Category Archives: Domestic Violence

Do Children Testify at Divorce Hearings

Do Children Testify at Divorce Hearings?

Children rarely, if ever, ask their parents to split up. Instead, they sometimes just become part of the collateral damage of divorce. Dealing with the court system during a divorce is stressful for everyone, including children. Even parents who try to do what’s best for their kids may wonder if courts will increase the tension by making children testify at divorce hearings. Let’s look at how this problem is handled in California.

Children, Divorce, and California Law

Each divorce is a little different. Sometimes court hearings are needed to address children’s needs related to custody and visitation.

Fortunately, California law does not require children to testify at divorce hearings. Likewise, California law does not expressly prohibit children from speaking in court. Generally, courts consider a child’s participation on a case-by-case basis. Age plays a part in the court’s decision, as set out in California Family Code Section 3042:

  • Children under 14 years of age might address the court if the court determines that it is appropriate and in the child’s best interests.
  • Children over 14 years of age will be allowed to testify unless the court decides testifying is not in the child’s best interests.

If the court decides the child cannot testify in open court, alternative methods include:

  • Allowing the child to participate in a child custody mediation,
  • Appointing a child custody evaluator,
  • Allowing people to present evidence on behalf of the child,
  • Admitting information provided by a child interview center or counselor.

The judge may also allow testimony in a closed courtroom or in the judge’s chambers.

But what happens when the court decides to allow kids to participate in hearings?

Requesting That Children Testify at Divorce Hearings

Sometimes, people close to a child may learn that he or she wants to testify. According to the 2020 California Rules of Court, the following people must let the court know if this happens:

  • The minor child’s counsel
  • Evaluators
  • Investigators
  • Child custody recommending counselors.

Any party to the divorce or any party’s attorney may also let the court know that a child wants to testify. Also, judicial officers may ask whether children want to testify.

How the Courts Handle Children’s Testimony

Just because a court decides to let children testify at divorce hearings does not mean they stop protecting those children. Judges might appoint an attorney to represent the child during the testimony. Courts decide where the testimony will happen – in open court or in the judge’s chambers – and who will be present. In some cases, it is not in the child’s best interests to allow parents to attend. Finally, judges will protect children who testify at divorce hearings from harassment and inappropriate questioning.

You Need Experienced Advice When Children Testify at Divorce Hearings

The attorneys at The Law Offices of Judy L. Burger are well-versed in divorce and the dissolution of registered domestic partnerships. Judy Burger is a California Certified Family Law Specialist and founder of the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger. Please call our offices at 415-293-8314 to set up an appointment with one of our attorneys. We assist clients along the Northern to Southern California Coast.

The True Cost of Domestic Violence

The True Cost of Domestic Violence

When something happens often, we may start to lose sight of its importance. For example, an average of 24 Americans per minute are victimized by an intimate partner or family member. You probably know someone who has suffered. You may have been a victim yourself. Once someone is in a safe place or has recovered from their injuries, it may seem like the incident is over. However, the long-term effects of intimate partner violence make it difficult to understand the true cost of domestic violence.

The term ‘domestic violence’ actually encompasses far more behaviors than you may realize. In fact, abuse may include physical, sexual, verbal, emotional, and psychological abuse. Economic control and other methods of intimidation are also considered domestic violence. And it does not have to be committed by someone with whom you have a romantic interest. The abuser can be anyone who is closely related or living with you.

Domestic Violence Affects Mental Health.

The aftereffects of physical abuse are typically easy to see. But once the bruises have healed, the victim may still suffer. Fear is a strong emotion, and it’s natural for a victim to be fearful that the abuse will happen again unless they get help.

Psychological harm is less obvious but just as destructive. Victims of domestic violence may even develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that affects their daily lives.

The mental health cost of domestic violence can be measured in the cost of therapy. The harm to a victim’s spirit is a cost that cannot be easily determined.

Chronic Illnesses Add to  Domestic Violence Costs

Domestic violence takes a toll on the person being abused. In fact, it’s highly likely they will develop chronic illnesses. Studies have shown the links between violence and long-term health problems. For example, stress and other aftereffects can cause or exacerbate conditions like:

People exposed to domestic violence may also engage in behavior that endangers their health. The cost of domestic violence includes medical care and therapies needed to counteract chronic illness.

Medical Bills May Pile Up

People injured by an intimate partner may require medical treatment for injuries, mental health problems, and chronic illness. Adults or children who have merely witnessed domestic violence may also need medical care. The cost of domestic violence in terms of medical care is staggering. In the United States alone, the estimated annual cost of domestic violence is $8.3 billion.

Domestic Violence Causes Pain and Suffering

This estimate may not factor in the indirect cost of domestic violence. A victim of domestic violence may feel pain and suffering for an exceptionally long time. Their friends and loved ones also suffer, knowing that someone they love is in harm’s way. Pain and suffering are impossible to calculate. But they can cause long-lasting issues in a person’s life.

Determining the Cost of Domestic Violence Is Not Easy

If you have been the victim of domestic abuse, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233. Then call an attorney who can offer legal solutions to your situation.

Please call us at (415) 293-8314 to schedule a confidential appointment with one of our attorneys. Ms. Burger is a California Certified Family Law Specialist and founder of the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger. We assist clients in California’s Northern to Central Coast, including San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Gold River, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, and surrounding communities.

California restraining orders

4 Types of California Restraining Orders

California restraining orders are available to help people in various circumstances. For example, Todd’s partner, Zach, has threatened him with violence, shoved him during arguments, and violently pulled his hair. Amanda has suffered the same kind of behavior but from her former roommate. At age 78, Dan is trying to live in his own home for as long as possible, but his grandson has been stealing his possessions and money. Finally, Maryann’s boss at the diner noticed a customer was stalking Maryann at work and waiting for her in the parking lot. A restraining order might help any of these individuals feel more protected. In fact, there are four different types of California restraining orders. Continue reading

Subtle Signs of Domestic Violence

Subtle Signs of Domestic Violence

After the wedding, Lily’s friends noticed some changes in her behavior. She stopped meeting them for lunch every Sunday. The phone calls and texts dropped off. When they asked Lily to go shopping with them, she never had any money. Her makeup, hair, and clothes were always perfect, and they never saw any bruises, so they assumed Lily was just a busy newlywed. They didn’t know about the subtle signs of domestic violence.

Continue reading

Domestic Violence Restraining Orders in a California Divorce

Domestic Violence Restraining Orders in a California Divorce

It takes at least six months from the date the divorce petition is filed on your spouse to finalize a California divorce. Sometimes people need help immediately. For instance, a husband or wife suffering at the hands of their spouse may ask the police and the courts for protection. It may help to know more about domestic violence restraining orders and the California divorce.

What Constitutes Domestic Violence?

The actual definition of domestic violence might surprise you. It’s not just about physical violence. In fact, domestic violence includes:

  • Any kind of physical attack, including pulling hair, kicking, hitting, shoving, or throwing objects at another person;
  • Sexual assault;
  • Comments or behavior that cause someone to be reasonably afraid someone may be seriously hurt; and
  • Harassment, stalking, threats, disturbing the peace, or destruction of someone else’s personal property.

If you fear another person, you may need protection sooner rather than later.

How Does a Domestic Violence Restraining Order Work?

If someone you have a close relationship with has abused or threatened to abuse you, a domestic violence restraining order may help. This document is a court order that helps protect people in abusive situations.

You have to meet the following two criteria to ask for a domestic violence restraining order:

Another person has abused you or threatened to abuse you;

AND

You have a close relationship with the alleged abuser.

In addition to your current spouse, the following relationships might be considered close. Someone who you:

  • date or used to date,
  • have divorced or separated from,
  • has lived with you or used to live with you,
  • parents a child with you, or
  • is a close relative, even grandparents or in-laws.

You may also request a domestic violence restraining order if another person is abusing your child.

But what can a domestic violence restraining order do?

The order may tell the abuse to avoid certain behaviors, like:

  • Contacting you and your children,
  • Going to your home, work, and schools,
  • Owning a gun,
  • Approaching your pets.

What may be surprising is that a restraining order can order the abuser to move out of the home, pay child and spousal support, and pay some other bills. The subject of the restraining order may also be told not to change insurance policies, phone plans, or do anything to affect your property. Finally, the restrained person is often told to complete a 52-week batterer intervention program.

Learn More About Domestic Violence Restraining Orders

If you or someone you love are in immediate danger, call 911, a local domestic violence shelter, or the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

Please call us at (415) 293-8314 to schedule a confidential appointment with one of our attorneys. Ms. Burger is a California Certified Family Law Specialist and founder of the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger. We assist clients in California’s Northern to Central Coast, including San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Gold River, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, and surrounding communities.

How and When to Get an Ex Parte Order

How and When to Get an Ex Parte Order

After you file your divorce petition, it may take months to iron out all the details. In some cases, though, the person filing for divorce faces serious issues that cannot wait that long. For example, Sandy’s husband had a violent temper that caused him to lash out at their home and at her. Ben knew he was safe from his wife, Lori, but feared for their children. Finally, Maria’s husband hid their car from her, although she needed it to get to work. Fortunately, courts may provide emergency assistance for situations like these through ex parte orders.

How to Get an Ex Parte Order

The simple answer is that you file a motion with the court asking for the relief that you need as soon as possible. However, each county in California may have its own rules and procedures for obtaining an ex parte order. Failing to follow the rules may cause your motion to be denied. You may file a Temporary Emergency Orders (Ex Parte) (Form FL-305) to request certain temporary emergency court orders. While this form may be used throughout the state, you will need to check the rules for the county in which you file for additional information. Hearings often are heard within 24 hours of filing the request for an ex parte order, at which time a judge will hand down a ruling on your request for Temporary Emergency Orders.

When an Ex Parte Order Is Appropriate

Sometimes the filing spouse may need to get an issue before a judge as quickly as possible because an emergency exists. In fact, the filing party may request an ex parte action for one or more of the following reasons:
  • The spouse who filed the divorce case may be in danger.
  • A child involved in the divorce case may be in danger.
  • The filing party needs temporary use of a marital asset.
  • The filing spouse feels that his or her property might be destroyed or damaged by the responding spouse.
Talk to an attorney immediately if you feel an issue related to your divorce is an emergency.

It’s Complicated.

The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger are experienced at all phases of divorce proceedings, including ex parte orders. Judy Burger is a California Certified Family Law Specialist, and founder of the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger. Please call our offices at 415-293-8314 to set up an appointment with one of our attorneys. We assist clients along the Northern to Central California Coast.
Recognizing the Signs of an Abusive Spouse

Recognizing the Signs of an Abusive Spouse

We often have trouble recognizing the signs of an abusive spouse. Some people tolerate mild behavior from a spouse without realizing it has worsened over the years. Others accept threatening behavior because they are afraid or feel they have no place to go. Maybe you feel you are in a bad relationship but don’t feel it has risen to the level of abuse. Let’s look at some of the signs that may open your eyes.

Some Signs of Abuse Are Obvious

Physical violence may be the biggest red flag. If you have experienced any of the following from your spouse, you have been abused:
  • Hair pulling, slapping, biting, kicking, scratching, and choking;
  • Putting you in dangerous situations;
  • Forcing you to use drugs or alcohol;
  • Using weapons or other devices to hurt you; and
  • Forcing you to perform sexual acts.
Actions related to physical violence also signal trouble. For example, your spouse or partner may be abusive if he or she prevents you from calling for help, getting medical attention, sleeping, eating, or calling the police.

More Subtle Actions May Be Abusive, Too

Some signs of an abusive spouse may not be so obvious. However, the following behaviors may be considered mistreatment:
  • Insulting remarks;
  • Undermining your self-confidence;
  • Demanding that you change your appearance or get plastic surgery;
  • Isolating you from your family and friends;
  • Destroying your personal property;
  • Ignoring your wishes and boundaries;
  • Harassing you with phone calls, emails, and texts;
  • Monitoring your every move;
  • Showing no compassion or empathy.
Remember that abuse doesn’t have to be physical and that either spouse or partner can be abusive.

What Can You Do if You Recognize the Signs of an Abusive Spouse?

Your course of action may depend on the level of abuse you face. If your spouse will not address abusive behavior, it may be time to consider divorce or at least a domestic violence restraining order. However, leave or call for help if you feel unsafe for any reason. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger are experienced at all phases of divorce proceedings. Call us at 415-293-8314 to schedule a private appointment or visit our website. We maintain offices in San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Marin County, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, San Jose, Gold River (Sacramento), and surrounding communities.
Domestic Violence and Your Divorce

Domestic Violence and Your Divorce

Are you the victim of domestic violence? Have you ever – or do you now – have reason to fear your spouse? If so, you are not alone. In fact, there are more than 100,000 domestic violence-related calls to law enforcement every year. In this blog, we will touch on some of the issues where domestic violence and your divorce intersect.

Acts of Domestic Violence

When we think of this, we often think of physical damage one spouse inflicts on another. However, the law defines domestic abuse as:

  • Physically hurting or trying to hurt someone, intentionally or recklessly;
  • Sexual assault;
  • Making someone reasonably afraid that they or someone else are about to be seriously hurt; OR
  • Harassing, stalking, threatening, or hitting someone; disturbing someone’s peace; or destroying someone’s personal property.

Domestic violence in a marriage also affects the dissolution of that marriage.

Domestic Violence Affects Child Custody Arrangements

When children are involved, the focus in a California divorce is on doing what is in the best interests of the children.

Judges always take domestic violence into account when deciding child custody arrangements. The safety of the child and other family members is critical. Courts will review evidence that backs up domestic violence accusations.

If allegations of domestic violence arise in a divorce matter, the court will assume that the abusing parent should not have custody. This is called a “rebuttable presumption” because the accused party can present evidence overcoming the assumption they are not qualified to care for the children.

Visitation may also come into play when domestic violence is an issue. Protective orders and restraining orders may be necessary. In some cases, the court may allow only supervised visitation to ensure the children’s safety.

Domestic Violence May Affect Your Spousal Support and Property Division

This issue is a little more of a gray area. The problem is that either party could have committed the acts of domestic violence. Sometimes both parties have crossed that line.

The court examines allegations of domestic violence. Criminal convictions of domestic violence set up a rebuttal presumption situation. Generally, unless proven otherwise, the injured spouse is not required to pay spousal support to the convicted spouse. The convicted spouse has the opportunity to successfully rebut the conviction and change the judge’s mind.

However, allegations and convictions of domestic violence are taken seriously by the courts. They may have a profound effect on your divorce – you may become ineligible to receive support if you have committed violent acts.

In addition, the courts may give up to 100% of the community property interests in retirement and pension benefits to an injured spouse. Here again, the court will consider other factors before making a decision.

Final Thoughts

Domestic violence has a huge impact on a couple’s relationship. It’s only natural that it would also affect their divorce.

To discuss how to handle domestic violence and your divorce, please call us at 415-293-8314. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger assist clients in San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Marin County, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, San Jose, Gold River (Sacramento), and surrounding communities.

If you or your children are in danger, call 911. You may also find local domestic violence organizations here or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).

Dealing with Harassment During Divorce

Dealing with Harassment During Divorce

Harassment can take many forms. During an emotional time, such as a divorce, power struggles and frustration can lead to disturbing behavior from your spouse. Though it may seem like just one more hurdle to overcome, there are ways of dealing with harassment during your divorce.

What Behavior Rises to the Level of Harassment?

California Code of Civil Procedure 527.6 defines harassment as “unlawful violence, a credible threat of violence, or a knowing and willful course of conduct directed at a specific person that seriously alarms, annoys, or harasses the person …”

That may sound vague, but the Code also defines “course of conduct” by listing the following behaviors:

  • Following or stalking an individual
  • Making harassing telephone calls to an individual
  • Sending harassing correspondence to an individual by any means, including, but not limited to, the use of public or private mails, interoffice mail, facsimile, or email.

If someone is threatening you, make sure you are in a safe place. Then, seek court intervention.

What Kind of Order Might Help?

A restraining order is often used to curb such harassing behavior. There are four types of restraining orders:

  1. Domestic violence;
  2. Civil harassment;
  3. Elder abuse; and
  4. Workplace violence.

Also, protective orders may be temporary (usually for 20-25 days), permanent (lasting for up to 5 years), or criminal (if the harasser is charged with a crime, for 3 years after the case is over).

When harassment is done by a spouse, ex-spouse, registered domestic partner, someone you formerly dated or lived with as more than roommates, or a close relative, you may ask for a domestic violence restraining order.

However, when harassment does not meet the criteria for domestic violence, a civil harassment restraining order can be used to stop the abuse.

What Can a Restraining Order Do?

First, it’s important to understand the people involved in the restraining order, also called a protective order. The person asking for the order is the “protected person.” Often, other people are included as protected persons, including family members or others living with a protected person. The person who is accused of harassment is the “restrained person.”

A protective order may seek to stop specific behaviors, like stalking, hitting, or destroying personal property. In addition, some orders require the restrained person to stay a certain distance away from the protected persons. For example, a spouse may be told to stop emailing their spouse during a divorce and to stay at least 100 yards away from the children’s school.

When a restrained person violates a protective order, consequences include paying a fine, going to jail, or both.

Take Care of You.

If you are being harassed, abused, or threatened, help is available:

  • Ask trusted friends and family members to help.
  • Contact your local domestic violence shelter.
  • Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-7233).
  • Call 911 if you or a loved one is in immediate danger.

You Don’t Have to Do This Alone.

Divorces are hard on everyone involved. We’re here to help. Please call us at (415) 293-8314 to schedule a confidential appointment with one of our attorneys.

Ms. Burger is a California Certified Family Law Specialist and founder of the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger. We assist clients in California’s Northern to Central Cost, including San Francisco, Gold River, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, and surrounding communities.

How Do Domestic Violence Restraining Orders Work in California?

How Do Domestic Violence Restraining Orders Work in California?

A domestic violence restraining order is a civil order entered by the court directing an abuser to stop harassing or abusing the victim. The type of abuse that may be the basis for the entry of a restraining order includes the following:

  • causing or attempting to cause the victim physical injury;
  • making the victim fear he or she or another person is in immediate danger of being harmed;
  • threatening or harassing the victim, in person or through other means;
  • stalking the victim;
  • destroying the victim’s personal property; or
  • disturbing the peace of the victim.

For the court to enter a domestic violence restraining order, the abuser must be related to the victim in one of the following ways:

  • a spouse or former spouse;
  • a person the victim is dating or has dated;
  • a lover;
  • the other parent of your child;
  • anyone closely related to the victim by blood, marriage, or adoption; or
  • a person who regularly lives in the victim’s home.

A domestic violence restraining order may provide protection for the victim’s children as well as the victim. Such a restraining order can also include other orders besides a command to stop the abuse. For example, a domestic violence restraining order may include an order regarding spousal support, custody, child support, or parenting time; granting the victim possession of a pet; removing the abuser from a home shared with the victim; or prohibiting the abuser from possessing a firearm.

A victim seeking a domestic violence restraining order must file an application with the court. The application includes a Domestic Violence Date of Birth Verification (Form FL/E-LP-640), a Notice of Court Hearing (Form DV 109), a Request for Domestic Violence Restraining Order (Form DV-100 and FL/E-LP-613), a Description of Abuse (Form DV-101), and a Temporary Restraining Order (DV-110). Additional forms must be filed if the victim is also seeking an order regarding spousal support, child support, child custody, or visitation.

If the victim is in immediate danger, the court may issue a temporary restraining order after processing the application but before holding a hearing. Regardless, the court will set a hearing, and the victim must have the abuser served with the Notice of Hearing. Service of the Notice of Hearing is usually done through the sheriff’s department of the county where the abuser lives.

The victim may bring a support person to the restraining order hearing, even if the victim also has an attorney. If evidence at the hearing shows the existence of past or present abuse of the victim by the abuser, then the court will issue a domestic violence restraining order. A domestic violence restraining order can last up to five years but lasts only three years if no termination date is stated. During the last three months of a restraining order, the victim can ask the court to extend the restraining order for another five years or permanently.

If you or a loved one has been or is a victim of abuse, consult an experienced attorney experienced in domestic violence law to help you get a domestic violence restraining order. The Law Offices of Judy L. Burger can help you get the protection you need. Call today to see how we can help you: (415) 293-8314.