Domestic Violence and Spousal Support


Domestic violence, known as the “quiet epidemic,” is often a taboo topic, or considered a private, family matter. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, more than 10 million men and women are physically abused by an intimate partner each year in the United States, and there are more than 20,000 phone calls daily to domestic violence hotlines nationwide.


The FBI estimates violence will occur during two-thirds of all marriages. Based on this harsh reality, California law provides for the incredible pervasiveness of domestic violence. For instance, spousal support in California is based on need and the parties’ ability to pay. However, where one spouse is a domestic violence perpetrator or has been convicted of domestic violence, it is unlikely s/he will. be awarded spousal support from the victimized spouse. California Family Code, Section §4325, establishes the rebuttable presumption that a spouse with a conviction for domestic violence within five years of filing for divorce is not entitled to spousal support.


Furthermore, Family Code § 4320(i) provides that the court shall consider the following when deciding long-term spousal support: “Documented evidence of any history of domestic violence, as defined in [Fam. Code §6211], between the parties or perpetrated by either party against either party’s child, including, but not limited to, consideration of emotional distress resulting from domestic violence perpetrated against the supported party by the supporting party, and consideration of any history of violence against the supporting party by the supported party.”


Yet, while reports and laws are in place, domestic violence is still considered underreported. Additionally, children exposed to intimate partner violence are often eyewitnesses to the physical violence. The World Health Organization reports men exposed to violence as children are 3-4 times more likely to become domestic violence perpetrators as adults than men who did not. Further, children living in a violent home are 6 times as likely to attempt suicide. With the devastating effects and perpetuation of domestic violence, a shift in attitude is necessary to move domestic violence from a private, family matter to a public matter deemed culturally inappropriate.

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