Domestic violence has been called an epidemic in the United States and includes physical, sexual, emotional, and economic abuse. Each year over 12 million women and men in this country are victims of what’s referred to as “intimate partner violence.”

California is a no-fault state on divorce but there are instances where fault can be a factor, including a domestic violence conviction. Domestic violence can influence property division and child custody matters, too. It’s important to understand how California courts view domestic violence and how it is handled during a divorce case.

What is Domestic Violence?

In California, domestic violence as defined by the courts involves a minor or serious injury against a close family member or intimate partner. Under California’s Domestic Violence Prevention Act, special rules apply when dealing with domestic violence charges, including spouse and abuse and child endangerment.
“Violent actions” can include:

  • Physical and/or sexual assault.
  • Threats of harm, or threats to harm someone else.
  • Harassment and/or stalking.
  • Destroying the other person’s property.

Two people do not need to live in the same residence for domestic violence to occur. Any abuse by a spouse, former spouse, current or former cohabitant, someone the abuser has or is having a child with, or someone in a past or current dating relationship is considered a crime.

How the Courts View Domestic Violence

Not only is domestic violence considered a serious crime in California, it is aggressively prosecuted. Any violent or threatening act, even if the alleged abuser did not intend to harm the other person, can be grounds for prosecution under California’s domestic violence laws.

If police believe domestic violence has taken place they are mandated by California law to arrest the perpetrator. That is, if the officer has probable cause to think one person has abused a partner, spouse, or other family member, an arrest must be made regardless of gender or other factors like sexual orientation, and even if the person who was allegedly attacked says they do not want to press charges.

Domestic Violence Restraining Orders

In order to protect someone from physical abuse, harm, or threat of abuse or harm, courts will issue domestic violence restraining orders. There are four such orders in California:

  • Domestic Violence Restraining Order
  • Workplace Violence Restraining Order
  • Civil Harassment Restraining Order
  • Elder or Dependent Adult Abuse Restraining Order

Depending on which order is obtained, there will be actions the restrained person must comply with including not contacting the alleged victim, paying certain bills, moving out of a shared residence, and being denied the right to carry a gun. Violation of a restraining order comes with severe penalties.

Domestic Violence and Child Custody

Physical and legal child custody can be affected by domestic violence charges. California law has strict guidelines that determine how the law will apply in a specific case. In all cases, the courts strive to put a child’s safety first, devising a parenting plan that keeps everyone safe.

The Benefits of a Domestic Violence Attorney

If you or someone you know is facing domestic violence charges, or if you and/or your child are the victims of domestic violence, an experienced family law and criminal defense attorney can help you understand how the laws apply to your case. Talk to them about your concerns with respect to visitation, restraining orders, and other matters so they can fully represent your interests in court.

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