Fifty years ago, domestic violence was something that people would keep
quiet about. If a man abused his wife or children and people knew about
it, they would “mind their own business” because back then,
child abuse were more socially acceptable, but nowadays we assure you they are not.
In the United States, we have come a long way in regards to recognizing
the dangers of domestic violence. Judges in the family and criminal courts
domestic violence and if it can be proven that the accused (mother or father) did in fact
abuse their spouse or children, then the abuser can face serious legal
In Los Angeles and throughout California, if someone is abusing their husband
or wife, and/or their children and the courts find out about it, the abuser
can be prosecuted in criminal court, and face fines and imprisonment.
What are the family consequences of domestic violence?
Let’s say that a man is abusing his wife and children. The family
lives in the Los Angeles area and the police were called to the family’s
home after a neighbor heard a lot of yelling and called 911.
The police arrived at the scene and immediately found evidence that the
husband had abused his wife in front of their children, causing severe
injuries to her face – the husband is arrested on the spot.
In reality, the husband has been abusing his wife and children for many
years, but this is the first time that he was caught. He was raised in
a violent household himself and thinks that this is the way a husband
handles his wife and children. However, our society and the law says otherwise.
On the eve of the dispute between the husband and wife, the husband was
arrested and taken down to the station. The next morning, his wife asks
the court for a domestic violence restraining order. The wife ensures
that her children are protected in the restraining order as well since
they too are victims of abuse.
What can a restraining order do?
- Order the abuser to stay away from the people protected in the order, including
the abuser’s spouse and children,
- Order the abuser to move out of the family residence,
- Order the abuser to relinquish their firearms,
- Prohibit the abuser from possessing any firearms,
- Order the abuser to pay certain bills, such as the auto loans, insurance,
and the mortgage or rent,
Order the abuser to pay
child support and/or
- Order the abuser to stay away from the victims’ home, work, or school,
- Prohibit the abuser from making any large purchases,
- Order the abuser to complete a 52-week batterer intervention program, and
- Order the abuser to stay away from the family’s pets.
Special note for immigrants: A conviction for domestic violence can lead to deportation proceedings,
even if the abuse was against your own spouse or child. You can learn
more about deportable offenses by referring to the
Immigration and Nationality Act.
If a domestic restraining order is taken out against somebody and they
violate the conditions set forth in the order, the police can be notified
and the violator can be arrested and incarcerated.
Once a restraining order is issued against someone, the order is entered
into CLETS, a statewide database that is accessible by all law enforcement.
If the offender moves out of state, the protected persons in the order
are encouraged to contact the new local police where the offender lives
so they will know about the restraining order.
Domestic Violence and Child Custody Laws
While domestic violence is a serious issue, it’s not uncommon for
a spouse to falsely accuse their husband or wife of spousal or child abuse
in an effort to gain an upper hand in a divorce. For this reason, judges
cannot simply accept that domestic violence is occurring because one person
says it is.
When it comes to child custody and visitation rights in a domestic violence
case, the first order of business is for the judge to determine if one
party is in fact committing domestic violence. If the judge determines
that there is domestic violence, he or she must follow specific rules
when deciding on child custody.
A family court judge will treat a case as a domestic violence case if in
the past 5 years: 1) one of the parents was found guilty (convicted) of
domestic violence against their spouse, or 2) any court has determined
that one of the parents committed domestic violence against the children
or the other parent.
Generally, if a judge determines that one of the parents has committed
domestic violence, then the judge
cannot give joint or sole custody to the abusive parent, however, the abusive
parent can visit with their children.
Still, there are exceptions to the above rule. At times, a judge CAN give
sole or joint custody to a parent who has committed domestic violence
when the abusive parent:
- Can prove that having custody would be in the children’s best interests,
- Successfully completes a 52-week batterer program,
- Successfully completes a substance abuse program, if ordered by the court,
- Successfully completes a parenting course if it was ordered by the court,
- Is currently on probation or parole and is complying with the terms of
probation or parole,
- Has a restraining order against them and they are following the orders, and
- Has NOT committed any new acts of violence against the protected persons.
Are you being accused of domestic violence? Or, are you or your children
a victim of domestic violence at the hands of your husband, wife, or domestic
partner? In either case, you should become informed of the laws that refer
to domestic violence and child custody in California, and how they apply to you.
For the legal advice you need,
contact a Los Angeles child custody lawyer at Claery & Hammond, LLP.