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An Important California Family Law Update


Beyond brilliant! Amazing! That was my reaction to the presentation of the Honorable Thomas Trent Lewis at the 88th annual California Bar Convention in Anaheim. In his talk, “Domestic Violence in the New Era”, Judge Lewis introduced to California lawyers the idea of “coercive conduct” as an appropriate expansion of domestic violence and spousal abuse. He pointed out that Family Code section 6320 expands the definition of spousal abuse to include activity such as: stalking, digital harassment, and any other pattern of deliberate conduct intended to harm, frighten, irritate, or upset the intended victim of said abuse. Such conduct need not be recent or physical. All that is required is that as a result of the conduct, the victim is in reasonable fear of his or her safety, or the safety of an immediate family member. Contact is considered a credible threat if delivered by electronic means, such as cell phones, computers, video recorders, or fax machines. Under California Civil Code 1708.7 a perpetrator is potentially liable to the victim for general damages, special damages, and punitive damages.

This is a far cry from days of past, when you had to show police blood to get any relief at all. The law has made significant strides in the direction of reducing and eliminating spousal abuse in recent years. Judge Lewis admonished lawyers to download from the Internet the “Power and Control” wheel, which depicts the progressive stages of domestic violence that begin with coercive control, move into threats and intimidation, emotional and financial abuse, and ultimately ends with physical violence that can result in death. Enactment of the federal Violence Against Women Act makes clear this is an issue of national concern rising above mere local interests. Under current law, the occurrence of domestic violence and spousal abuse now has far reaching consequences including competency for co-parenting and liability for expanded support obligations for both the other party and the minor children.

It is more important than ever for lawyers to become familiar with the differences in the levels of domestic violence and spousal abuse in their cases. It has been the case for some time that abuse of a parent in the presence of a minor constitutes child abuse, per se. Most parents in high-conflict divorces are all too often oblivious to the irreparable harm caused to their children by their unconscionable behaviors.

Huge kudos to Judge Lewis for this brilliant and timely presentation.

Warm Regards,

Ronald M. Supancic, CFLS
The Law Collaborative, APC
t: 818-348-6700
f: 818-348-0961