Divorce lawyer / mediator for child sex abuse/contentious divorce

Hello community, 

Seeking legal advice and recommendations for skilled family law mediator or litigator.

My husband and I separated in 2017 after my discovery that he had sexually molested my daughter from my first marriage (his stepdaughter) more than 10 years prior. We also have a daughter who is his biological daughter, now a teen. After a failed attempt to try to heal the relationships with not very effective therapeutic treatment, we are going to divorce. I did not alert the authorities because he agreed to go into intensive counseling and the psychologist assessed he was an “opportunistic” offender and not likely to reoffend. Thus far he has steered clear of the criminal justice system, but he never “paid” for his crimes. And, now that we are on the brink of actual divorce, he imagines we should divide our assets equally, and I disagree; I do not think he morally has any right to a share of the home or marital assets when he has destroyed the marriage and our whole family with his actions, causing my daughter irreparable harm. I earn more money than him and recently he expressed a fear of being indigent if I do not share assets with him, and alluded to pursuing what he feels he is legally entitled to: half our house and half of my retirement savings. We are not well to do and have very little to begin with. He doesn’t have a job and has very little money, and has been living rent-free with family members these past few years while I have been paying the mortgage with full custody and care of our daughter. His assertion feels manipulative, predatory, even.

I do not want to see him in jail because of the impact on our daughter, but after  causing us so much emotional and psychological devastation, his move to take what I see very much as property for our daughters feels repellent.
What legal solutions do I have? We can involve the criminal justice system, as I could have done from the very beginning—I did not want to see him in jail because of the impact on our daughter, but now that he is expecting financial support from us, his victims, I will do whatever it takes to stop him. Can my daughter bring a civil suit for damages against him and thus prevent him from from preying any further on our family? 
When you divorce a person who has committed criminal acts, does that person have to be convicted first to have the court find in your favor when it comes to dividing the assets? 
Thanks for any advice, sharing of similar experiences, or recommendations for mediators or lawyers.

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You need legal advice from a lawyer. I hope you get recommendations for a good lawyer.  

My friend was in a similar situation and did involve the police. The husband ended up using most of the joint assets (including selling the family home) to fund his high-priced defense attorney. Is there any way to separate the assets first with a legal separation?  Definitely you should talk with an attorney and best of luck.

I suggest you do some reading before seeking legal counsel or advice. This is based on my own experiences as a victim of Family Court and subsequent academic research. Start with the book Mothers on Trial: the Battle for Children and Custody by Phyllis Chesler, Emerita professor of psychology and women's studies. Explanatory text explains: "Mothers on Trial remains the bible for all women facing a custody battle, as well as the lawyers, psychologists, and others who support them. This landmark book was the first to break the false stereotype about mothers getting preferential treatment over fathers when it comes to custody. In this new edition, Chesler shows that, with few exceptions, the news has only gotten worse: when both the father and the mother want custody, the father usually gets it." I recommend chapter 6 "Children" in the book: See What You Made Me Do: Power, Control, and Domestic Violence (2019) by Jess Hill. You can read this for free using your public library card and the Hoopla app. I recommend the book by Bill Eddy (2011) called Splitting: Protecting Yourself While Divorcing Someone with Narcissistic or Borderline Personality Disorder. Although the titles do not specify sexual abuse, they are the most accessible entries into family court and bibliographies will lead you to your exact situation. I am remaining anonymous here (hopefully?) but I have been embroiled in family court since 2004. My daughter now lives on another continent and I pay a lot of child support - I was a fantastic mother (loads of evidence to back this up, no drug/criminal record, primary emotional and financial supporter) up against a terrible father. I have been in Family Court over and over again - paying lawyers, receiving pro-bono help from individual lawyers and agencies. Good luck. 

Rereading your post, you may not have to worry about anything I said, as you currently have custody and your daughter is older. I still stand behind everything in my other post, but is more relevant for mothers with younger children, who have not yet split from their partner or are in the midst of family court struggles. 

You need to talk to a lawyer ASAP not only about your divorce, but about the unreported child abuse. I'm a former mandated reporter and can share that you have a legal obligation to report child abuse you are aware of (regardless of feeling bad for the person). Your failure to do so not only enables him to abuse more children in the future, but also puts you at legal risk. The court is very likely not going to be happy to hear that you didn't report abuse and only now that you are dividing assets are you raising it.

I'm sorry you're facing this very difficult situation. I want to echo the poster who highlights that you are obligated to report this. I wouldn't be so easily convinced that this behavior was "opportunistic" and unlikely to be repeated. What if he has another opportunity with another person's child? Personally I wouldn't want that on my conscious. I sympathize with your reluctance to involve the criminal justice system -- what about looking into restorative justice programs that could provide your partner relief from prosecution as long as he participates fully in the program. This seems like a productive path to your family healing as well. 

I am the adult survivor of sexual abuse by my father, and my mother chose to stay with him despite his actions. I still hold deep resentment toward my mother for that choice, and how selfish she was in prioritizing her own needs above those of her children. It is interesting that your interest in holding him legally accountable is only arising now that it is impacting your own financial security, and that you are asking your daughter to participate in that process in order to protect you. I would actually suggest that you consider what your daughter wants and feels comfortable with doing above all else and not put her—again—in a situation where her security and safety is not centered. 

What is your motivation for wanting to hold him accountable for molesting your daughter (his step-daughter) more than a decade ago--- other than financial gain?  Do you feel he's repeated this awfulness since then, on the daughter you share, for example, or a neighbor's child, a friend's ?   If you have proof, or at least reason to believe, he's continued with his molesting addiction, then yes, he needs to be held accountable---but I don't get this in what you're telling us here. Have I missed something?

      Child molestation is horrible. My sister and I were molested by my mother's favorite brother (our uncle) for years. She knew. I told her; my sister told her.  So I'm not wanting to protect a molester.  But if the only time this has happened was a decade plus ago...do you want to ruin his life (and probably cause his death in prison) for financial gain ?  Do you want to drag your eldest daughter thru this mess--- in a court setting?  You did nothing all these years "more than 10 years..." and now suddenly you want to fly into acction.  You ask: "Can my daughter bring a civil suit for damages against him and thus prevent him from preying any further on our family?"   --- does your use of the word " preying"  relate to his financial demands or does "preying" refer to additional instances of sexual abuse he's committed?  IF you have no reason to believe he's a repeat offender of child molestation which initially happened to your daughter, then can you afford to give him $ each month rather than a piece of the house...or of the assets?  More than a lawyer, I'd suggest a mediator at this stage.   PS: if you feel he's continued to act out his addiction on children, then he needs to be reported and you can continue from there.

Thank you everyone for your thoughtful responses and advice. I realized that I need help communicating about this awful situation and your responses helped me see where I need to be more clear. I should have noted I didn’t know about the abuse until fairly recently, so although the abuse happened a long time ago it has only recently come to light. My husband has been in treatment since my discovery of the abuse 3 years ago. His therapists are mandated reporters and advised that he was not a threat, and he has attended court-approved treatment groups since the discovery to manage his issues that are restorative in nature. When I said the treatment hasn’t been “effective,” I was unclear—the therapists have been effective in determining that he won’t offend again, but not effective, in my opinion, in helping him see the moral implications of what he has done. By asserting he still should receive half our assets after what he has done, that tells me when it comes to actually compensating his victims for his crimes financially, he doesn’t intend to do so. My older daughter whom he abused agrees he should not have any share of community property due to the harm he has caused. While he has paid a ton of $ for his own treatment and therapy he has never offered to pay for hers, either now as an adult or when she was a child. Legally he is entitled to half of our assets as provided by the law. But morally I think he should renounce his rights. He harmed my daughter and me, and our whole family. I need legal advice to protect us financially—I say “us” because my property will ultimately go to my daughter, whereas his may not—the “preying” I referred to is financial in nature, sorry for the lack of clarity there. I was also unclear in not saying he is in a treatment program already, sorry about that. If anyone has been in a similar situation of divorcing an abusive spouse, your recommendations for lawyers and mediators are much appreciated! Thank you.

It looks like you want to punish him until he's living on the street. This is repugnant to me. He helped accumulate the assets and should receive his share of them. If you persist on the path you're on, the lawyers will get most of the assets, not you. And the entire world will know all of your business. Stop trying to take advantage of this guy financially. Focus on what he needs to do to be a good father instead of turning him into a homeless person. And please get some therapy to help you deal with your own emotions. What you're writing doesn't seem healthy for anyone involved. I can't believe you discussed your financial settlement with a child. That's not in her best interests. Hopefully a good therapist will help you see how you're making a bad situation a million times worse.

I'm sorry I don't have advice for you but I wanted to share that I'm so sorry for what you're going through, that I don't think your thinking is repugnant, and that I don't believe that abusers should benefit financially when they have committed atrocities like what was done to your daughter. He doesn't need to turn into a homeless person for your daughter to be compensated for the crimes committed against her. He doesn't sound repentant, and that is repugnant in itself. You don't need to listen to some judgmental parents on BPN about this - listen to your attorney and go from there. 

You need to talk to a lawyer.  But one non-legal issue is the therapy did not help him "see the moral implications of what he has done."  Don't give any more brain space to thinking about that.  He's got a screw loose.  Good luck, and I wish you better days ahead.