Connecticut Office of Family Relations
If you are arrested for a domestic violence crime in Connecticut, then you will be required to appear in criminal court on the next business day morning. Your first court date for your Connecticut domestic violence arrest requires you to defend yourself at a very brief but critical protective order hearing, where the judge decides whether the court should issue a criminal protective order against you.
In fact, what you may not realize is that this protective order may be so severe that you will be prohibited from having any contact with your accuser, spouse or children for a period of weeks, or even months. What happens before that brief protective order hearing is even more important. Prior to your domestic violence court restraining order hearing, you will be asked to meet with a Family Relations Officer (FRO) for a risk assessment interview.
Meeting with Family Relations is completely optional, but usually a good idea in most Connecticut domestic violence cases, so long as you are sufficiently prepared for the interview by your lawyer. While Connecticut Family Relations Officers are generally available to help you get through the domestic violence court process, they work for the judge, not for you. Anything you say to them is not privileged, and can and will be used against you by the prosecutor and judge.
Preparing for a Meeting
As soon as someone gets to court for their first court date for their Connecticut domestic violence arrest, they will be instructed by the judge to meet with a Family Relations Officer. The purpose of the family relations interview is to assess the risk that the court believes they pose to the accuser of their domestic violence arrest.
These family relations officers are trained in conducting this risk assessment by asking pointed questions about their educational background, professional history, mental health history, prior domestic violence incidents, and other personal questions. While someone’s initial inclination is to be as forthcoming as possible, being too open with these family relations officers can backfire, leading to a restraining order being issued against them.
While it is always important to tell the truth to any officer of the court, someone accused must wisely and carefully know when to exercise their right to remain silent, especially on the morning after their arrest when emotions are still running high and they may be overwhelmed by being arrested and appearing in criminal court. That is why Connecticut domestic violence criminal lawyers and attorneys strongly advise someone to consult with a Connecticut criminal lawyer attorney prior to sitting for an interview with a Family Relations Officer. The stakes are just too high to make a mistake during the first court date.
Refusing an Interview
Attorneys generally make their clients available for interviews with family relations officers in Connecticut, and only decline interviews in complicated or extremely serious cases. A criminal lawyer can make this decision for their client. But in cases where they do not agree to be interviewed, the Connecticut Family Relations Officer does not hear their side of the arrest story.
As a result, the Family Relations Office only gets their information from the following sources:
- Police reports
- Input from the accuser
- Input from the accuser’s advocate or a lawyer hired by the accuser
- A review of the accused’s criminal background
In cases where the accuser is aggressively objecting to the accused returning home, and without any input from them or hearing their side of the story, then it is likely a much more severe criminal protective order will be issued against them, possibly banning them from returning home, or having any kind of contact with their spouse or children.
That is why it is important to carefully consider the benefits and detriments of participating in a family relations interview with their lawyer.
Contacting An Attorney
Connecticut attorneys do not allow clients to walk into a Family Relations interview unprepared, as there is a lot riding on this interview. One equivocal answer can result in long-lasting and unfair protective orders being issued against you, or even worse, a lengthy domestic violence case. Contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible who can try to get your Connecticut domestic violence arrest dismissed as quickly as possible.