If a former partner or another family member has accused you of domestic violence, you are likely worried about the potential impact on your emotional stability, career and reputation. Protecting your legal rights can help you navigate this difficult chapter in your life.

Take these steps when facing an accusation of domestic violence.

Know your rights with law enforcement

When a police officer questions or arrests you in conjunction with a domestic violence claim, avoid speaking to the officer without an attorney present. You are under no obligation to provide information to law enforcement, though you should be courteous while asserting your legal right to remain silent. Do not sign any statements about the events.

Gather evidence

To disprove allegations of domestic violence in court, you must rely on the statements of witnesses to the alleged violence, character witnesses who will speak to your nonviolent disposition and medical experts who can determine whether the resulting injuries match with the reported assault. Keep in mind that domestic violence can also constitute stalking and threats in addition to physical violence. If you are currently in a custody dispute or divorce, gather evidence such as emails and text messages that indicate the person’s potential motive for making these accusations.

Maintain a peaceful demeanor

Avoid contacting your accuser, which the court could perceive as harassment or stalking. Emotional outbursts, public anger and other such displays may harm your case, even if you are innocent. Complying with the terms of an established order of protection will show the judge that you take the case seriously and will cooperate during the investigation.

Protect your privacy

If you think the accuser may try to access your electronic accounts, change all your passwords. Make sure he or she cannot log into your bank accounts, email, work programs and other private resources. If you have valuable assets, rent a safe deposit box or secure storage facility.

When law enforcement arrests an individual for domestic violence in Arizona, he or she will have an arraignment within 24 hours. The judge will decide whether to hold or release you pending a hearing on the charges.