California Court Discusses Domestic Violence Allegations in Divorce Cases

Typically, when evaluating requests for spousal support or modifications of existing obligations, the courts will look at each party’s income and needs and the costs of maintaining the child’s standard of living. They are not limited to these factors, though, but may consider other relevant issues as well. For example, as demonstrated in a recent California ruling, they may assess whether either party has engaged in domestic violence. If you have questions about how domestic violence allegations may impact your rights with regard to divorce or spousal support, it is wise to meet with a Bay Area family law attorney as soon as possible.

Procedural Background of the Case

It is alleged that the parties were married for 23 years before the husband filed a petition for dissolution in 2016. The husband was the main income earner during the marriage, and the parties accumulated substantial wealth, including an eight-figure estate. They had four daughters during their marriage. In April 2017, when two of the daughters were still minors, the parties entered into a stipulation in which the husband agreed to pay the wife $45,000 in spousal support and $5,000 in child support each month. At that time, the husband earned over $2.25 million per year.

Reportedly, in February 2018, the husband sought a modification of his support obligation after his bonuses, which made up the majority of his income, were suspended. The court granted the motion and reduced his support obligation to approximately $5,000 per month. In May 2020, the wife moved for an increase in her spousal support to $54,000 per month. The husband opposed the motion and, in doing so, asked the court to consider the wife’s history of domestic violence. In support of his assertions, he submitted declarations from three of his daughters recounting repeated acts of abuse. The court ultimately found that the wife committed numerous severe acts of domestic violence and that it was equitable that she receive no more than necessary to maintain home and hearth. As such, it ordered the husband to pay approximately $4,000 per month. The wife appealed.

Domestic Violence Allegations in Divorce Cases

On appeal, the wife argued that the court lacked jurisdiction to consider the domestic violence allegations, as she did not raise them in her motion, she was not convicted of any domestic violence crimes, and there were no active or pending domestic violence restraining orders (DVRO) against her.

The court found no error, noting that there was no law stating that any DVRO or conviction must be in place in order for a court to consider such allegations. Instead, the court noted that statutory law expressly requires the courts to consider all documented evidence of domestic violence perpetrated by the parties when evaluating support obligations. Thus, the court affirmed the trial court ruling.

Meet with a Trusted California Family Law Attorney

Domestic violence allegations can impact many aspects of people’s lives, including their right to spousal support in a divorce action, even if they have not been found guilty of a crime of domestic violence. If you have questions about domestic violence in the context of family law cases, you should meet with an attorney to discuss your rights. The trusted family law attorneys of Bay Area Family Law Center have ample experience handling the legal and emotional complications that come with domestic violence allegations, and if we represent you, we will work diligently to help you seek a just outcome. You can reach us at 925-258-2020 or through the form online to set up a meeting.

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