California Family Law Domestic Violence
What is Domestic Violence?
Domestic violence is any physical or sexual abuse directed toward a family member or a person the abuser has an intimate relationship with, such as in a dating, cohabiting, or married relationship.
California prosecutors take domestic violence seriously. Domestic violence accusations may result in devastating consequences, such as criminal charges, placement on the child abuse central index, restraining orders, and a negative impact on your family law proceeding.
Living with domestic violence is not an option. Violence toward a spouse, domestic partner, child or any family member is illegal and is considered a serious crime in the state of California. If you or a loved one is or have been a victim of domestic violence and are going through a family law proceeding, you need to contact an experienced family law attorney right away.
How do you know you are a victim of domestic violence?
Domestic violence includes but is not limited to:
- Spousal abuse
- Elder abuse
- Child abuse
- Physical threats or intimidation
- Harassment (physical or verbal)
- Sexual abuse
- Isolating or controlling victims
Here are some facts about domestic violence from the Riley Center, a shelter for abused victims.
- Every 9 seconds, a woman is battered in the United States
- Domestic violence is the single major cause of injury to women, more than muggings and car accidents combined
- Domestic violence is the cause of 30 % of physical disabilities in women
- 50% of all women killed in the United States are murdered by a spouse or an acquaintance
- 90% of battered women reported that their children were present when they were beaten
- Domestic violence costs an estimated $1.4 billion annually in medical bills and an additional $900 million in mental health treatment
If you have been abused by a spouse, you can make claims to your house, finances and even custody of children. The first thing you need to do, however, is to protect yourself from your abuser, get out of the situation and make the violence or abuse stop. There are many ways you can do this through the court system, including filing for a domestic violence restraining order to protect you, your family, and those residing with you.
Victims of Domestic Violence
Under California family law, you are considered a victim of domestic violence if you have a relationship with the accused in any of the following ways:
- A spouse or former spouse;
- A cohabitant or former cohabitant;
- Persons who have dated;
- A person with whom the accused has a child;
- A child of the accused; or
- Any close family member of the accused.
If you have any of the above relationships with the accused, you may apply for a domestic violence restraining order. However, even if the victim is not in one of the above relationships with the accused, the victim can still apply for a civil harassment restraining order.
What Do I Do If I am a Victim of Domestic Violence?
If you live with the abuser and you are in danger of further abuse, the first thing you should do is leave the residence with your children (if possible) and find a place to stay. If you are in immediate danger, call the police or call for help from passersby or neighbors. Once you are safe, document any injuries or property damage by taking pictures.
Next, request a domestic violence restraining order (DVRO) from the family law court. There is no filing fee to request a DVRO, and you do not have to be married or in a domestic partnership to request one. A DVRO can last up to five years.
A DVRO may include any of the following terms:
- Prohibit the respondent (alleged abuser) from assaulting, stalking, or making threatening phone calls to the petitioner (person who requested the DVRO)
- Prohibit the respondent from purchasing or possessing a firearm
- Order the respondent from the residence, even if the respondent owns or leases the residence in his or her own name
- Order the respondent to pay the petitioner back for lost wages, medical bills, etc. that are a direct result of abuse
- If the petitioner and respondent are married, the court may order the respondent to pay child or spousal support
- If the petitioner and respondent have children, the court may grant temporary custody or visitation rights
Accused of Domestic Violence
California law sees domestic violence in black and white. Although it is a serious issue, there are often many gray areas involved. In many cases, domestic violence is caused by both parties, not just one person. Unfortunately, California prosecutors do not take this into consideration and will prosecute alleged “abusers” aggressively. If you have been convicted of domestic violence, you face serious consequences; both in criminal and family court. Thus, you will need a skilled family law attorney to represent you.
Domestic violence charges can be devastating to your personal life, your family, and your career. The following are some of the potential legal consequences you may face for domestic violence charges:
- You may face jail or prison time
- You could be prohibited from owning or buying a firearm
- If you have been accused of sexual abuse, you could be required to register as a sex offender if convicted
- In a family law proceeding, you could be denied custody of your child and your visitation rights can be severely limited
- You could be prohibited from contacting the alleged victim, which may be your spouse, your children, your grandchildren, etc.
- If convicted, potential employers conducting a background check will be able to see your criminal record, even if the court did not impose a prison or jail sentence.
- If accused of abusing a child, your child can be determined to be a dependent of the court, which means that the child will be removed from your custody. This may also require you and the child to submit to counseling and social worker visitation, and the court will closely monitor your therapeutic progress and interactions with the dependent child. All this will come at your expense.
- You may be required to leave your residence and allow the alleged victim to live there, even if the alleged victim is not the owner or tenant of the residence. You may also be required to continue paying mortgage or rent payments on the residence.
Because of the many serious legal restrictions that can result from a domestic violence conviction, it is imperative that you contact a family law attorney as soon as possible. A family law attorney with experience in domestic violence cases can closely review the facts in your case and communicate to the family law court that the restrictions placed against you are unfair and unreasonable.
Domestic Violence FAQs
1. I was arrested for domestic violence, but the charges were eventually dropped. Will employers be able to see this?
No. California law prohibits arrests that do not lead to conviction, BUT if you have been arrested and final judgment is pending, employers CAN see this information.
2. I have been convicted of domestic violence. Do I have any chance of getting custody of my child?
It is possible. In determining child custody, the court’s primary consideration is the best interest of the child. If you can show that you have successfully completed batterer’s treatment, drug or alcohol counseling, probation or parole, and that you are financially and emotionally secure, you have a greater chance of convincing the court that you are fit to share custody of the child.
3. What happens if the court has granted my request for a domestic violence restraining order, but the respondent (the accused) keeps violating the order?
You must contact law enforcement immediately each time the respondent violates the order. A domestic violence restraining order is a court order under California law, and intentional violation of a restraining order is a crime. Be sure to keep a copy of the domestic violence restraining order with you at all times.
4. If a person files a domestic violence restraining order against me, but then the person and I reconcile and live together, is the restraining order automatically cancelled?
No. Even if you and the person reconcile, living together still violates the restraining order, even if you come into contact with the person’s consent. The person must file a request for dismissal of the domestic violence restraining order, and the court must grant it, before you are legally allowed to live with the person.
5. I accused my spouse of domestic violence, and the prosecution initiated a criminal investigation and filed charges. Now my spouse and I have reconciled and I want to dismiss the charges and end the criminal investigation. Is this possible?
No, once the prosecutor has initiated a criminal investigation and filed charges, only the prosecutor can dismiss the charges, even if you do not want to continue or will not cooperate with the criminal investigation.
Call the Domestic Violence Lawyers at Wallin & Klarich
It is important to seek the assistance of a California family law attorney if you have been charged with an act of domestic violence in California. Just because you were arrested on suspicion of domestic violence, does not mean you are guilty. Likewise, if you’ve been convicted of domestic violence in criminal court, you should not have to suffer additional consequences in family law court. Call our domestic violence lawyers at Wallin & Klarich for sound advice, peace of mind, legal guidance and a free, confidential consultation.
At Wallin & Klarich, we approach every case with the belief that the person we’re representing could easily be one of our own family members. We’ve seen firsthand how stressful legal matters can be for our clients and their loved ones. We are committed to being available to our clients at all times. If you are involved in a family law matter in California, and would like to speak with an experienced domestic violence lawyer, you should call Wallin & Klarich today for a free evaluation of your case.
With offices located in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, Victorville, West Covina, Sherman Oaks, Torrance and Ventura , there is a Wallin & Klarich attorney available wherever you work or live.
Call (888) 749-7428 or fill out our online consultation form to get in contact with a legal professional today. We will be there when you call.