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Discovery for defending domestic violence allegations in family court cases

Allegations of domestic violence in family court cases are often akin to shock grenades: intend to knock the other party back and on the defensive. When these allegations are accompanied by substantial corroborating evidence, they can have significant impacts on custody and alimony rulings.  Because most domestic violence occurs in private, the court’s determination of their validity often depends upon the court’s determination of the parties’ relative credibility. Sometimes these allegations are based upon actual and serious domestic violence. However, sometimes these allegations are complete fabrications, made by a party who believes making these allegations will place the accused on the defensive. Other times, the party making these allegations engaged in mutual combat, or was actually the instigator of the combat, but that party still sees him or herself as the (largely-blameless) victim.

Over the years, I have developed discovery requests designed to undermine the credibility of the person raising uncorroborated domestic abuse allegations. These discovery requests are not intended for circumstances in which substantial independent evidence of the abuse exists. Rather they are intended to enable the accused party to undermine the credibility of the accuser in those circumstances in which the parties’ relative credibility is going to be the determinative factor for whether the court finds the violence occurred. These discovery requests are drafted for a Plaintiff-accuser. If the Defendant is the accuser simply switch the parties.

Interrogatories

1. Please list the date, time and location of each instance of physical abuse or domestic violence that the Plaintiff alleges the Defendant inflicted upon him/her. For each such instance, please list the following:

a. A complete description of each instance of physical abuse or domestic violence, including the date, time and locations of the incidents of abuse or violence;
b. When and to whom the Plaintiff first reported each instance of physical abuse or domestic violence;
c. Whether the Plaintiff was injured by the incident, and, if so, where s/he sought medical treatment;
d. Whether the police were called to the scene of the incident and, if so, whether an incident or police report was created;
e. Whether the Plaintiff did anything to instigate the incident and, if so, what s/he did to instigate the incident;
f. Whether the Plaintiff was under the influence of any drugs, alcohol or prescription medications at the time of each incident and, if so, what substance(s) s/he was under the influence of at the time of the incident;
g. The name, address and work and home phone number of each witness to the incident.

Requests to produce

1. Copies of all medical records or bills documenting physical abuse or domestic violence committed by the Defendant against the Plaintiff.
2. Copies of all photographs documenting physical abuse or domestic violence committed by the Defendant against the Plaintiff.
3. Copies of all incident or police reports documenting physical abuse or domestic violence committed by the Defendant against the Plaintiff.

Requests for admissions

1. Admit or deny that you never contacted law enforcement regarding any instance of physical abuse or domestic violence that the Defendant allegedly committed upon you.
2. Admit or deny that you never sought medical treatment from any instance of physical abuse or domestic violence that the Defendant allegedly committed upon you.
3. [In custody cases] Admit or deny that you continued to allow the Defendant unsupervised contact with your minor child(ren) after these incidents of physical abuse or domestic violence that the Defendant allegedly committed upon you.

Obviously responses to the requests to produce that produce no documents and responses that admit these requests for admissions won’t completely disprove that domestic violence occurred. However they will undermine the credibility of an accuser who has no corroboration of the alleged abuse.

Put Mr. Forman’s experience, knowledge, and dedication to your service for any of your South Carolina family law needs.

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  • Prescient. I am defending this issue next week, although it is a Protection from Domestic Abuse Act hearing, rather than a divorce with domestic abuse allegations. Of course, in my situation I don’t have the luxury of discovery requests, but these examples give me good fodder for my cross-examination of the accuser.

  • Greg, We get fifty interrogatories above the standard interrogatories. You state yours as one interrogatory with seven sub parts but each of those sub paragraphs asks more than one question. How many interrogatories will these count toward the fifty limit?

    My standard advice to clients is to never call the police because the potential for harm outweighs any potential benefit. If a party based on the advice of counsel does not report an incident to the police does that suggest that it did not occur? I do not think so.

    As to the request to produce, even if there is a police report or incident report, it may not be in the possession of the party.

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