What is the impact on alimony of domestic violence allegations in a divorce case? How much spousal support will the Family Court will award? What if there is a domestic violence conviction? This article will answer all of these questions and more.
For a primer on alimony and spousal support, first read our main page here. That will help understand this blog post better. If you want to know the detailed factors that go into alimony, visit our factors page here.
California takes a “no-fault” approach to granting divorces. This means the State doesn’t look at the faults of one or both spouses when allowing the dissolution of a marriage — the reason can be as simple as irreconcilable differences. However, things aren’t as simple when it comes to determining specific terms of a divorce – especially when money is involved and allegations of domestic violence.
Alimony and Domestic Violence Don’t Mix
When domestic violence is involved, the bad actor might not get alimony. In cases such as these, a “rebuttable presumption” exists. This means the burden of proof is on the spouse convicted of spousal abuse to show the court he or she is deserving of spousal support.
Here’s what California Family Code § 4325 has to say:
“(a) In any proceeding for dissolution of marriage where there is a criminal conviction for an act of domestic violence perpetrated by one spouse against the other spouse entered by the court within five years prior to the filing of the dissolution proceeding, or at any time thereafter, there shall be a rebuttable presumption affecting the burden of proof that any award of temporary or permanent spousal support to the abusive spouse otherwise awardable pursuant to the standards of this part should not be made.”
“(c) The rebuttable presumption created in this section may be rebutted by a preponderance of the evidence.”
That basically means that you are going to have to work harder than normal to convince the family court Judge that you are deserving of alimony.
Unpacking the Law
If You’ve Suffered Abuse
It’s totally understandable that a person who suffered abuse at the hands of a former spouse wouldn’t want to pay that spouse alimony. The law was designed to offer financial protection to those who have experienced such abuse. However, since the presumption is rebuttable, it’s still important that if you are dealing with an abusive ex, that you consult a family law attorney or lawyer to help you obtain the most favorable outcome possible.
If You’ve Been Falsely Accused, Or Have Paid Your Debt
If you have been falsely accused of domestic violence by a spouse who is dishonestly trying to avoid paying alimony, talk to a lawyer about ending alimony or preventing it altogether. While domestic abuse is a vile crime, leveling false charges at an innocent person is a horrible thing.
Additionally, there are cases where both persons in a marriage have leveled charges of domestic at each other. In cases like these, the court will have to consider all of the evidence in order to make a fair ruling. A good lawyer can help in such a situation.
Finally, if you’ve been rightly convicted of domestic violence, while difficult to overcome the presumption against spousal support, there are still steps you can take to argue to the court that you are deserving of spousal support. This could involve:
- Arguing that you have served your time or completed your sentence,
- Attending any court ordered rehabilitation programs, or therapy
- Presenting evidence that you and your former spouse were co-combatants.
Contact a Family Attorney
As this article hopefully makes clear, not only is the law complex, but human relationships are complex. As a result, divorce cases can be incredible messy, and emotionally taxing. A good lawyer is necessary to help you during this difficult time to find the clearest path to a fair settlement so that you and your family can get on with your lives.
Whether you’re a spouse who wants to avoid paying alimony to an abusive ex, or a spouse who’s been falsely accused of domestic violence, it’s important that you consult a lawyer to discuss your options and strategy.