Domestic Violence Law
What is Domestic Violence Law?
Domestic violence law provides the criminal rules for punishing those who cause emotional or physical harm to others with whom they share a family or other close relationship. It also deals with the civil protections available to victims of this type of harm. Federal legislation has been enacted making domestic violence a crime, most notably the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). However, the vast majority of domestic violence offenses are prosecuted under state law.
Convictions for domestic violence in all states require that the defendant’s conduct and relationship to the victim meet certain standards. The statutory provisions describing these aspects of the crime differ from state to state, but generally, both the conduct and the relationship are defined broadly.
For example, a typical state statute will prohibit any conduct that causes harm to the victim, or poses a threat of harm that puts the victim in immediate, realistic fear for his or her physical safety. Whether the conduct forms the basis for a misdemeanor or felony will depend on the severity of the harm done. As far as the necessary relationship between the defendant and the victim, any past or present family, household, or dating relationship will usually qualify.
Responding to Allegations of Domestic Violence
The first step after being accused of domestic violence is to obey the orders of the court. Regardless of the veracity of the allegations, the mere fact that they have been made creates a serious situation for the individual who faces criminal charges or a civil restraining order. In either case, the court will almost surely have imposed a condition preventing contact with the accuser. Violating this condition will result in jail time and it will make defending the merits of the case more difficult.
Obeying an initial no-contact order involves more than refraining from visiting the accuser in person. Indirect contact must also be avoided, and depending on the language of the order, this will likely include telephone calls, text messaging, email and social media, and contact through a mutual acquaintance or other third party. The safest course of action is to ignore the accuser completely, and contact an attorney for help.
Legal Options Following an Arrest
After speaking with an attorney and discussing the facts of the case, a defendant charged with domestic violence will begin to more fully understand the nature of the court proceeding and the options available. A criminal case can be resolved in two ways. The defendant can decide to fight the allegations by going to trial, or the defendant can enter a guilty or no contest plea in exchange for more lenient penalties than would otherwise be imposed.
Deciding which avenue to pursue will not be easy. On one hand, obtaining an acquittal at trial means the defendant walks out of the courtroom a free individual, vindicated in the eyes of the law. On the other hand, plea bargaining gets rid of the uncertainty of trial, and allows the defendant to avoid the harsh consequences of an unmitigated sentence. While an attorney can provide insight into the matter, ultimately the decision to plead or go to trial rests squarely with the defendant.
Of course, the strength of the evidence against the defendant plays a crucial role in the decision. Domestic violence cases often involve “he said, she said” evidence, making the accuser’s credibility highly relevant. Recorded statements by the accuser are also central to the case, since the prosecution can go forward even if the accuser recants or decides not to press charges. Medical examinations, video surveillance, and the testimony of law enforcement can also suggest what the outcome of a trial will be.
Civil Remedies against a Perpetrator
From the standpoint of a victim of domestic violence, personal safety is most important. In addition to contacting the police immediately and cooperating in the criminal prosecution of the offender, victims can pursue civil remedies designed to keep the victim and other family members safe. The most common form of protection is known as a restraining order. Restraining orders are available for victims of abuse in every state. They can be obtained without cost, and assistance with the court forms is available.
Restraining orders prohibit the abuser from coming within a specified distance of the victim. They can require the abuser to cease all contact, move out of the family home, and pay child or spousal support. Depending on the nature of the order, the judge can include provisions requiring the abuser to surrender firearms, undergo substance abuse counseling, and more. Restraining orders can be obtained on an emergency or long-term basis.
A Domestic Violence Attorney can Help
The consequences of domestic violence can have a significant and lasting impact on the lives of everyone involved. If you have suffered or been accused of committing this type of harm, you need an experienced advocate on your side. Contact a domestic violence attorney to learn more.
Know Your Rights!
Articles on HG.org Related to Domestic Violence
- Marital Home Purchased Before Marriage: How Is It Treated?When a person buys a home before he or she is married, this property is usually considered his or her own separate property. However, the other spouse may have a right to some of the home’s equity upon divorce despite this classification. Also, steps may have been taken so that the property is no longer considered separate and is now subject to division in the divorce action.
- Summer Co-Parenting TipsIn the eyes of a child, summertime stands for fun. Swimming, sleepover camp, long days, cool evenings, and vacation plans dominate their calendars. For children of divorced or separated parents, summer can be anything but fun if effective co-parenting skills fail. Those long days can become even longer when tension and disappointment fill the air.
- Virginia Supreme Court Rules on Same-Sex CouplesIt has been common and expected that when a woman is receiving alimony payments from her ex-husband, he will no longer have to pay spousal support when she becomes engaged to another man. However, when that same woman instead becomes engaged to another woman, courts have ruled that the man must continue his spousal support payments in Virginia; that is, until a recent decision reversed this ruling.
- In Florida, Can Alimony Be Modified Following the Final Dissolution of Marriage Judgment?Yes, in many instances in Florida post judgment alimony can be modified. There are, however a number of considerations. Alimony is money paid from one party in a dissolution of marriage to the other party.
- How Is Child Support Calculated in Florida?Child support, either as a result of divorce or a dispute between unmarried parents, is a potentially complicated situation from the emotional, financial and family point of view. The parents and parties involved (including your Florida divorce or family attorney), must not lose sight that the goal of child support is not to resolve conflicts between the parents but to ensure the welfare of the children.
- Florida Enacts Collaborative Divorce LawFlorida Governor Rick Scott signed HB 967, which is entitled “Collaborative Law Process Act,” into law on March 24, 2016. In doing so, Florida joins an increasing number of other states who already have enacted legislation permitting collaborative divorces. Before the Act becomes effective, however, the Florida Supreme Court must approve and adopt Rules of Procedure and Rules of Professional Conduct to govern the collaborative divorce process.
- Delaware Bill for Homosexuality as Marital "Misconduct"A bill recently proposed in Delaware could have an impact on how other states consider homosexuality when a couple declares legal grounds for divorce. In order to file for divorce in Delaware, an individual must file a Petition for Divorce, where they declare a specific “grounds” upon which the divorce is being sought. Delaware courts can enter a decree of divorce if they find that a marriage is irretrievably broken, which is characterized in part by one spouse’s misconduct
- Will My Child’s Opinion Be Considered in a Custody Case?Divorce often leads to child custody battles when both parents want the child for various reasons. These battles tend to lead to court dealings that may cause much time and money to resolve. These proceedings come about when the parents are unable to arrange times and a date to share the child or children and mediation has failed or is not considered be an option.
- Sitting All Day Can Cause Back InjuriesMany of us work desk jobs, getting up only a few times throughout the day to walk to a colleague’s office or cubicle.
- Construction Workplace Accident PreventionThe estimated 130 million construction workers on jobsites across the U.S. face a potentially dangerous work environment on a daily basis. OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) cites there are approximately 150,000 construction accident injuries every year, with 5,000 of those injuries being fatal.
- All Family Law Articles
Articles written by attorneys and experts worldwide discussing legal aspects related to Family Law including: adoption, alimony, child support and custody, child visitation, collaborative law, divorce, domestic violence, elder law, juvenile crime, juvenile law, juvenile probation, paternity, pre-nuptial agreement, separation.
Domestic Violence - US
- ABA - Commission on Domestic & Sexual Violence
The ABA Commission addresses the need to increase the number of well-trained and supported attorneys providing representation to victims by providing creative training opportunities for lawyers.
- AEquitas - The Prosecutors' Resource on Violence Against Women
AEquitas' mission is to improve the quality of justice in sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking cases by developing, evaluating, and refining prosecution practices that increase victim safety and offender accountability.
- Domestic Violence - Overview
Domestic Violence isn't just hitting, or fighting, or an occasional mean argument. It's a chronic abuse of power. The abuser tortures and controls the victim by calculated threats, intimidation, and physical violence. Actual physical violence is often the end result of months or years of intimidation and control.
- Federal Domestic Violence Laws and the Enforcement of These Laws
This legislation, called the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), recognized that "violence against women is a crime with far-reaching, harmful consequences for families, children and society" (Domestic and Sexual Violence Data Collection, A Report to Congress under the Violence Against Women Act, 1 [NIJ Research Report 1996]).
- USDOJ - Office on Violence Against Women (OVW)
The Office on Violence Against Women (OVW), a component of the U.S. Department of Justice, provides national leadership in developing the nation's capacity to reduce violence against women through the implementation of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).
- Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act of 2005 (VAWA)
The Violence Against Women Act of 1994 (VAWA) is a United States federal law. It was passed as Title IV, sec. 40001-40703 of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 HR 3355 and signed as Public Law 103-322 by President Bill Clinton on September 13, 1994.
Domestic Violence - International
Organizations Related to Domestic Violence
- National Online Resource Center on Violence Against Women
- Battered Women's Justice Project
- Child Welfare Information Gateway - Domestic Violence Services
- Domestic Violence Institute (DVI)
- Futures Without Violence
- National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence (NCDSV)
- National Clearinghouse on Abuse in Later Life - NCALL
- National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV)
- National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges
- National Domestic Violence Hotline
- National Network to End Domestic Violence
- National Resource Center on Domestic Violence