As a family lawyer in Las Vegas since 2005, I have seen many cases of false or exaggerated allegations by one party against another in court. Often times a presiding judge has to make a snap decision without a lot of information to protect the accuser against the accused regardless of whether such protection is required.
Why are false allegations made in family court?
Some litigants may erroneously believe that Nevada is a “fault State” for divorce and want to get the court to think the other spouse is in the wrong and therefore attempt to smear that person to the judge by using law enforcement and faking injuries so that there will be an arrest for domestic violence which then can form the basis of an application for a temporary protection order. However, if this is the motivation to lie, it is pointless because Nevada is a “no fault divorce State” requiring only one of the following grounds:
NRS 125.010 Causes for divorce. Divorce from the bonds of matrimony may be obtained for any of the following causes:
1. Insanity existing for 2 years prior to the commencement of the action. Upon this cause of action the court, before granting a divorce, shall require corroborative evidence of the insanity of the defendant at that time, and a decree granted on this ground shall not relieve the successful party from contributing to the support and maintenance of the defendant, and the court may require the plaintiff in such action to give bond therefor in an amount to be fixed by the court.
2. When the spouses have lived separate and apart for 1 year without cohabitation the court may, in its discretion, grant an absolute decree of divorce at the suit of either party.
An accuser of violence may be seeking an inter-spousal tort.
Even though divorce in Nevada is “no fault” a spouse can still sue the other spouse under a theory of Tort, such as a personal injury claim of assault and battery. If the accuser can convince the trier of facts that the accused did in fact injure the accuser, the remedy for the damages could be an unequal distribution of community assets. However, interspousal tort claims are rare and typically only make sense if there is a lot of money at stake in the divorce.
The majority of false domestic violence claims arise in battles for custody of children
Among the factors for child custody that the judge must consider to determine the best interests of the child are the relationship of the parents to one-another. Can they coparent? If not, could domestic violence be the reason. If a parent has committed domestic violence against the other parent or the child, that spells doom to obtaining joint or primary physical custody. In order to get the upper hand, a bad parent may accuse a good parent of domestic violence when none occurred. Ultimately, a false accusation may backfire on the the accuser, but before then and air of suspicion surrounds the accused. If a temporary protection order is issued, the innocent person accused of horrible things will be restricted from several constitutionally protected rights, including access to the children and the ability to own or possess firearms. Jobs can also be affected.
So, if you are an employer, it may be prudent to know more about a situation and not make snap judgments. Doing so could cause you to lose a potentially loyal, passionate, and worthy employee merely because some bad actor made false accusation. The old adage, "Where there is smoke, there is fire," does not clear up who started the fire nor does it tell us whether it is merely a smoke screen with no fire at all.