Domestic violence is a common and widespread problem that affects various families across the state; it impacts all races and religions and economic classes. Often (but not always), physically or emotionally abusive behaviors are passed down from generation to generation, though other factors, such as alcohol or drug abuse can lead to abusive behaviors as well.
What is domestic violence exactly? It refers to physical, sexual and emotional abuse, threats and stalking among partners, family members, former couples, and people who live together. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (DCADV), in California:
- 40% of women experience physical abuse from a partner in their lifetime.
- In 2007, California law enforcement agencies received over 174,000 domestic violence calls, of which 40% involved weapons, such as handguns or knives.
- Each day, California domestic violence shelters serve nearly 5,800 women and children.
- Between 2009 and 2011, the domestic violence-related homicides increased by 11%.
- 1 in 3 women in the U.S. experience physical abuse by a partner (boyfriend or husband).
- 94% of the victims of murder-suicides are female.
Are you a victim of domestic violence? If you think that your spouse has to leave serious bruises or hospitalize you for it to be domestic violence – that is not the case.
Under California law, domestic violence can include physical abuse, emotional abuse, and sexual assault, threats of serious bodily injury, or even harassment or stalking.
If your spouse has intentionally hurt you, threatened to hurt you, or even destroyed your personal property, then the state would consider you to be a victim of domestic violence. If your spouse is physically violent with your children, or if they are abusing the family pets, these actions would also be considered abusive.
Controlling Behaviors That Count As Abuse
Is your spouse scaring you or your children? Are they throwing things, or restricting your movements by telling you where you can and cannot go? If your answer is yes and you are afraid of your spouse, or being controlled by them, it would help to talk to a divorce attorney from our firm, especially if you have children.
You need to protect yourself, and more importantly, the safety of your children during this time and we can advise you on how to leave safely. We can also advise you on seeking a domestic violence restraining order, obtaining temporary child and spousal support, and on protecting your parental rights.
Domestic Violence Restraining Orders
If you and/or your children are being abused, you should seriously consider taking out a domestic violence restraining order against your spouse. A domestic violence restraining order is a valuable legal tool; it’s a court order that protects you and your children from your abuser.
Under California law, spouses can ask for a domestic violence restraining order when their partner, spouse, or domestic partner:
- Has abused them
- Has threatened to abuse them
- Has abused their children
- Is threatening to harm their children
If your spouse has never abused you, but they have abused your children, you can file a restraining order on behalf of your son or daughter. On the other hand, if your child is 12 or older, then they are able to file a restraining order on their own with the court.
What are the effects of a restraining order?
While a restraining order cannot physically stop your spouse or domestic partner from harming you, it has legal effects which can deter him or her from continuing the abuse. Not only that, if he or she violates the restraining order, they can be arrested and incarcerated.
What a domestic violence restraining order can do:
- Order your abuser to stop abusing you or your children
- Order the abuser to stay away from you and your children
- Order the abuser to move out of the family home
- Prohibit the abuser from having a gun
- Order the abuser to pay child and/or spousal support
- Order the abuser to pay certain household bills
- Prohibit the abuser from making changes to any insurance policies
- Tell him or her that they cannot make any large purchases
- Require that the abuser completes a 52-week batterer intervention program
Once the local court issues a restraining order, the information will be entered into a statewide database called CLETS, which all law enforcement officers in the state have access to. If you decide to move to another state for some reason, be sure to notify law enforcement in the new state about the restraining order in California.
While a California domestic violence restraining order can do several things, it cannot end a marriage or domestic partnership, and it cannot establish paternity. In other words, a restraining order does not act as a divorce or paternity action; those are separate court actions.
Restraining Orders and Child Custody
Depending on the degree of abuse and the facts of the case, a restraining order can have an impact on child custody.
If you obtain a restraining order against an abusive spouse or domestic partner, the effects can be significant, for example, the abuser may have to stay away from you and your children, and they may not be able to see your child unless the visit is supervised, if at all.
If your spouse is violent and abusive and they are not a U.S. citizen, the restraining order may affect their immigration status.
Domestic violence is a sensitive issue. If you are a victim of domestic violence, or if you are being accused of abuse, contact our Los Angeles divorce firm for a free consultation.