A divorce case in Deschutes County has become contentious enough to make the news. Beth Skaug, the former wife of Brian Skaug, has leaked confidential records about her ex-husband from the KIDS Center, a child abuse investigation organization, to bolster her claims that he abused their two children.
Beth allegedly leaked these records to put pressure on her ex-husband. Brian was investigated for child abuse by the KIDS Center regarding claims that were determined to be unfounded by the Deschutes County District Attorney’s Office. However, Beth continues to argue that Brian is abusive as the divorce rolls into its 21st month.
Allegations like these can quickly make a divorce messy. While few divorces are quite as dramatic as the Skaugs’, their situation can be a cautionary tale for other separating couples. Keep reading to learn why Beth’s allegations are so serious, how alleging abuse can affect a divorce or child custody case, and how to hold your abusive spouse accountable the right way.
Why Accusations of Abuse Are So Serious
There’s a reason why the Skaug divorce has become newsworthy. When couples begin to throw accusations of abuse at each other, it affects more than just their divorce. Abuse is a serious crime, and even a claim can affect the rest of someone’s life.
For example, many jobs specifically bar anyone with a conviction for a violent crime from employment. Similarly, companies that work with vulnerable people and children often cannot legally hire anyone with a sexual offense on their record. If someone is accused and convicted of abuse, they may lose their job and the ability to get a new one.
Even when the accusation doesn’t lead to a criminal conviction, it can still ruin someone’s life. In small towns or small industries, the news gets around fast. If someone is accused of abuse, the allegation can spread through the community as a fact. It’s all too easy for a single statement made in anger to ruin someone’s reputation and career forever.
That’s why it’s so important to allege abuse carefully. You should never accuse your spouse just to “win” a divorce battle. It can all too easily turn into the same kind of mud-slinging that the Skaugs appear to have slid into. Neither person will ever have the same untarnished reputation as they had before allegations were made.
How Abuse Allegations Affect Divorce and Custody Cases
Of course, abuse is unfortunately common, and it should be considered during a divorce when it takes place. That’s why an accusation can significantly affect the process of a divorce or child custody case.
In a divorce, a partner who states they are being abused can file for a temporary restraining order (TRO). This type of order has a low threshold of evidence because it’s a short-term order intended to act as a stop-gap to protect people until a court date can be set for a permanent order. Many temporary restraining orders are granted without the person to whom they’ll apply being present. If your spouse files for a TRO, you may not know until it’s already been approved by the court.
TROs usually last less than 30 days. If a TRO is approved, the person to whom it applies often must:
- Avoid coming within a certain distance of the filer and their dependents
- Avoid staying in the same home as the filer
- Pay temporary spousal or child support to the filer
- Refrain from acts like contacting or threatening the filer
Essentially, alleging abuse can lead to a TRO in a divorce. That can force the subject of the order to find somewhere else to live, prevent them from contacting their children, and pay money to the filer for as long as a month. Even if the allegations do not stand up to the scrutiny necessary for a permanent protective order, it’s still a serious matter.
In child custody battles, abuse is taken even more seriously. If either parent in a custody case claims that the children are suffering from abuse, Oregon’s Child Protective Services (CPS) department must become involved. CPS will investigate the situation to determine whether a report meets its guidelines. While CPS involvement doesn’t mean that your children will be “taken away,” it can make life more difficult for everyone involved.
The gravity of these accusations is why there are penalties for people who falsely claim they’re abused. In Oregon, making a false allegation of child abuse is considered a class A crime. Furthermore, the accused person can sue the accuser in civil court for legal fees and damage to their reputation.
How to Safely Accuse Your Spouse
Of course, all of these measures are in place to protect people who are genuinely abused in their relationships. If you genuinely believe you or your kids are being abused, you should take advantage of protective laws. That means accusing your spouse the right way.
Keep yourself safe. An abusive partner is dangerous. If you’re worried for your own or your children’s safety, leave home immediately. There are shelters for abused families around Oregon that will protect you from your partner. Go there before taking any other action.
Collect evidence. If you’re not in immediate danger, you can collect evidence of the abuse. Take pictures of any injuries, write down or record conversations, and reach out to people who have witnessed you being harmed.
Talk to an attorney. Finally, reach out to a qualified lawyer. Working with an attorney helps you put together your case and ensures that you’ve filed all the relevant information. Your lawyer will help you get the protective orders you need to stay safe.
Start Protecting Yourself Today
Abuse is far too common, but so are false claims. Whether you’re worried about facing a false claim or you’re concerned that your own claim won’t be believed, the right lawyer can help. They understand how the Oregon court system works and what you need to do to successfully file (or fight) abuse allegations. Reach out today to discuss your case and start protecting yourself as soon as possible.