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How Domestic Abuse Affects Divorce in California

How Domestic Violence Affects Divorce in California

Domestic violence or domestic abuse is a serious issue that can have devastating effects on relationships, families, and individuals. Not only is domestic violence considered grounds for divorce in California, but it can directly impact the outcome of the divorce proceedings.

If you’re filing for divorce to end an abusive marriage, it’s important to understand how domestic violence can affect your case, as this will help you prioritize your safety and the safety of any loved ones involved in the process.

Keep reading to learn more about the impacts of domestic violence on California divorces.

What Is Domestic Violence?

Under California law, domestic violence is defined as “abuse committed against an adult or a minor who is a spouse, former spouse, cohabitant, former cohabitant or person with whom the suspect has had a child or is having or has had a dating or engagement relationship.”

Keep in mind that domestic violence isn't limited to physical abuse, but can include less obvious forms of abuse as well, such as emotional abuse and financial or economic abuse.

Domestic Violence Laws in California

California law is clear on the issue of domestic violence. All forms of domestic abuse are illegal under California Penal Code §273.5. Victims have the right to file restraining orders against their abusers and seek criminal charges if desired. Unfortunately, this can be a long and arduous road with no guarantee of success.

Thanks to harmful societal stigmas and other obstacles, getting a domestic violence restraining order can be physically and emotionally taxing for California couples and families, especially for those already burdened with the stress of divorce. It’s best to consult with a trusted family lawyer who can help you navigate the legal proceedings as safely and effectively as possible.

Can Domestic Violence Impact Divorce?

Yes. Any history of domestic violence will be relevant to the court during divorce proceedings. Evidence of domestic abuse can have a profound effect on the outcome of a California divorce and directly impact the divorce settlement, making even the more important for divorcees ending abusive marriages to understand their rights and take appropriate legal steps to protect themselves.

Consider these common ways that domestic violence affects divorce in California:

Domestic Violence Restraining Orders

Under California Family Code §6320, victims of domestic violence have the right to seek restraining orders to protect themselves during a divorce. These orders offer certain protections to protected parties, such as prohibiting communications between spouses, barring an abuser from coming within a certain distance of the protected person, and even granting temporary child custody or support.

In some cases, judges may decide to grant an emergency (ex parte) restraining order if they believe immediate action is necessary for safety purposes. Emergency orders last up to 21 days, after which an extension or termination can be requested in court if necessary.

However, obtaining a restraining order can be difficult if physical signs of abuse aren’t present, as this can make it hard to prove that abuse occurred. Many abusers master the ability to conceal the abuse from others. They may also rely on mental or emotional abuse as a means of control, which can be difficult for observing parties to recognize and identify.

To prove domestic violence in a divorce, it’s crucial to fortify your claims with as much relevant evidence as possible, such as:

  • Police reports
  • Medical records
  • Photographs of injury or property damage
  • Video or audio footage of violence or other altercations

It’s essential for victims of domestic abuse to understand their rights and seek legal help from an experienced divorce lawyer who can guide them through the process and prioritize their safety during this difficult time.

Child Custody

Child custody is a major point of contention during divorce, especially in proceedings involving domestic violence. This is because California courts are legally obligated to act in the best interest of the child, meaning that domestic violence can affect child custody decisions in various ways regardless of whether the child was the primary target of the abuse.

Generally, if there is evidence of abuse on the part of a parent, that caregiver will likely have a difficult time obtaining full or partial custody of their children in a California divorce. Families can rest assured that the judge will take adequate time to consider any extenuating factors and ultimately decide what custody arrangement is in the child’s best interests going forward.

Spousal Support

Domestic violence can also affect spousal support or alimony in a California divorce. In cases involving domestic abuse, the court is unlikely to order spousal support to be paid to an abusive partner, regardless of whether the payments are temporary or permanent. Moreover, if the abusive spouse has prior domestic violence convictions, regardless of whether they were misdemeanor or felony charges, this will almost certainly affect the court’s decision regarding spousal support payments.

Exceptional Legal Advocacy for San Diego Families

At Family Law San Diego, our compassionate lawyers exclusively practice family law, making us a trusted name for your legal needs. We have extensive experience representing clients in a wide range of family matters, from child custody to child support to divorce. No matter where you’re at in the process, our accomplished team is here to guide your steps, provide sound counsel, and fight to obtain a favorable result in court. With over 200 years of combined experience, our dedicated attorneys are here to help resolve your familial disputes as quickly and painlessly as possible.

Divorce can be complex to navigate on your own. Turn to a firm you can trust to put your family first. Call (619) 577-4900 to schedule a free consultation.