When one person in a relationship is charged with a domestic offence, the couple will often find themselves wanting to reconcile and work to repair their relationship. However, the criminal justice system often pushes these couples apart and interferes with their wishes to fix their relationship.
Domestic Criminal Offences
A domestic offence is one that occurs within the context of a domestic relationship (for example, between a husband and wife). Domestic offences are charged the same as non-domestic offences. The word “domestic” simply refers to the nature of the relationship between the parties.
Assault charges are common domestic charges in the criminal justice system but are not the only type of domestic offence. Other offences, including uttering threats, mischief, criminal harassment, and sexual assault are also regularly seen in domestic cases.
How does the System Push Couples Apart?
The main problem for couples wanting to reconcile is that when a person is charged with a domestic offence, he or she will usually be prevented from having any contact with his or her partner while the case is ongoing.
Individuals who are arrested for domestic offences will typically be held for a bail hearing. An individual who is released on bail will have to abide by certain rules, called conditions, which are imposed by the court. Bails in domestic cases typically include conditions that prevent the accused person from having contact with or being close to the complainant. If the accused person was living with his or her partner, the bail conditions may prevent the accused person from returning to his or her residence, regardless of who legally owns the residence.
Even if an accused person is released from the station, they will often be subject to an undertaking to a peace officer which contains conditions that the accused will have to abide by. As is the case with a domestic bail, the accused will typically be prevented from contacting or communicating with his or her partner and will not be allowed to go near his or her partner.
Impact on the Relationship
When bail conditions prevent an accused person from having contact with his or her partner, the relationship can suffer. Reconciliation is impossible when the parties cannot speak to each other.
Further, the fact of being pushed apart can put additional stress on the relationship beyond the inability to reconcile. Couples often face higher living expenses as they end up paying for separate accommodations. If children are involved, the responsibilities of child care and home upkeep can end up being downloaded onto one person, rather than being shared. The uncertainty resulting from the outstanding charges is often stressful for both the accused and complainant in a domestic case.
Reconciling in the Face of Strict Bail Conditions
When the parties to a domestic case wish to reconcile, it may be possible to have the accused person’s bail varied to allow the accused person to return home and have contact with his or her domestic partner before the case is completed. Changing the bail to allow contact is the first step towards reconciliation while a domestic case is ongoing.
Domestic offence cases are taken very seriously by the Crown Attorney’s Office and prosecutors are often reluctant to agree to such bail variations. If the prosecutor does not agree to vary the bail to allow contact, then the accused person will need to bring an application in court to change the conditions of his or her bail. To be successful, the accused person must show that the judge or justice of the peace that made the original bail order erred in law, or that there has been a material change in the accused person’s circumstances since the original bail was imposed. It is advisable to seek the advice and representation of an experienced lawyer when seeking to restore contact between parties in a domestic case.
Often, the complainant in a domestic case will want to reconcile with his or her partner, and will not want the charges to proceed. A complainant in this position can retain his or her own lawyer. Once a domestic complaint has been made and the accused person is charged, it is up to the prosecutor to decide whether to proceed with the case or not. However, retaining a lawyer as the complainant in a domestic case ensures that he or she receives important legal advice about his or her rights and role in the criminal process. A lawyer can also communicate directly with the prosecutor on the complainant’s behalf in order to make his or her wishes known while ensuring that the complainant’s interests are protected.
Counselling can be an effective tool for couples wishing to repair their relationship. Individuals facing domestic charges should consult with their lawyers before embarking on any counselling programs in order to ensure that their rights and interests are fully protected when engaged in counselling.
Once contact between the parties is restored, couples counselling programs can be an effective way to help reconcile and strengthen the relationship. For example, a counsellor can assist the couple in identifying stressors in the relationship and develop strategies for reducing and dealing with issues or conflicts in a responsible and healthy manner. The positive impact of couples counselling can last long after the criminal charges are dealt with.
Another type of counselling that may be sought in the context of a domestic case is anger management counselling. Receiving counselling for anger management can assist in reconciliation by improving the interpersonal interactions within the relationship. Anger management counselling can also be of assistance in obtaining a bail variation to allow contact – successful competition of an anger management program can mitigate the prosecutor’s or court’s concerns about allowing contact between the parties. There are many anger management counselling programs available and your lawyer can assist in referring you to an appropriate program.