How Domestic Violence Impacts Divorce in California

The California Courts define domestic violence as “abuse or threats of abuse when the person being abused and the abuser are or have been in an intimate relationship.”

By an intimate relationship, the court means people who are married, domestic partners, dating or dated in the past, closely related through blood or marriage, have a child together, or who live together presently or who have in the past.

California’s domestic violence law defines “abuse” as:

  1. Sexual assault;
  2. Intentionally or recklessly hurting someone or trying to hurt them;
  3. Stalking, harassing, or threatening someone;
  4. Destroying another’s property;
  5. Disturbing a person’s peace; or
  6. Hitting someone.

Physical abuse is not limited to hitting someone. It includes shoving, kicking, pulling hair, throwing things, scaring someone, or following them. It can also include keeping the victim from coming or going, or abusing the family pets.

Domestic violence does not have to be physical; it can also be emotional or psychological and this is where a lot of victims are surprised. You don’t have to be physically beaten or struck to be a victim of domestic violence. Domestic violence takes on many forms and often, it involves a variety of tactics to control a victim.

Now that we’ve explained what counts as domestic violence under California law, we want to discuss the issue of domestic violence and divorce, which typically involves spousal abuse or child abuse, or both.

What Are My Protections?

It is common knowledge that for victims of abuse, the most dangerous time is usually when they are leaving their abuser. Even still, no one should stay in an abusive situation, which is why it’s so important to ask for help from an experienced divorce attorney.

If you are a victim of domestic violence, or if your spouse is physically abusing your children, it’s important to learn exactly what you should do, how you should do it, and when to protect your family. The first step is to talk to a divorce attorney and then obtain a domestic violence restraining order. Ideally, this should be done before you file for divorce.

What a restraining order can do to your spouse:

  1. Force them to move out of the marital home.
  2. Order them to pay child and spousal support.
  3. Order them to pay certain bills.
  4. Order them not to contact you.
  5. Order them to stay away from your work and school.
  6. Order them to stay away from your children’s school.
  7. Order them not to change any insurance policies.
  8. Order them to complete a 52-week batterer intervention program.
  9. Order them to stay away from your pets.
  10. Order them to follow child custody and visitation orders.
  11. Order them NOT to have any firearms.

A restraining order is not a divorce, but it’s an important part of one. Also, if a restraining order is violated, the restrained person can be arrested, or fined, or both.

If domestic violence is an issue and you’re headed for divorce, contact our firm to meet with an Orange County divorce lawyer, who is also a certified family law specialist.

Related: Can a Parent Move Away with the Kids?