Family law cases are always full of emotion, which can be easy to understand. After all, something has to be the reason behind why the parties do not want to stay in a relationship.
However, many times, that reason for the divorce can be domestic violence. These types of cases commonly occur, and when they do, domestic violence certainly does play a part in how the family law case is handled in the legal system.
What Is Domestic Violence?
Domestic violence includes much more than physical abuse. In California, domestic violence is defined as:
- Intentionally or recklessly causing or trying to cause bodily injury;
- Sexual assault;
- Making another person feel reasonably afraid that he or she or someone else is in danger of immediate bodily injury; and
- Any other behavior that a court would view as threatening enough to cause the court to issue a domestic violence restraining order. This behavior includes harassment, unwanted telephone calls, stalking, physical assault, threats or disturbing the individual’s peace.
Who these actions are committed against also plays an important part in determining whether something is domestic violence.
This conduct is considered domestic violence if these actions are committed against one of the following individuals:
- A former or current spouse;
- Individuals who live together or who have formerly lived together;
- Individuals who are related by blood or marriage;
- Individuals who share a child together;
- Children of the abuser; and
- People who have been or are dating or engaged.
Grounds for Filing for Divorce
California is a “no-fault” divorce state, which means that the court does not necessarily need to know the reason behind the parties’ separation before granting the divorce.
However, this does not mean that evidence regarding domestic violence in the relationship is not important during the process, especially when it comes to decisions regarding child custody and parenting time.
Domestic Violence and Child Custody
If the parties had minor children, evidence of one party being violent towards the other can have a major impact on child custody determinations.
This information can be of specific importance if the offending parent has been violent to one of the children or to the other parent in front of the children.
This behavior can drastically change that person’s chances of receiving custody of the children and will be one of the factors considered by the judge when making custodial determinations.
The Courts view the best interests of the child to be paramount, and if any behavior of one of the parents puts the child’s health, safety or welfare in danger, the courts must act upon that information.
Courts will look to which parent will best promote that child’s health and welfare when making a determination on custody.
Many times, if the abuse is particularly severe, the judge may choose to terminate that parent’s visitation with the child and will award full custody to the other parent. If the parent has caused serious injury to the child, this situation can even result in permanent termination of parental rights if the abuse is severe and presents a real threat to the child.
If the court finds that enough evidence has been submitted that shows that the abusive parent has committed domestic violence against the other parent, the child, or the child’s sibling within the last five years, California courts view that the abusive parent should not have sole or joint custody.
This presumption can, of course, be rebutted with evidence from the other parent. The evidence can show that the parent accused of abuse is the best person to have custody and that it is still in the child’s best interests. If the court has ordered the parent to complete batterer’s treatment or some type of therapy or parenting class and the parent has completed it, the presumption can potentially be rebutted.
When it comes to visitation, the court is within its authority to order that the parent have only supervised visitation with the child. Many times that visitation can be ordered to occur within a therapeutic setting.
Once a certain period of time has passed and the parties have participated in supervised visitation, the court may increase the time with the child and eventually allow unsupervised visitation and overnights.
Asset Division and Alimony
Domestic violence can also affect other aspects of a divorce. If it is found that the abusive party makes significantly more than the other parent and has used this higher income as part of the abuse cycle, the court may choose to award a larger share of marital assets and even alimony or spousal support.
Many serious domestic violence situations involve the abuser preventing the victim spouse from getting a job or working outside of the home. If the relationship ends, this can put that spouse at a severe disadvantage financially.
This spousal support or alimony can help off-set that imbalance and allow the victim spouse to get back on his or her feet.
Contact The Voss Law Office Today!
If you are going through a difficult divorce proceeding involving domestic violence, contact us today to discuss the best options for your case. Consultations are always free. Call us today at 323-333-4481.