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What is the legal definition of Domestic Violence in California

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Recently updated on May 7th, 2024 at 11:59 pm

The legal definition of domestic violence in California is written in California Family Code 6211 (Ann.Cal.Fam.Code § 6211)

For “Domestic violence” to have occurred there are two conditions that must be both be true

  1.  Abuse must have occurred
  2. The relationship between the victim and the abuser is one of the qualifying relationships

It's important to know the definition of Domestic Violence for various reasons particularly to identify the pieces of evidence are important and prove that domestic violence occurred in a legal case.

 

Abuse

 

Abuse means
  1. To intentionally or recklessly cause or attempt to cause bodily injury.
  2. Sexual assault.
  3. To place a person in reasonable apprehension of imminent serious bodily injury to that person or to another.
  4. To engage in any behavior that has been or could be enjoined pursuant to Section 6320.

Abuse is not limited to the actual infliction of physical injury or assault.

Qualifying Relationships

1.  Spouse: A spouse or former spouse such as husband or wife, registered domestic partners

 

 

2.  Cohabitants: Couples who are in a relationship and living together without the benefit of marriage are known as cohabitants under California law. It does NOT include roommates without romantic relationship.

This term is defined in the California Code Section 6209.

 

3.  Past or Current Romantic Relationship: A person with whom the respondent is having or has had a dating or engagement relationship.

 

 

4.  Coparent: A person with whom the respondent has had a child

 

 

5.  A child of a party or a child who is the subject of an action under the Uniform Parentage Act, where the presumption applies that the male parent is the father of the child to be protected.

 

 

6.  Relatives: Any other person related by consanguinity or affinity within the second degree. This includes: Children, Parents, Brother or Sister, half-brother or Sister, step-brother or sister;, grandparents
niece, nephew, uncle, and aunt

 

 

Formal Definition from the California Code 

Ann.Cal.Fam.Code § 6211“Domestic violence” is abuse perpetrated against any of the following persons:

  1. A spouse or former spouse.
  2. A cohabitant or former cohabitant, as defined in Section 6209.
  3. A person with whom the respondent is having or has had a dating or engagement relationship.
  4. A person with whom the respondent has had a child, where the presumption applies that the male parent is the father of the child of the female parent under the Uniform Parentage Act (Part 3 (commencing with Section 7600) of Division 12).
  5. A child of a party or a child who is the subject of an action under the Uniform Parentage Act, where the presumption applies that the male parent is the father of the child to be protected.
  6. Any other person related by consanguinity or affinity within the second degree.

The original text is here

Formal Definition of  “Abuse”

California Code, Family Code - FAM § 6203
(a) For purposes of this act, “abuse” means any of the following:

  1. To intentionally or recklessly cause or attempt to cause bodily injury.
  2. Sexual assault.
  3. To place a person in reasonable apprehension of imminent serious bodily injury to that person or to another.
  4. To engage in any behavior that has been or could be enjoined pursuant to Section 6320.

(b) Abuse is not limited to the actual infliction of physical injury or assault.

 

Importance of the Definition

The definition of domestic violence is important for several reasons, as it serves as a foundation for legal, social, and intervention efforts aimed at addressing and preventing abuse within intimate relationships. Here are some key reasons why the definition of domestic violence is important:

  1. Legal Framework:
    • Identification and Prosecution: A clear definition helps in identifying instances of domestic violence and provides a legal basis for prosecuting offenders. It allows legal systems to distinguish between acceptable behavior and those that qualify for restraining orders and/or criminal conduct within the context of intimate relationships.
  2. Public Awareness and Education:
    • Prevention and Intervention: Having a comprehensive definition aids in educating the public about the various forms of domestic violence. This awareness is crucial for prevention efforts and ensures that individuals, communities, and institutions can recognize and respond to abusive behaviors.
  3. Support for Victims:
    • Access to Resources: A clear definition ensures that victims can access support services, shelters, counseling, and legal assistance. It empowers individuals to seek help and reinforces the idea that they are not alone in facing abuse.
  4. Research and Data Collection:
    • Understanding the Scope: Researchers rely on a standardized definition to study the prevalence, causes, and consequences of domestic violence. Consistent definitions help in collecting accurate and comparable data, leading to a better understanding of the issue.
  5. Policy Development:
    • Informed Policies: Policymakers use a clear definition to develop effective laws and policies that address domestic violence. This includes measures related to prevention, intervention, victim support, and offender accountability.
  6. Multidisciplinary Collaboration:
    • Coordination Among Agencies: Professionals from various fields, such as law enforcement, healthcare, social work, and counseling, collaborate to address domestic violence. A shared definition ensures consistent communication and coordinated efforts among these agencies.
  7. Accountability and Justice:
    • Perpetrator Accountability: A well-defined concept of domestic violence helps establish accountability for perpetrators. It emphasizes that abusive behavior within intimate relationships is not tolerated and is subject to legal consequences.
  8. Cultural and Social Change:
    • Changing Attitudes: A clear definition challenges societal norms that may tolerate or condone abusive behavior. It contributes to cultural shifts by promoting healthy, respectful relationships and challenging harmful stereotypes.

In summary, the definition of domestic violence is key for addressing this pervasive issue at various levels, from legal systems and support services to public awareness and cultural attitudes. It plays a crucial role in fostering a society where intimate relationships are characterized by respect, safety, and equality.

Restraining Order as a solution for Domestic Violence

 Ann.Cal.Fam.Code §§ 6203; 6320(a), (c)

(a) The court may issue an ex parte order enjoining a party from molesting, attacking, striking, stalking, threatening, sexually assaulting, battering, credibly impersonating as described in Section 528.5 of the Penal Code, falsely personating as described in Section 529 of the Penal Code, harassing, telephoning, including, but not limited to, making annoying telephone calls as described in Section 653m of the Penal Code, destroying personal property, contacting, either directly or indirectly, by mail or otherwise, coming within a specified distance of, or disturbing the peace of the other party, and, in the discretion of the court, on a showing of good cause, of other named family or household members.

(b) On a showing of good cause, the court may include in a protective order a grant to the petitioner of the exclusive care, possession, or control of any animal owned, possessed, leased, kept, or held by either the petitioner or the respondent or a minor child residing in the residence or household of either the petitioner or the respondent. The court may order the respondent to stay away from the animal and forbid the respondent from taking, transferring, encumbering, concealing, molesting, attacking, striking, threatening, harming, or otherwise disposing of the animal.

(c) As used in this subdivision (a), “disturbing the peace of the other party” refers to conduct that, based on the totality of the circumstances, destroys the mental or emotional calm of the other party. This conduct may be committed directly or indirectly, including through the use of a third party, and by any method or through any means including, but not limited to, telephone, online accounts, text messages, internet-connected devices, or other electronic technologies. This conduct includes, but is not limited to, coercive control, which is a pattern of behavior that in purpose or effect unreasonably interferes with a person’s free will and personal liberty. Examples of coercive control include, but are not limited to, unreasonably engaging in any of the following:

  1. Isolating the other party from friends, relatives, or other sources of support.
  2. Depriving the other party of basic necessities.
  3. Controlling, regulating, or monitoring the other party’s movements, communications, daily behavior, finances, economic resources, or access to services.
  4. Compelling the other party by force, threat of force, or intimidation, including threats based on actual or suspected immigration status, to engage in conduct from which the other party has a right to abstain or to abstain from conduct in which the other party has a right to engage.
  5. Engaging in reproductive coercion, which consists of control over the reproductive autonomy of another through force, threat of force, or intimidation, and may include, but is not limited to, unreasonably pressuring the other party to become pregnant, deliberately interfering with contraception use or access to reproductive health information, or using coercive tactics to control, or attempt to control, pregnancy outcomes.

(d) This section does not limit any remedies available under this act or any other provision of law.

 

 

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