Domestic Violence and Divorce in California

family law firmAll divorces in California are “no fault” divorces. However, when domestic abuse is present in a marriage, it can affect the divorce proceedings in several ways. This post outlines some of the ways domestic violence can affect the divorce process, financial settlements, and child custody decisions.1

Recognizing the Signs of Spousal Abuse

Spousal abuse and domestic violence usually starts off small, gradually becoming worse over time. When you have been in a toxic relationship long enough, your partner’s bad behavior becomes normalized, and you may not even realize it is abuse. The presence of domestic violence can have a significant impact on California divorce proceedings, so it is important to recognize the signs of spousal abuse in your marriage.

In California, you may be a victim of domestic violence if:

  • Your spouse has caused you bodily injury, either intentionally or recklessly.
  • Your spouse has attempted to physically injure you.
  • Your spouse has sexually assaulted you.
  • You have felt you or a loved one were in danger of bodily harm by your spouse.
  • Your spouse has threatened, intimidated, stalked, or harassed you.

If any of these behaviors are present in your marriage, it is important to speak with a family law attorney right away.

The Impact of Domestic Violence Restraining Orders

When you are trying to escape a dangerous situation, you may want to request the judge issue a protective order against your spouse. There are different kinds of protective and restraining orders that may be issued, depending on the severity of your situation.

If a restraining order is in place, you and your spouse will not be able to reside together in the marital home. Typically, you will not be allowed near each other at all, even for the purposes of negotiating a divorce settlement. However, spouses can still communicate about the divorce through their attorneys, and may be able to reach a settlement without the need for litigation.

Domestic Violence Convictions and Spousal Support

California state law presumes anyone convicted of domestic violence within five years of the divorce is ineligible to receive spousal support (also known as alimony). However, this is a “rebuttable presumption,” meaning you can submit evidence to try to convince the court to overrule this presumption. The option for rebuttal is in place to protect spouses that may be victims of false domestic violence accusations, or in cases where both spouses were convicted of domestic violence against the other.

How Domestic Violence Affects Child Custody

A single instance of domestic violence may not completely disbar you from legal or physical custody of your children. However, in California, domestic violence is considered very seriously when making custody decisions. In all child custody cases, the judge must decide what is in the best interest of the child and has an obligation to ensure a safe environment for the child. Courts will take into account any history of abuse, not only by the parents, but also by significant others, caretakers, and anyone living in the home with the child. A history of domestic violence could have an effect on the amount of visitation time awarded as well.

Orange County Domestic Violence and Divorce Attorney

If you are in a violent marriage and considering divorce, it is important to seek legal assistance right away. The skilled attorneys at R & S Law Group, LLP can help you during this difficult time. Contact us today at (949) 284-4448.