What Constitutes Domestic Violence in Court?

by Chandra Moss

The issue of domestic violence has been at the forefront of headlines over the past few months, especially in the celebrity world. California law provides that a court may issue a protective order prohibiting an individual from "molesting, attacking, striking, stalking, threatening, sexually assaulting, battering, harassing, telephoning . . .contacting, either directly or indirectly, by mail or otherwise . . . disturbing the peace of the other party." California Family Code §6320 (part of the Domestic Violence Prevention Act [DVPA]). As a result, abuse under the DVPA includes physical abuse or injury, as well as acts that "destroy the mental or emotional calm of the other party." In re Marriage of Nadkarni (2009) 173 Cal.App.4th 1483, 1497.

Attacking, striking and other forms of personal contact and battery are clearly acts of domestic violence under the DVPA, including Johnny Depp’s alleged throwing of a cell phone into Amber Heard’s face. What becomes a little more fuzzy are claims of mental and emotional abuse, in tandem with “controlling behavior”. California Courts, have, however, noted in In re Marriage of Nadkarni, cited above, that mental abuse is relevant in a DVPA proceeding. California Courts have ruled the following may constitute domestic violence:

  • Accessing and threatening disclosure of private emails. (Nadkarni)
  • Repeatedly contacting an ex-partner electronically after being told to stop. (Burquet v. Brumbaugh (2014) 223 Cal. App.4th 1140)
  • Downloading and disseminating text messages. (In re Marriage of Evilsizor and Sweeney (2015) 237 Cal. App.4th 1416)
  • Forcing a partner to keep a telephone line open so her activities could be monitored, threats to beat a partner, practicing marital arts in close proximity. (Rodriguez v. Menjivar (2016) 243 Cal. App.4th 816)
  • Threatening over social media. (Rodriguez v. Menjivar)

Other instances of domestic violence include financial abuse/control, punching holes in walls, throwing objects (without necessarily hitting an individual), threats of violence and the like. If you are unsure whether you are the victim of domestic violence, or if you know you are, please call our offices. We can help.

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