Most people in Sacramento understand that domestic violence is a serious crime that entails serious penalties for a conviction. Less well understood is the effect of domestic violence on a California divorce.
Domestic violence is defined as any physical assault against a family member or member of the accused’s household. Domestic violence also includes any threat of physical assault. Actual assault ranges from a shove to pulling hair to sexual assault. If the court finds that one spouse has been convicted of domestic violence against the other spouse within the five years immediately preceding the filing of the divorce petition, that spouse will probably not be eligible for spousal support and will most likely not be awarded either physical or legal custody of the children.
A person who has committed domestic violence against the other spouse within the 5-year period can be awarded custody if the court finds that awarding custody to that spouse will serve the best interests of the child, that the spouse has completed a 52-week batterer’s program and that the spouse has completed an alcohol or drug abuse program or a parenting class. All parents seeking custody of a child must pass this test.
In the end, the determination of custody and awarding of spousal support is left to the discretion of the trial judge, who must decide these issues pursuant to the factors prescribed by the legislature. Anyone contemplating a divorce in which allegations of domestic violence may be involved may benefit from consulting an experienced divorce attorney. A knowledgeable lawyer can provide advice on the legal effect of domestic violence and the kinds of evidence required to either support or rebut an allegation of domestic violence.
Source: courts.ca.gov, “Domestic Violence and Child Custody,” accessed on May 1, 2018