Most public resources go toward supporting victims of abuse, and understandably so. Persistent physical mental and emotional abuse can have a devastating impact. Much less time, however, is spent examining the rights of the accused.

Common knowledge tells us that prior domestic violence allegations and protection orders can lead to disastrous consequences for a person’s legal future, especially in family law matters. The legal community has spent years studying the impact domestic violence has on later legal issues. States have spent thousands on education efforts and implicit bias training as a result. However, the question remains: can a person accused of domestic violence ever get a truly fair hearing?

What the data shows us

The American Bar Association has been examining the role domestic violence accusations play in court hearings for some time. They cite a number of instances where judges act against a person based of a prior accusation.

But, anecdotal evidence is simply not enough. There seems to be a deep split between judges’ approaches to domestic violence. Many seem resistant to respond to domestic violence allegations at all. The claim that men are inherently mistreated in custody cases because of prior domestic violence allegations and a bias against fathers is not substantiated.

What we know

Domestic violence is a very serious matter, leading to dozens of deaths each year. As Massachusetts continues to develop its policies and prevention programs, all persons involved in domestic violence claims, including the accused and the alleged victim, need to be vigilant about their rights and safety.

Domestic violence can cause struggles throughout family law matters like child custody, divorce and support orders. Moreover, it can seriously impact later judgements in both civil and criminal cases. Regardless of who you are, you should work with an attorney who will listen to your story and help you find the best route for you.