How Domestic Violence Can Impact Divorce Proceedings


Nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the U.S. In fact, domestic violence affects millions of people and families every year. To protect abuse victims and survivors, many states have enacted laws addressing domestic violence and how it affects court decisions in divorces. California is no different.

Even the most amicable and straightforward divorces can have complex issues and nuances. When a divorce involves instances of domestic violence, it’s typically time to get an experienced California family lawyer involved and on your side. Domestic abuse is a factor that can significantly change divorce proceedings and the final divorce decree. You should always bring any instances of abuse towards you or your children to the attention of your California family attorney. Doing so can help increase your safety and protect your legal rights.

Protection from Domestic Violence in California

Today, California laws state that girlfriends, boyfriends, wives, husbands, exes, and same-sex partners are protected from domestic violence. Keep in mind that domestic violence may take any of the following forms:

  • Physical abuse, such as throwing things, hitting, kicking, slapping, pushing, and pulling hair
  • Sexual assault or coercion
  • Emotional abuse, such as belittling or insulting you, making threats, controlling money, holding you against your will, sharing your personal information or photos without your permission
  • Using fear tactics—for instance, you online, following you, harassing you at work, threatening your friends, and abusing pets

If you fear for your safety or have limited freedoms due to your spouse, you may have a case for domestic violence. Filing charges could send your spouse to jail, ensuring your safety. Even if a domestic violence case is not that extreme, filing charges could serve to protect your interests during divorce proceedings.

California Is a No-Fault Divorce State

It’s not uncommon for violence to increase in a marriage when an abused spouse threatens to leave or requests a divorce. It’s imperative to plan in advance for leaving an abusive marriage. In California, you don’t have to give a reason for filing for the dissolution of your marriage. Consequently, it isn’t necessary to be the victim of spousal abuse to get a divorce.  However, a domestic violence arrest or conviction will make it harder for your soon to be ex-spouse to:

Receive Some Pieces of Marital Property or Assets

When deciding how to divide the marital estate, courts will consider a spouse’s behavior during the marriage. Suppose the judge determines that the violence or other abuse played a significant role in the dissolution of the marriage. In that case, it can look at the conviction against the perpetrator in the division of community property.

For example—if the domestic abuse committed against the victim resulted in an excessive depletion of community assets, the judge can help offset the victim’s losses in the division of marital property. Your California family lawyer can help ensure this is brought to the judge’s attention and give you a better chance of having an advantage in your divorce.

Obtain Custody of Your Children

As per California Family Code 3044, “…there is a rebuttable presumption that an award of sole or joint physical or legal custody of a child to a person who has perpetrated domestic violence is detrimental to the best interests of the child.” Any parent convicted of domestic violence will have to show evidence that they aren’t a current danger to their children in order to obtain partial custody or visitation rights.

Get Spousal Support

California Family Code also protects domestic violence victims from being required to pay spousal support to the abusive spouse. However, the abusive spouse might still argue that they deserve financial support. If you disagree, you will have to fight his claim. If you need to do this, it’s best to have a well-versed California family attorney on your side who can stand up for your rights.

Unfortunately, family courts aren’t equipped to deal with criminal charges, so it’s not a good idea to make domestic violence accusations during divorce or custody proceedings here. Although, if you are already pursuing charges in criminal court, or your spouse has already been tried and convicted, that information can be presented in family court to support your requests about custody and financial support.

Domestic Violence and Your Divorce Settlement

If your spouse has been abusive in one or more ways, you may have the upper hand in several aspects of the divorce. It’s frequent for an abusive spouse to settle on advantageous terms for you if they are trying to avoid their behavior coming to light in a public courtroom. This increases the chances of the public and those that know them personally knowing about the abuse and the events that have transpired.

Protecting Yourself and Involving Criminal Courts

Divorces that involve domestic violence are often more emotional and more time sensitive. It’s crucial that you get you and any children in your care to a safe location as soon as possible. It’s also essential that you get a restraining order if necessary and call 911 if you are in imminent danger. Pressing charges against your abuser is critical in protecting yourself and getting the divorce settlement you want. With an experienced California family attorney on your side, you can be assured that every step is being taken to help in this situation.

Your Trusted California Family Lawyer

You might believe that the law is on your side as an abuse victim seeking a dissolution of your marriage. However, your abuser also has rights, and their divorce attorney will fight to exercise those rights. You need a California family attorney who will fight just as hard for you. You can count on our California family lawyers to be there for you throughout the entire divorce and domestic abuse process.  They will take care of the paperwork, disputes and answer any questions or concerns you may have. If you are a victim of spousal abuse and you want to file for divorce in California, seek the legal assistance you need today.