Domestic violence is a serious crime, and no one deserves to be a victim.

However, sometimes, people can find themselves accused of domestic violence – perhaps by an angry former partner who wants revenge for a breakup, for example – but those allegations can have a lasting impact.

Once you’re linked to domestic violence, it becomes difficult to become unlinked. If you are reported to the police for allegations of domestic violence, you could be arrested and charged, even if the accuser recants the report.

Such an accusation that comes in the midst of a divorce can impact your chances of being awarded child custody or visitation. You could lose your job. And if a restraining order has been granted to the accuser, under federal law, you can’t purchase a gun, if you wanted to.

What can you do if you are being falsely accused, or fear you might be?

Start by watching what you say. If you are being questioned by the police, don’t say anything that could incriminate you in court. You do have the right to have an attorney present. Also, don’t say anything to the alleged victim that could make the situation worse.

You also should change all of your passwords. Your partner just might know your email password, for example, and could sign on as you from a computer you’ve been known to use and send a threatening message, supposedly from you. That message could be enough to take to the police and have an investigation launched.

The effects of an accusation of domestic violence can be devastating – even if it’s false. You will need an attorney on your side to help you fight the charges, and it is never too early to consult with an attorney if you believe a partner might allege you have committed a violent act in your relationship.