How Does Domestic Violence Impact a Divorce Case?


Millions of Americans are affected by domestic violence every year. Due to the negative impacts of such abuse, every state in the United States enacted laws to protect domestic abuse victims, including those seeking a divorce.

Domestic violence allegations are taken very seriously in California. If you have filed for divorce and are a victim of domestic violence, the first step you should take is to ensure your safety and the safety of your family. This may mean relocating, contacting a friend for assistance, calling law enforcement, or seeking legal counsel. Today, we review the ways domestic violence affects a divorce.

Filing for Divorce

While California is a no-fault divorce state, which means that you do not have to prove that your spouse did something wrong to file for divorce. Therefore, you cannot file for divorce based on your spouse’s domestic violence. However, no-fault divorce states do let you introduce evidence of this type of behavior and how it has affected you and your children during your divorce proceedings.

Child Custody

The court system considers domestic violence as a factor when determining child custody. If you exhibit abusive behavior towards your child or in front of your child, you are less likely to be granted custody of your child. In most cases, you can also be denied custody if domestic violence has occurred without the child’s knowledge.

Courts seek to protect children from abusive parents. If there is evidence of a history of domestic violence within a family, the court can order professional supervision during visitation hours or prohibit overnight visitation. To protect the spouse that was being abused, the judge could also order that all exchanges of children happen in a safe, public space.

In cases where the abuse is severe, the court could terminate the abuser’s visitation and award full custody to the other parent. Severe abuse is considered seriously injuring the child.

Division of Property

In California, community property, or the property that you and your spouse acquired during your marriage, is divided equally. If there is evidence of domestic violence, however; the court could make modifications to this rule. For instance, if the court determines that the violence played a significant role in the divorce, it could weigh the conviction against the perpetrator when determining how to divide community property. Additionally, if the abuse led to a disproportionate depletion of community assets, the court could offset these expenses by awarding more property to the victim of the domestic violence.

Spousal Support

Domestic abuse could affect spousal support if the abuse itself caused financial harm or strain. An example of this would be a controlling spouse who forbids their wife/husband from working, leaving them financially dependent. In this case, the court would likely award spousal support to the abused spouse.

Under California law, an individual convicted of domestic violence within 5 years of the dissolution of the marriage, cannot receive spousal support.

How Does a Domestic Violence Restraining Order Impact a Divorce?

If a domestic violence restraining order is in effect, the spouses cannot see one another. As such, negotiating a divorce settlement together poses as issue. While the couple could technically negotiate a divorce settlement with the help of their attorneys, litigation is usually the route taken. A domestic violence restraining order also keeps the alleged abuser away from the family home during the divorce proceedings.

Schedule a Consultation with Our Firm

Divorce is complicated for everyone involved. Allegations of domestic violence make the process even more difficult. If you are a victim of domestic violence and you need assistance navigating your divorce, contact our office today. We provide compassionate, tailored family law services for residents of Orange County and surrounding areas.

Contact our firm online or call us via (949) 577-7935. We offer legal services in English and Armenian.