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EXPERIENCED DIVORCE ATTORNEY

Los Angeles domestic violence attorneyDomestic violence is a serious problem in California, affecting approximately 40 percent of women in the state at some point in their lives. Unfortunately, many crimes of domestic violence also occur in households where children under the age of 18 live. Acts of domestic violence can put a family in jeopardy and have the potential to cause serious and life-changing injuries. If you have been the victim of domestic abuse, or have been accused of domestic violence, it is important to speak with an experienced Los Angeles domestic violence attorney.

At Berenji & Associates, our Los Angeles domestic violence attorneys have over 20 years of combined legal experience. We have successfully helped our clients navigate complicated domestic violence issues that affect their divorce and child custody cases. Our clients’ safety is our first priority and we will fight to make sure that you are safe from harm. If you have been the victim of abuse, we can help you to secure restraining orders, file civil claims for damages, and pursue criminal charges for crimes of domestic violence. If you have been falsely accused of domestic violence, we can help you fight restraining orders, defeat bogus civil lawsuits, and defend against baseless criminal charges. It is important to act quickly, regardless of your situation, so do not hesitate to call us today. We will review your case, explain your options, and answer the questions you have.

What is Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence is a general term used to describe the abuse that occurs inside of a family or intimate relationship. This abuse can be physical, emotional, financial, and/or psychological. The most important defining aspect of domestic abuse is that it occurs between two (or more) members of the same household, family, or relationship. California’s Domestic Violence Prevention Act offers protection to individuals who can be classified as:

  • Current or former spouses,
  • Current or former dating partners,
  • Children,
  • Parents,
  • Grandparents,
  • Blood relatives, and
  • Relative by marriage.

Examples of domestic violence can include:

  • Hitting, scratching, punching, biting, and other physical attacks,
  • Issuing threats,
  • Controlling finances,
  • Name-calling, belittling, or playing mind games,
  • Stalking, and
  • Forcing sexual activity.

Legal Consequences of Domestic Violence

Domestic violence can have serious civil and criminal consequences.

Civil Domestic Violence Lawsuits

In California, victims of domestic violence have the right to file a personal injury claim for damages to recover compensation from their abuser. These civil lawsuits are distinct from criminal charges. The specific type of personal injury claim that a victim files will depend on the type of abuse they have suffered. For example, victims of domestic violence could file a civil lawsuit for damages based on assault, battery, sexual battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, stalking, or elder abuse.

When a victim’s civil claim for damages is successful they are entitled to recover compensation from their abuser for their injuries. This money can be used to pay for medical expenses, lost wages, embarrassment, emotional distress, and pain and suffering.

Restraining Orders

Victims who have accused a family member of domestic violence can ask for the court to issue a domestic violence restraining order. These restraining orders can be a great way to protect victims from any further abuse while they pursue more permanent legal action. When a restraining order is issued, the subject of the order (an alleged domestic violence abuser) will be prohibited from contacting or going near their victim(s). Violations of a restraining order will result in criminal charges.

Criminal Domestic Violence Charges

California’s Domestic Violence Prevention Act makes it a crime for one member of a family/relationship to abuse another member of that family/relationship. Violations of this law can result in criminal charges. Criminal acts of domestic violence range from misdemeanors, punishable by up to a year in a Los Angeles County jail, to more serious felonies. Felony domestic violence convictions can result in multiple years in a California state prison, criminal fines of up to 10,000, mandatory restitution to victims for medical and emotional harms, restraining orders, and mandatory counseling. Sexual acts of domestic violence may also require a convicted abuser to register with the state of California as a sex offender.

How Will Domestic Violence Affect Your Family Law Cases?

Acts of domestic violence will not only trigger civil and criminal legal issues, but complicate family law matters, as well. Domestic violence can affect your divorce and child custody cases.

Domestic Violence and Divorce

Many acts of domestic violence take place behind closed doors, leave little-to-no physical evidence, and rest on the opposing stories of two spouses. As a result, it may be difficult to win a civil case or have your abuser successfully prosecuted on criminal charges. Fortunately, California is a no-fault state, which means that you don’t really need a reason to get divorced. Either spouse can file for divorce by simply stating that there are “irreconcilable differences” preventing the marriage from moving forward. This can be good news for victims of domestic violence. You can realistically split from your abusive spouse without having to be vocal about the reason(s) why you want to get a divorce. Unlike civil and criminal cases, you don’t have to have evidence of abuse to be granted a divorce.

However, having proof that your abusive spouse was convicted of domestic violence can be helpful during your divorce. California law generally provides that divorcing spouses are entitled to half of marital property and in some cases, can be eligible to recover spousal support. A domestic violence conviction can allow a family law judge to limit an abuser’s ability to walk away from a divorce with a favorable outcome. A conviction can help you avoid paying spousal support and increase the chances of getting possession of the assets you want in the split.

Domestic Violence and Child Custody Matters

California courts tend to prefer when parents share joint legal and physical custody of their children after a divorce. These arrangements help to keep kids in frequent and continuing contact with both parents, which is believed to be in the best interest of children affected by divorce. However, when one parent is a danger to their child, a court can intervene and revoke certain parental rights. A criminal conviction of domestic violence charges will significantly increase the likelihood of keeping a dangerous parent away from their child. In the absence of a criminal conviction, a parent can still argue for sole custody. In these cases, a parent must still provide evidence to support their allegations of abuse. This evidence can include:

  • Photographs,
  • Video footage,
  • Voice recordings,
  • Hospital records,
  • Police reports,
  • Documented calls to California social groups for assistance, and
  • Eyewitness testimony.

It is important to understand that even if there is evidence of domestic abuse (in the form of a criminal conviction or persuasive evidence presented by the victim), a parent will not automatically lose his or her right to see their children. A court will consider this evidence alongside other evidence presented in the case. A parent who has a proven history of domestic violence can still retain custody and/or visitation rights if they can show that they have reformed. Evidence of this could include:

  • Completion of a domestic violence treatment program,
  • Completion of drug and/or alcohol abuse programs,
  • Completion of parenting classes, and/or
  • Compliance with terms of restraining orders, imprisonment, probation, and/or parole.

California will always prefer to include a parent in a child’s life as long as it is in that child’s best interest. If a parent takes steps to comply with criminal penalties, complete counseling programs, and rehabilitate themselves, a court may be inclined to award some degree of custody and/or visitation.

Leaving an Abusive Spouse

Abusive relationships can cause severe and debilitating physical, emotional, and psychological injuries. While leaving your abusive spouse may be one of the most difficult decisions you make, it will also be among the most important. This is especially true if children are affected (directly or indirectly) by this abuse. When you make the decision to leave your spouse and file for divorce it is important to have a plan. This includes having documented evidence of your abuse, a place you can go to be safe, and an understanding of the road ahead.

It is important to file a request for emergency protective order if you fear that your abusive spouse may become violent or dangerous when you vocalize your decision to leave. This order will give you immediate and temporary custody of your children and prevent your abusive spouse to keep their distance. This order, when granted, will allow you to seek a divorce and custody of your children without having to worry about the dangers of your soon-to-be ex-spouse. Once the legal proceedings have begun the court has the authority to revoke or alter the order. This is why it is crucial to be prepared with substantial evidence to support your allegations.

Speak with a Los Angeles Domestic Violence Attorney Today

Domestic violence has the potential to ruin families, cause serious physical injuries, and impose irreversible psychological harms. If you have been the victim of domestic violence it is important to understand the legal options available to you. Similarly, false allegations of domestic abuse can ruin a person’s life. If you have been falsely accused of domestic violence it is important to aggressively defend yourself against any baseless claims.

The Los Angeles domestic violence attorneys at Berenji & Associates have more than 100 years of combined experience and have seen, first-hand, how domestic violence can disrupt and ruin a family. Whether you’re a victim of violence or false allegations, we can help you fight to protect your rights. Call our Los Angeles office today to schedule a free consultation and learn more. We will review your situation, explain your rights, and provide some preliminary insight into your case.