Our San Francisco family law office represents victims of domestic violence as well as people facing accusations of domestic violence. The term “domestic violence” applies not only to physical violence but also to other behavior that can cause someone to feel violated, abused and trapped. Domestic violence can include harassment, stalking and verbal abuse. When the court makes a finding of domestic violence, that finding can have serious implications in all aspects of a relationship. The court can make orders regarding the care and custody of children and the control of financial accounts. It can enter a restraining order against the person who is found to have committed domestic violence and order that they move out of the residence. Social science research has shown that abuse can be a slippery slope, and nonviolent abusive behavior can escalate like wildfire into lethal violence. The California legislature has codified the law such that a person who is alleging domestic violence must prove by that the abuse more likely than not did take place. This is not a high standard of proof and equates to a simple fifty-one percent. This is a far cry from the beyond a reasonable doubt standard that is required in criminal cases.
For victims of domestic violence, it can, perhaps ironically, be terrifying to protect yourself and your children from domestic violence. If you face abuse from an intimate partner, you probably understand that calling out the abuse can change everything in their lives and their children’s lives. You probably know your significant other’s rhythms and patterns, you know the warning signs, you know what is likely to set him or her off so that he or she lashes out. You may have gone through cycles where you felt that you were better off doing nothing or laying low rather than facing the frightening prospect of leaving him or her, into the unknown. If you have children, leaving the abuser does not alone solve your problems. The abuser can accuse you of kidnapping the children, or, if you allow the children to visit with him or her, you know full well that leaving the children could suffer abuse. Perhaps you believe that, at least while you're with the children, you can protect them, even when your experience tells you otherwise.
For all of these reasons and more, victims of domestic violence often have a tough road to climb in leaving the abuse. Doing so requires being willing to seek court orders to protect yourself and your children. It requires a leap into the unknown and faith that the court will believe you and will take necessary actions to protect you and your children. This is very difficult, especially if you've been conditioned by the abuser to believe that you are exaggerating about the abuse or that you are dreaming it.
The first step of getting out of harm’s way is reaching out, even if it’s just to find out what your options are. Our San Francisco family law office can assist you if you are ready to make major changes immediately. We can also counsel and guide you if you want to tread very lightly for a while, as you gear yourself up for those major changes. We will help you understand your options and what a court will likely decide given the facts of your case regarding a restraining order, move out orders, control of bank accounts, control of mobile devices, restrictions on the abuser's possession of firearms, child custody and visitation, and monetary support, among other issues. We will help you and guide you at every step of the way.
Contact San Francisco divorce attorney Liat Sadler for a consultation at 415-362-0220.