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How Domestic Abuse Affects Divorce in California

Getting a divorce is always emotionally and legally complex, but when there’s been domestic abuse in the marriage, it can be a frightening prospect for the abuse victim. Not only does domestic abuse impact the victim’s emotional state during the divorce process, but allegations of abuse directly impact important aspects of divorce like child custody and the division of marital property. When the victim of domestic abuse faces divorce, their safety is of paramount importance, but it’s important to know the other ways domestic abuse affects divorce in California.

How Does California Define Domestic Abuse?

Domestic abuse typically refers to the abuse of one spouse or domestic partner by the other. California law considers domestic abuse to be any reckless or intentional behaviors that cause physical or emotional harm to a spouse or a partner in an intimate relationship, or threats of physical harm to a spouse or partner.

Examples of domestic abuse include the following:

  • Physical violence and abuse
  • Emotional and verbal abuse
  • Sexual assaults
  • Stalking
  • Harassment
  • Threats and intimidation
  • Intentionally isolating a spouse by monitoring/restricting movement
  • Depriving a spouse of necessities
  • Limiting a spouse’s access to financial resources
  • Coercive control over a spouse

While domestic violence is certainly grounds for divorce, California is a no-fault divorce state so spouses need only cite irreconcilable differences to obtain a divorce. This makes it easier for abuse victims to navigate the divorce process without having to relieve details and speak about their experience in court.

How Does Domestic Abuse Impact Divorce in California?

California Penal Code §273.5 makes all forms of domestic abuse illegal in California. Victims of this type of abuse may request a restraining order and have the option to file criminal charges against their abuser. An experienced divorce attorney in California can help victims of domestic violence gain a restraining order when filing a petition for divorce or responding to a divorce petition from a spouse.

If a spouse has a history of domestic violence, it impacts the following aspects of divorce:

  • Child custody: California courts decide all family law matters in the best interests of children. When one spouse has a documented history of domestic abuse, the judge may limit or restrict their access to the children, especially in cases of abusive behavior against the children or against a spouse in the presence of the children. Any living situation involving violence is not in the best interests of children.
  • Spousal support: Spouses who’ve been the victim of domestic abuse do not have to pay spousal support payments after a divorce.
  • Property division: Depending on the unique circumstances, a judge may award an abused spouse a greater share of the community assets

It’s also important to understand that false allegations of domestic violence against a partner as an attempt to sway the judge in child custody cases can result in perjury charges and may negatively impact the false accuser’s share of child custody and property distribution.

Legal Guidance and Protection Is Available for Victims of Domestic Abuse in California

Victims of domestic abuse may face an increased safety risk during the emotionally fraught divorce process. An Orange County family law attorney offers critical guidance for victims of domestic abuse.