If you are currently going through a divorce that is primarily due to domestic violence, your obvious top priority is protect yourself and the children. Domestic violence cases have risen sharply in California since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Clearly, any type of abusive situation in a marital relationship is a major concern for family law courts, especially when the kids are involved.
Domestic violence is a broad term that is used to describe some type of abuse occurring inside a family, such as a current or former spouse, dating partners, parents, grandparents, children, or other relatives. The “abuse” can be:
- physical injuries,
- financial, or
Unfortunately, many domestic violence incidents occur within a home where children under 18 live, which can place them in danger of serious injuries.
In the context of a California divorce, domestic violence can certainly directly affect your case. Thus, you should make an effort to have a basic understanding of the laws regarding domestic violence and divorce.
If you are going through the divorce process that involves domestic violence, you should consider discussing your situation with an experienced family law attorney.
If you are the victim of abuse, we can help you obtain a restraining order and pursue domestic violence criminal charges. We also assist family members when they are falsely accused of committing domestic violence.
In order to give readers more detailed information, our Los Angeles divorce and family law attorneys are providing an overview below.
Victims of Domestic Violence
It's not uncommon for someone who has been abused not to recognize they are a victim because they didn't suffer physical injuries.
In California, domestic violence victims could suffer some type of abuse in many different ways:
- when a spouse deliberately inflicts bodily harm on the other spouse,
- use of force or threats of force against a family member,
- psychological abuse and playing emotional games to control you,
- excessive control of the family finances,
- attempted isolation from friends or other family members,
- harassment or stalking,
- forced sexual activity.
If your spouse has acted in any way that might cause a judge to issue a domestic protective order, then you might need to seek assistance from the court.
Domestic Violence Potential Impact on a Divorce
It's important to note that California is a community property state, meaning that spouse's assets and debts acquired during marriage will be divided equally in a divorce, but it's not always that simple.
The family court is allowed discretion in property division in a California divorce, and a history of domestic violence can play a role in this process.
Dividing property in a divorce is not the only issue that can be impacted by domestic violence, there are many other issues that will need to be addressed.
Acts of domestic violence can initiate civil and criminal legal issues and impact California child custody, child visitation, parental rights, and restraining or protective orders.
California Child Custody
There are several important terms you need to understand on the issue of custody of the children in a divorce, and how it's connected to domestic violence:
- joint custody means you and your spouse will share custody of the children;
- sole custody means one parent will have primary custody of the children;
- physical custody means which parent will be the child's primary home;
- legal custody means who has the responsibility of making important decisions.
When a spouse makes the decision to get a divorce due to domestic violence, their primary concern is normally the child custody arrangement.
California family court judges consider domestic violence a serious issue and they will normally use this information for making child custody decisions.
California Family Code 3020
In fact, what is in a child's best interest is always the top priority in custody of children in a divorce. California Family Code 3020 states:
- “It is the public policy of this state to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of children shall be the court's primary concern in determining the best interests of children when making any orders regarding the physical or legal custody or visitation of children.”
This statute further states that children have the right to be safe from any type of abuse, such as child abuse or domestic violence in a household where they live.
Clearly, any type of conduct that is detrimental to the health and safety of a child will be given serious consideration in a child custody decision.
Even further, California family court orders must ensure the safety of any children and their family members.
Factors Considered By the Judge
In other words, judges are required to consider domestic abuse when they are making a determination on legal and physical custody of children.
In a situation where there are allegations of domestic violence involving a child custody case, the family court can use a variety of different sources to assist them:
- police incident reports,
- medical treatment records,
- department of child protective services records,
- social welfare agency reports.
If the judge decides your spouse did commit domestic violence against you or the children within the last 5 years, they will normally assume the abusive spouse should not be awarded custody of the children.
If you decided to seek an emergency protective order against your spouse, then any domestic abuse evidence can be used by the judge to grant temporary custody or supervised child visitation.
After a California family court has decided a parent has been abusive, then they will have to deal with the issue of appropriate child visitation time.
In most cases, a judge will grant the abusive parent a reasonable right to visitation with their children, unless it can be proven it's not in their best interest. Obviously, no child should ever be exposed to domestic violence.
Thus, the judge could decide to order supervised child visitation, which means a third party must be present to monitor the parent's visitation time with their children.
If you have an active restraining or protective order against the abusive parent, the judge will probably deny all child visitation time.
Family Law Lawyer for California Domestic Violence Cases
It should be noted a California family court judge has the discretion to take any necessary steps to protect children during a child custody case.
If they have a valid reason to believe a child's safety is at risk, they will protect the child until an investigation can be completed.
This includes terminating parental rights and removing the child from any potential domestic violence situation.
If you are going through a difficult divorce that involves domestic violence, you should contact our divorce and family law attorneys to review the details and legal options moving forward.
Your safety and that of your children are always a top priority. We will give you the information you need and legal guidance to ensure your family's safety.
Furman & Zavatsky represents people throughout Southern California from our Los Angeles County office located at 17207 Ventura Blvd. #2 Encino, CA 91316.
We offer a free case evaluation by calling (818) 528-3471, or contact us online.