A divorce is generally an emotionally tumultuous event – the only question is the degree of turmoil you will have to endure. Consensual divorces are the easiest, litigated divorces are more difficult, and divorces involving allegations of domestic violence are among the worst. It is extremely difficult for a divorcing spouse to remain calm and rational under such stress.

Keep in mind that under the legal definition of domestic violence that applies in California, no actual physical contact is required for domestic violence to occur. You can even be convicted of domestic violence for telephoning your spouse if you are prohibited from doing so by a restraining order. Even an unsubstantiated allegation of domestic violence can affect every aspect of a divorce.

Child Custody/Visitation

In California, child custody and visitation decisions are based on the “best interests of the child” principle. An allegation of domestic violence could result in a “rebuttable presumption” that you are an unfit parent, which switches the burden of proof onto you to prove that you are a fit parent. You could be denied custody, and you could be limited to supervised visitation.

Spousal Support (Alimony)

The negative consequence of a domestic violence conviction or allegation runs both ways with respect to spousal support. On one hand, a conviction for or even an allegation of domestic violence could result in you having to pay spousal support or having to pay more than you would otherwise. If your spouse is the one who would otherwise have to pay spousal support, your spouse might be relieved of their obligation to pay if you are convicted of domestic violence any time within five years of the divorce.

Other Consequences

An allegation of domestic violence often results in a restraining order that prevents the accused from contacting the complainant. If divorce or child custody negotiation or mediation is ongoing at that time, these approaches would have to be abandoned, leaving it up to the court to determine the terms of these arrangements. Moreover, the court might require you to pay your spouse’s attorney’s fees.

Criminal Liability

Domestic violence can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. Possible penalties include:

  • Jail time

  • Fines

  • Probation

  • Restitution to your spouse

  • Mandatory abuse counseling at your expense

These penalties cannot be separated from divorce proceedings. Obviously, for example, spending time in jail would affect child custody arrangements as well as your ability to pay spousal support.

Civil Liability

Domestic violence is a tort as well as a crime, and it is possible to sue someone for personal injury arising out of an incident of domestic violence. In addition to full compensation, the complainant might also be awarded punitive damages.

Contact Us Immediately for Assistance

If you have been accused of domestic violence in the midst of divorce proceedings or if you anticipate this situation arising, CKB Vienna LLP, stands ready to fight for your rights. Don’t try to handle this on your own – California courts are notoriously unsympathetic to people charged with domestic violence.

We serve clients from throughout Rancho Cucamonga, including Alta Loma and Etiwanda, as well as Upland, Fontana, Ontario, Chino Hills, and Claremont. Telephone us at 909-980-1040, or complete our online contact form to learn how we can help you.