Domestic violence affects marriage in many negative and toxic ways. No-fault rules that pay little regard to any evidence of domestic violence during the marriage dominate California law regarding divorce and the division of marital property. However, any domestic violence present during the marriage may impact a spousal support decision substantially. Section 4320(i) is the specific provision that addresses spousal support and domestic violence.
California law dictates that courts must consider documented evidence of a history of domestic violence between the two parties or from one party against the other party’s child. Domestic violence may include physical as well as emotional harm. Under California law, one spouse may argue against awarding spousal support to a spouse guilty of domestic violence.
California law requires judges to consider instances of domestic abuse when determining legal and physical custody. Significantly, courts place great weight on any evidence of domestic violence when making child custody decisions. Domestic violence exposes children to physical and emotional harm. When determining the best interest of a child in custody cases, courts will consider limiting or restricting the access and rights of a parent who has allegedly committed acts of domestic violence.
Courts are required to grant reasonable visitation rights to parents unless visitation would not be in the best interest of the child. Because it is not in a child’s best interests to be exposed to domestic violence, a court may order supervised visitation or ban overnight visitation altogether until a change of circumstances occurs.
When a judge considers allegations of violence and abuse in a custody matter, the court examines evidence that independently corroborates the accusations, including reports and records from law enforcement agencies, child protective services, social welfare agencies, and medical facilities, as well as other court orders, and reports from other public agencies or organizations.
If a California court finds that an abusive parent has perpetrated domestic violence against the other parent, the child, or the child’s siblings within the last five years, then the judge must apply a “rebuttable presumption” that the other parent should not have sole or joint custody. The burden then shifts to the parent accused of domestic violence to rebut the presumption.
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