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How Domestic Violence Affects Divorce

Surprisingly, how domestic violence affects divorce can vary widely. Often, when people read of domestic violence, they think of a woman with a blackeye, cuts, and bruises. But domestic violence has many faces, and both women AND men can be the victim. Although numbers do show that the majority of victims of domestic violence are still women.

In California, approximately 40% of women will experience some form of domestic abuse. Of that 40% women in the 18 to 24 age bracket are likely to experience more domestic violence compared to women of other age groups.

In Colorado, 32.7% of Colorado women and 28.6% of Colorado men experience intimate partner violence and/or intimate partner stalking in their lifetimes.

Domestic violence hotlines respond to approximately 38 calls per hour, and about 40% of these calls involve the use of weapons.

What’s even more sad is that often child abuse also occurs where there’s domestic violence in the home.

If there’s domestic violence in a marriage, is it grounds for divorce? In this article, we discuss its repercussions and how domestic violence affects a divorce case.

The Many Faces of Domestic Violence

To a lot of people, domestic violence only involves actual physical harm to another - hence the picture of a woman with a blackeye, cuts, and bruises. However, the scary thing is that domestic violence is often much more than this.

Under both California and Colorado law, the definition of domestic violence is very broad and includes verbal, emotional, and psychological abuse.

Even when domestic violence accusations are made in the heat of the moment with no accompanying threat of violence these allegations can’t be retracted at the scene or in legal proceedings.

Under the law, there is domestic violence when there is abuse or threats of abuse. Although it occurs between married individuals, the law also includes people who are:

  • Divorced or separated

  • Living together or used to live together

  • Dating or used to date

  • Closely related (parent, child, brother, sister, grandmother, etc.)

What constitutes abuse? Just because there’s no physical violence does not mean that no abuse took place. A person can still be accused of domestic violence. Legally, you can be charged for abuse if there’s:

Sexual assault

This not only constitute sex against one’s wishes. It could also mean using sex to force one to give in to commands or demands.

Threats or promises to bring harm to someone

Again, even if there’s no physical harm done, if you threaten and make someone afraid that they could get seriously hurt, it is considered abuse.

Power play and control

This includes preventing a spouse from going out, curtailing communication, and limiting interaction with others. If a person prevents his/her spouse from making a living or keeping a job to make him/her dependent, this may also be considered abuse.


Done through telephone calls, text messages, emails, or social media posts.

Destroying someone’s personal property

Shaming or guilt-tripping

Embarrassing or humiliating

This can include name calling, treating someone like a domestic worker, taunting or harassing a man for inability to earn enough money, etc.


Can Domestic Violence Be Grounds for Divorce?

Divorce proceedings can be classified under 2 categories:

At-Fault Divorce

In some states, a spouse wanting to get a divorce must show reason or grounds for divorce. When such is the case, the courts consider “domestic violence” as a valid reason to file for a divorce.

No-Fault Divorce

In some states, a person may seek divorce without needing to show that any type of bad behavior was committed by the other spouse. Citing “irreconcilable differences” to the extent that the marriage cannot be saved is enough reason to file for a divorce.

Both California and Colorado are no-fault divorce states. Even in situations where one spouse is accused of domestic violence, the divorce is processed based on grounds of irreconcilable differences.

While the grounds for divorce may not be affected by the existence of abuse, it does not however mean that it will not have an impact on the divorce proceedings.

How Domestic Violence Affects a Divorce Case

A divorce, no matter what the cause, is devastating. But if your divorce involves domestic violence, it is both devastating and traumatic. When you’re in such a situation, your first priority should be to protect yourself and your children.

You can do this by filing a domestic violence restraining order. It is essentially a no-contact order. It’s purpose is to protect you from being contacted by your spouse

There are a number of ways a domestic violence restraining order could affect your divorce case:

Negotiation of Divorce Settlement

Under normal circumstances, spouses are encouraged to negotiate on issues including child support, alimony, and property division. This is a recommended course of action for most divorcing couples because it results in less expenses and a generally more favorable outcome for both parties.

In cases where there is domestic violence, this may not be a feasible solution.

With a domestic violence restraining order in place, the alleged abuser is ordered to stay away and the spouses are effectively not allowed to be near each other. While avoiding litigation through negotiation of divorce settlement may be the best, and can still be possible, the history of domestic abuse can make the process more complicated.

Child Custody

Along with the domestic violence restraining order, the court may also order no contact or limited contact with children.

In cases where a spouse was convicted of domestic violence against the other spouse in the past five years or if the court has found that one parent committed abuse against the children or the other parent, the custody of the children may be exclusively granted to the victim.

This is in the best interest of the children, to keep them safe from abuse or being witness to such abuse.

Spousal Support

When there is domestic violence involved, the victim could be awarded more favorably in many aspects of the divorce proceedings. In determining the amount of spousal support, the court will review the allegations of domestic abuse.

For instance, if the abuser did not allow the victim to work so as to make him (or her) financially dependent on the abuser, the court may grant a higher amount of alimony. There are instances when even if the victim’s earning capacity was not curtailed, the courts may grant alimony to the victim.

On the flipside, the court might not grant alimony to a convicted abuser in a domestic abuse case. However, this is rebuttable. This means that the abuser spouse can rebut the presumption that they are not entitled to receive spousal support.

Division of Community Property

In a California divorce, property acquired by you and/or your spouse during the course of the marriage is divided equally between the divorcing parties.

However, domestic abuse can affect the outcome of the division of community property. A larger share of the marital assets may be awarded to the victim of domestic abuse, especially if the nature of abuse affected the victim’s ability to earn a living or caused a job loss.

If the court determines that domestic violence played a big role in the dissolution of the union, a larger portion of the community property may be granted to the victim. In addition, if the domestic abuse against the victim resulted in an excessive depletion of community property, the judge may rule in favor of the victim to compensate for the losses.

When there’s a domestic violence restraining order issued, the alleged abuser may also be prohibited from remaining in the family home during the divorce process.

While both spouses are entitled to stay in the home because it’s community property, this right is voided when one spouse is accused of violence against the other spouse. The judge may order him or her to leave the family home.

These are just a few ways domestic violence affects a divorce case. It can largely impact the process and the outcome of the divorce proceedings.

I Can Help

No matter the circumstances that surround it, any divorce can have a cataclysmic impact on your life. If domestic violence is a factor in the dissolution of your marriage, I can show you how it can affect your finances.

As a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst®, I can give you invaluable advice on any financial decisions you have to make during your divorce.

Your attorney or mediator knows the laws; I know finances, specifically divorce finances.

I can help you move from a difficult and dysfunctional marriage to transition to a financially secure future.

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