Long Beach Domestic Violence Lawyers
Domestic Violence Statutes in the State of California
Pursuant to the Domestic Violence Prevention Act (California Family Code § 6200 et seq.), the term “domestic violence” covers a broad range of abuse. These can include child endangerment and spousal abuse. A threatening or violent action, the idea that the alleged perpetrator did not mean to harm or compromise the safety and security of the victim notwithstanding, could be grounds for prosecution pursuant to the California Domestic Violence laws.
Domestic Violence in California: An Overview
Domestic violence is defined as any abuse inflicted by one partner against the other in a marriage or other kind of intimate relationship.
In a report from the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence, it is clear that:
- About 40 percent of women in California will be exposed to domestic violence at some point in their life,
- Females from age 18 to age 24 are significantly more likely to be domestic violence victims than women in other age groups,
- Among these women, 75 percent of them had children younger than 18 in the home at the time of the abuse,
- In California, about 40 percent of the calls relating to domestic violence involved the use of some weapon, and
- Domestic violence call centers in California respond to around 38 calls per hour
Some acts that can be considered domestic abuse include:
- Annoying Phone Calls
- Stalking (such as following the victim to and from work, threatening the victim)
- Physical assault or abuse (including hitting, pushing, slapping, shoving or kicking)
- Verbal, social, and sexual abuse.
Your Divorce: Domestic Violence in Context
California is a no-fault state with regards to divorce. Even so, there are several circumstances under which fault may be a factor. A conviction on a domestic violence charge is one. In the state of California, if a spouse gets convicted of domestic abuse against the other spouse within the five year period prior to the divorce, the presumption is that the spouse who was convicted is not entitled to spousal support. Bear in mind, this presumption is “rebuttable”. It isn’t a reflexive presumption. This means that the convicted spouse is afforded an opportunity to present evidence to “rebut” the presumption. If domestic abuse was perpetrated on both sides, spousal support could possibly be awarded to the convicted spouse.
Domestic Violence: Division of Marital Property
A conviction on a charge of domestic violence could be taken into consideration during the process of property division. This is particularly true when the court has reason to believe that the domestic violence was part of the reason for the demise of the marriage. A judge might also determine that domestic violence against one spouse had a devastating economic impact on that spouse. This could have happened in the form of unexpected medical bills, or a reduced ability to seek or sustain employment. If the abuse in some way inflicted an unreasonable depletion of marital assets, then the person who was the victim of the violence could be awarded more of the marital assets in the divorce, regardless of the fact that California is a community property state.
Making the Decision to Divorce Can Trigger Violence
Divorce can be the result of violence in a home. Also, the choice to divorce can be a triggering act for domestic abuse to occur. Very frequently, the peril of abuse in an already violent relationship is at its most flagrant when the abused person makes their decision to get out. When they learn that divorce is looming, the abuser might come harder against the victim. Therefore, the victim must be made aware of all of the special protections available to them under California family legislation.
Must There Be a Criminal Case to Substantiate My Claims of Domestic Violence in the Family Court?
Although protections recently added to the law are also being phased into family law situations to uphold the rights of the victims of domestic violence, it can still be perilous for women in particular to speak out about violence in family court without documentation from a criminal case to substantiate their claim. In too many scenarios, when a victim of domestic violence expresses his or her claims in a family court proceeding, whether it is in an attempt to obtain an order of protection or in connection to child custody and visitation in a divorce, the door has, regrettably, been flung open for the perpetrator to bring “counterattacks”, in a sense. The simple fact is that the family court was never equipped to handle claims of domestic violence, and if a fleeing victim is not properly prepared, bringing up the issue in court can give rise to significant vulnerability.
Therefore, in answer to this query, a criminal matter is not a mandated precursor in family court for a victim to speak up about the violence that they suffered during their marriage. Nonetheless, having documentation definitely helps. A criminal case pits the significant authority of the state of California firmly against an accused abuser. The family court is a venue that is designed to allow two private individuals to grapple with their personal differences. The state, in this context, can be a referee between the two and not much more. Although both of the spouses are probably going to have their own attorney, to some extent they are on their own when making or defending allegations of domestic abuse. In plain English, the accusations presented by a victim of domestic abuse in a family court proceeding, are, in reality, just one person’s presentation of facts from his or her own perspective. From the moment those accusations come out, the alleged perpetrator is highly likely to clap back with some accusations of his or her own.
Family Court Rulings on Domestic Violence: The Impact Child Custody Decisions
If the judge on your family court matter finds that there is, in fact,evidence of domestic violence, this finding could have a major impact on child custody for years to follow. Generally, in the event that the court finds that a parent seeking custody of a child is the perpetrator of domestic abuse against the other parent or the child, the common presumption is that the alleged abuser should not be awarded sole or even joint legal or physical custody of the children. The California Family Code 3044 laysout what is meant by the term “perpetrating domestic violence.” It dictates that the person must have intentionally or recklessly inflicted or attempted to inflict bodily injury, or must have given the other person enough reason to believe that he or she was in danger of bodily injury.
It is worth noting that the court is not permitted to make findings of domestic abuse simply on the basis of the recommendation of any Family Court Services staff or a child custody evaluator. Instead, it is obligated to review any “relevant, admissible evidence,” submitted by both parties. A person who the court may believe committed acts of domestic abuse may still be qualified for an award of some form of custody if that person can demonstrate that they have:
- Undergone a treatment program which met the criteria prescribed by the California penal code;
- Complied with all terms of probation or parole;
- Worked through a parenting class or workshop;
- Undergone a drug or alcohol program, where applicable;
- Complied with any issued orders of protection, and
- If it is determined that it is in the best interests of the children for the parent to be given some level of custody.
Decisions Regarding Visitation Time
You may perceive it as bizarre that visitation is even a consideration for your abuser. Nevertheless, you should keep in mind that so long as he or she has never harmed the children, it is likely visitation rights will be given. Depending upon the circumstances, you may want to ask for supervised visitation and to organize a safe drop off and pick up site. It might be that you believe that it is unlikely that your children’s other parent will ever do anything harmful to them, whether it be physically or emotionally. If this is the case, then despite how you may feel about your abuser, try to keep in mind that children generally need both parents, regardless of how difficult it may be for you.
Obtaining a Temporary Order of Protection
Getting a temporary order of protection (or restraining order) against a spouse who is abusive can be a rather intimidating situation. A temporary order can serve the purpose of forcing an abusive spouse to stay away from you and your children, at least for a period of time. In the majority of situations, a restraining order will apply to your:
- Your kids’ school, or any childcare facility your children are cared for in.
Should your spouse breach the terms of the order, you are supposed to notify the police. The police can either warn them with a reminder of the requirements or arrest him or her. When you fill in the restraining order paperwork, you will be required to speak in detail about the reasons for asking for the order. You need to be as thorough as possible in your explanation.
In a few scenarios, as soon as a temporary order of protection is filed—or even if it does not get filed—abusers engage in stalking behaviors. Similar advice applies regarding thoroughly documenting all occurrences of domestic abuse. You also need to keep track of every instance of stalking, because you are entitled to protection from this also. Any unwanted, repeated contact that makes you uncomfortable is likely to be considered stalking.
- Follow you;
- Call you repeatedly, even after you have made it clear that you do not want to talk;
- Text or e-mail you when you have asked them to stop;
- Randomly appear where you are without any reason;
- Gather information about you;
- Disperse facetious rumors about you;
- Post sensitive details about you, or
- Otherwise refuse to leave you alone.
Never should you downplay your concerns about a person who may be stalking you. For your wellbeing, this is crucial. It is additionally important for your upcoming family court case that you notify the police to report any and all stalking behaviors.
Talk to a Long Beach Domestic Violence Lawyer Today
If you have been living with domestic abuse, or on the other hand, if you are facing false accusations of domestic violence, it is extremely important that you inform your Long Beach family law attorney every relevant detail. This will make it an easier feat for your attorney to properly represent you. He or she, armed with your full disclosure, can put together a strong case on your behalf in which these facts are taken into serious consideration.