A Finding of Domestic Violence Is Not a Prerequisite for Awarding Spousal Support Under The Domestic Violence Prevention Act

J.Q. and T.B. met online in September 2009. J.Q. lived in China, and T.B. lived in Orange County. They corresponded via email. T.B. visited J.Q. in China four times, and in November 2010, J.Q. and T.B. were married. They initiated the visa application process so that J.Q. could move to the United States. After the visa was approved, J.Q. moved to the United States in January 2012. Less than two months later, J.Q. sought and obtained an emergency protective order against T.B.in the Orange County divorce court, alleging that T.B. had abused her. T.B. was accused of two misdemeanors, and a criminal protective order was issued. Days later, J.Q. filed ex parte requests for a Temporary Restraining Order (“TRO”) and a Domestic Violence Restraining Order (“DVRO”). J.Q. claimed that T.B. had sexually abused her. The TRO was ultimately granted by the Orange County divorce court. T.B. filed a response, denying the allegations. The hearing for the DVRO was continued due to T.B.’s pending criminal case. At the continued hearing for the DVRO, the sole issue was whether the Orange County divorce court had jurisdiction to order spousal support before a hearing on the merits on the application for a DVRO. The judge ruled that the divorce court in Orange County did not have jurisdiction to order spousal support before a hearing regarding the DVRO under the Domestic Violence Prevention Act. The Orange County divorce court reasoned that J.Q. had not shown by a preponderance of the evidence that there was domestic violence. Thus, the domestic violence action was dismissed and consolidated it with T.B.’s annulment action. J.Q. then filed an appeal in the Court of Appeal located in Orange County from the orders denying her request for spousal support and the divorce court’s finding that T.B. had not abused her. T.B. then filed a cross-appeal from the order requiring him to make debt payments.

On appeal, J.Q. argued that the Orange County divorce court erred in denying her request for spousal support pending a resolution on her application for a DVRO. T.B. responded that the divorce court properly denied J.Q.’s request because a divorce court can award spousal support under the Domestic Violence Prevention Act only “after notice and a hearing.” The issue before the Court of Appeal was whether notice and a hearing referred to domestic violence or spousal support. Section 6341 of the Domestic Violence Prevention Act states, “If the parties are married to each other and no spousal support order exists, after notice and a hearing, the court may order the respondent to pay spousal support in an amount, if any, that would otherwise be authorized.”

Based on a plain reading of section 6341, the Court of Appeal found that a divorce court may award spousal support to a party prior to concluding that domestic violence had occurred. By its plain language, section 6341 does not impose the requirement that a divorce court must find domestic violence occurred before awarding spousal support. This interpretation of the Domestic Violence Prevention Act was supported by its purpose and legislative history. Thus, the Court of Appeal located in Orange County concluded that the “notice and a hearing” under section 6341 referred to spousal support, and that a finding of domestic violence was not a prerequisite for awarding spousal support under the Domestic Violence Prevention Act. The Orange County divorce court’s orders denying spousal support were reversed, and the order finding T.B. did not abuse J.Q. was affirmed.

In re Marriage of J.Q. and T.B. (2014) 223 Cal. App. 4th 687