Domestic violence and spousal abuse occur more often than many people realize. One reason is that abuse is underreported. Abused spouses are often scared to report what happened or think no one will believe that their spouse is abusive.
Sadly, many abused spouses remain in the marriage because they are unaware there is help available. In California, judges can consider domestic violence charges when deciding on issues related to a divorce.
What Is Domestic Violence?
When one partner engages in a pattern of abusive behavior toward the other partner, we refer to the conduct as domestic violence. Domestic violence can take many forms, including any behavior that causes someone to be:
Unfortunately, this list is not exhaustive. Domestic violence can cause a person physical, emotional, economic, sexual, and psychological harm. When the parties divorce, domestic violence can also impact the divorce proceedings.
California Is a No-Fault State for Divorces
Many states have grounds for divorce that include domestic violence or abuse. A spouse can file for divorce based on allegations they are being abused.
However, California is a no-fault divorce state. The parties do not need to prove wrongdoing or fault to get a divorce. The party seeking a dissolution of marriage only needs to claim “irreconcilable differences.”
In most cases, the court does not want parties to explain why they want a divorce. Instead, the court only looks for the words “irreconcilable differences” to grant a divorce.
However, domestic violence is the exception. If your spouse abuses you, the court wants to know about the abuse when you file your divorce petition. Evidence of domestic violence can impact your divorce in California in several ways.
How Do Allegations of Domestic Violence Impact Divorce Proceedings in California?
Judges might not make decisions in a divorce based on other types of wrongdoing by a spouse. However, judges can consider domestic violence when making these decisions.
Awarding Spousal Support
California Family Code §4320 provides factors judges consider when determining whether to award alimony in a divorce proceeding. One of those factors is documented evidence of domestic violence. Convictions of domestic violence within five years of the divorce action make it unlikely that an abuser can receive support payments.
The law provides a rebuttable presumption that spousal support is prohibited to a spouse convicted of a misdemeanor charge of domestic violence. If the spouse was convicted of felony domestic violence, spousal support for that spouse is prohibited.
Custody of the Children
Judges prioritize the child’s best interest when awarding custody. Therefore, judges treat allegations of domestic violence very seriously. The Family Code creates a rebuttable presumption that child custody should not be awarded to anyone the court determines committed domestic violence within the past five years.
The parent accused of domestic violence can defend themselves and argue that they should be granted custody. When deciding the case, the judge considers factors such as:
- Evidence that the abusive parent completed education, treatment, and/or counseling programs
- Whether the abusive parent violated a restraining order
- Evidence that the abusive parent completed required probation or parole
- Whether there are other incidents of domestic violence
Typically, a judge must determine whether there is sufficient evidence that the child’s best interests would be served by allowing the abusing parent to have custody. Overcoming the rebuttable presumption against giving an abusive parent custody of their child can be challenging.
California is a community property state. Therefore, all assets and income acquired during the marriage are typically divided equally between spouses. However, domestic violence during the marriage could impact the split.
A judge can consider the circumstances of the domestic violence in question when deciding how to divide marital property. At the judge’s discretion, he can award the abused spouse a more significant portion of the marital property than the spouse would have received had there been no domestic violence in the marriage.
You Can Get Help From a California Divorce Lawyer
If you are a victim of domestic violence, there is help. You can call 911 if you need immediate help. You can also contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline or one of the domestic violence organizations in California.
A divorce lawyer can also help you if your spouse is abusing you. A lawyer explains the law and your legal rights.
An attorney can help you develop a plan to remain safe while seeking a divorce. During the divorce proceedings, your divorce attorney advocates for your best interests, including using the allegations of domestic violence to protect you and your children physically and financially.
Contact Our Divorce Law Firm in San Diego, CA
Sachdev Legal Group, APC
2851 Camino del Rio S #430
San Diego, CA 92108