Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.) charged in divorce papers filed yesterday that his wife tried to damage him politically by placing an emergency call to Alexandria police and falsely claiming that he assaulted her in an early morning argument last month.

Moran filed both an answer to Mary M. Moran's divorce complaint and his own counter lawsuit, asking the court to determine custody of the couple's two young children and to divide the Morans' assets and debts from an 11-year marriage.

"During the marriage," James Moran's attorney wrote, his wife "routinely threatened to humiliate and embarrass defendant, and to destroy his career by making false and scurrilous accusations against him to the police and the press."

Alexandria police went to the Moran home on June 23 after Mary Moran said her husband had grabbed and pushed her during an argument. The couple's son contradicted her account, and police declined to file charges. Mary Moran, an Alexandria real estate agent, said later that she agreed with the way police handled the incident but maintained that she had been assaulted.

James Moran's seven-page filing also accused Mary Moran, 44, of "irrational and erratic behavior" that included a spending addiction that "threatened to spend the family into economic ruination."

Stephen A. Armstrong, an attorney for Mary Moran, strongly denied that his client had sought to damage Moran's career and blasted the filing as "unnecessarily abusive."

"Our evidence will show [abusive accusations] are typical of the last 10 years of Mary's marriage to the congressman," Armstrong said. "When the women's groups read about his conduct, he'll be lucky to run for dogcatcher."

In her divorce lawsuit filed June 24, Mary Moran claimed that her husband abandoned their marriage and engaged in conduct "detrimental to [her] health and welfare," without elaboration.

Yesterday, an attorney for James Moran, 54, defended the allegations made in the public filing. "We take very seriously our duty to ensure that the papers filed are accurate and well grounded in fact, and we hope people will respect the privacy of the Moran family during this time," Daniel G. Dannenbaum said.

Moran filed congressional economic disclosure forms this year that showed the couple had credit card debts of $20,002 to $30,000 and no assets other than personal residences. Moran is a five-term congressman whose district includes Alexandria, Arlington and part of southeastern Fairfax County.