will help you protect your finances, home, and custody rights.