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Civil Court vs. Criminal Court | When Criminal & Family Law Collide

Criminal law and family law are two different types of law. However, there are situations in which crimes can occur in the context of family law, causing these two types of law to come together.

Most commonly, these two laws intersect in cases of domestic violence. Domestic violence occurs when one partner uses physical, emotional, and financial abuse to attack the other partner. It often triggers divorce, which can cause the abuse to escalate even further. All 50 states have laws requiring that courts consider domestic violence when making decisions about child custody and visitation. Furthermore, all states have criminal and civil remedies in place to protect abuse victims.

 

Differences Between Civil and Criminal Trials

 

While civil and criminal cases are different, the same action can result in both criminal and civil liability. For example, in a domestic violence case, the victim can obtain a restraining order as a civil action. On the criminal side, the abuser can be charged with assault and sentenced to prison.

The similarities end there. Civil and criminal cases have many distinctions. Crimes are considered offenses against the state and often involve assault, murder, rape, and other actions that are against the law. Civil matters are against an individual or a business and may involve divorce, bankruptcy, foreclosure, debt, and other money matters.

The processes used in criminal and civil courts are different from each other. In criminal court, the state files a case against the defendant, who is the person who committed a crime.  It must be proven that the defendant is guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.” This is a very high standard. If the person is found guilty, they can face criminal penalties such as fines and jail time.

In civil court, one person sues another person because of a dispute. The punishment and standard of proof are much lower in civil court. The only proof needed is “preponderance of the evidence.” This means that the judge must believe that your case is stronger than the other person’s. If someone loses a case, they may be ordered to return property or repay a debt, but the judge does not have the power to send the losing party to jail or enforce any other penalties.

Criminal cases are often resolved by a jury, while civil matters are handled solely by a judge. Those in criminal cases have a right to an attorney and other protections, while those involved in civil matters must defend themselves or pay for their own lawyer.

 

Contact a Brooklyn Family Law Attorney Today

 

Divorces can be complex, particularly when there is domestic violence or other criminal matters at play. Multiple courts may be involved and you may have concerns about your safety and the well-being of your children.

Brooklyn family law attorney Theodore Alatsas ESQ can help you navigate the New York family and criminal court systems as you attempt to finalize your divorce. Learn more about how he can help you. Schedule a consultation by calling his office at (718) 233-2903.