Overview of Domestic Violence
Domestic violence is abuse or threats of abuse between persons who have been in an intimate relationship or people that are related by blood. The abuse can be physical, emotional and/or psychological. The abuse can be of a sexual nature and can be a result of hurting someone or trying to hurt someone whether intentionally or recklessly. It can take many forms including controlling freedom of access, throwing items, kicking, hitting, shoving or pulling hair. Divorce courts may issue orders restraining this and other types of conduct.
Domestic violence allegations are extremely serious. They can be filed in divorce court as standalone cases or as part of a divorce proceeding. If the divorce court finds that domestic violence has occurred, there will be very severe consequences. The main consequences are a presumption that the perpetrator is an unfit parent and the issuance of a protective order into the California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System (CLETS). CLETS can be accessed by law enforcement and criminal justice agencies. The perpetrator has contact with a police officer, they will run his or her name through the CLETS system, and discover any protective order.
There can be other detrimental effects on custody, child support, spousal support and kick-out orders from the residence. Examples include:
- A perpetrator of domestic violence may be prevented from receiving spousal support;
- A perpetrator parent must overcome the presumption that it is not in a child's best interests for the perpetrator parent to have joint custody with the other parent;
- A perpetrator may be required to attend a 52 week batter's program;
- Restrictions on ownership and possession of firearms;
- Payment of restitution; and/or
- Payment of attorney fees;
A protective order may cover family or members of the protected party’s household. The protective order will require that the restrained party stay a prescribed distance away from the protected party’s residence, work or school. Additionally, the restrained party may not have any personal, electronic or third party contact with the protected party or parties.
A permanent restraining order may be initially granted for up to five (5) years. An extension can subsequently be granted extending the restraining order for another five (5) years or a lifetime.
The definition of domestic violence or abuse is expansive in family law compared to that in criminal law. Grounds for a protective order include physical acts, destruction of property, harassing statements, annoying phone calls, disturbing the peace and credibly impersonating or falsely impersonating another person. There is no requirement of physical injury or assault.
The court may look at past acts of abuse and shall consider the totality of circumstances when determining whether to grant or deny a protective order request.