Recently in Domestic Violence Category

The voice of Charlie Brown charged with stalking, death threats

Peter Robbins, voice of the beloved Peanuts character Charlie Brown, was arrested on Sunday, January 20th, on charges of making criminal threats and stalking. Robbins was the voice of Charlie Brown in both "A Charlie Brown Christmas" and "It's a Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown" television specials. reported that, while the details of the arrest warrant were not immediately available, the charges related to Robbins stalking his ex-girlfriend and making criminal threats against a plastic surgeon. reported that it all started with a breast enhancement performed on Robbins' former girlfriend, Shawna Kern, by La Jolla plastic surgeon Lori Saltz. Apparently Robbins and Kern were a couple at the time the procedure was performed, but broke up sometime thereafter. After the couple split, Robbins allegedly demanded his money back from Saltz, stalking her and threatening her life if she did not refund the money.

Read more about domestic violence and how an attorney can help

Robbins, a resident of Oceanside, California was arrested while re-entering the United States at the San Ysidro Port of Entry between San Diego and Tijuana, Mexico. According to ABC News, he is being held on $550,000 bail, and a preliminary hearing is set for March 22, 2013. further reports that, if convicted, Robbins faces up to 9 years in prison.

According to, Saltz filed a restraining order against Robbins. It is unknown whether Kern has similarly filed a restraining order against Robbins.

We have previously blogged about how the "girlfriend, boyfriend" relationship qualifies a restraining order to be filed in Family Court. We have also previously blogged about the basics of family law restraining orders. A unique fact of this story is the mention of violence by Robbins against the dog he shared with Kern. reports: "[t]he prosecutor said Robbins also admitted to attacking Kern and their dog."

In cases such as these, Family Code section 6320 authorizes the Court to include a pet on a restraining order in California. The California family code section provides protections for the party, and at the discretion of the court, the code also provides protections to other family members, household members, and even pets on the authority of good cause.

Do pets really need this type of protection? It would appear they do. While California did not initially extend this type of protection to pets, the extension accounts for the fact that over 60% of American households have pets and a majority of women who are in shelters report that their batterer also abused the pets in the household.

This is according to Jennifer Scarlett, DVM and co-president of the San Francisco SPCA as reported by In fact, according to Scarlett, 25% to 40% of women say that they stay in abusive relationships because they are afraid to leave their pet in the household. California is not the only state to extend this protection to pets. Twenty-two states plus the District of Colombia and Puerto Rico have similar legislation.

Don't settle for less when determining your rights. The divorce attorneys at The Law Offices of Nancy J. Bickford, APC are well versed in Family Law in San Diego, with the firm headed by Nancy J. Bickford, Esq.. Ms. Bickford is a Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS), as well as an actively licensed Certified Public Accountant (CPA), making her the only attorney representing clients in divorce in San Diego with these distinctions. Call today for more information about the consultation process. (858) 793-8884

Ariel Winter's Emotional Abuse

November 27, 2012

Domestic violence and child abuse are not limited to physical violence, but also include emotional abuse. Modern Family actress, Ariel Winter, has recently been named a victim in an emotional abuse scandal with her mother, Chrisoula Workman. Although Ariel's claims of physical violence were unsubstantiated by the Department of Children and Family Services ("DCFS"), DCFS did find evidence of emotional abuse. As a result of the DCFS findings, on November 20th, a judge ordered Ariel to remain in the custody of her adult sister, Shanelle Gray.

The DCFS report also contained recommendations for the 14-year-old Ariel's future care. According to DCFS, it is in Ariel's best interest for Ms. Gray to be awarded permanent guardianship. Workman's attorney, Anita Gumm, vehemently opposed the idea that Gray be awarded temporary or permanent guardianship of Ariel. Gumm argued that 34-year-old Gray is too young to act as guardian despite being old enough to have a family of her own. Due to Ariel's well-known role on the popular television show, Modern Family, Gumm also suggested that Gray was seeking guardianship over her for individual gain. Apparently the judge disagreed with Gumm's representation of Gray's motives since he awarded her temporary guardianship. A hearing on permanent guardianship has not been set.

In a case such as the Ariel Winter's case, the adult who becomes the guardian of an abused child does not necessarily need to be a family member. Any family member, friend, or other adult who knows the child may ask the court to become his or her guardian. Because Gray is Ariel's sister, the two girls likely share a close relationship that will make Ariel's transition away from her mother much easier.

As Ariel's guardian, Gray now has a number of important responsibilities. Guardians are responsible for the health care and education of the minor child. This means that, as guardian, Gray has the ability to make medical decisions for Ariel. Additionally, Gray may choose where Ariel attends school. This may be a complicated decision considering that Ariel is an actress on a hit television show. Although guardians have the right to make decisions for the minor child, the child's parents still remain responsible for financially supporting that child. If the guardian wishes to further sever ties between the child and his or her parents, the guardian may choose to provide financial support without help from the parents.

Please contact us if you are considering a divorce from your spouse, a legal separation, or have questions regarding child custody and visitation. Nancy J. Bickford is the only lawyer in San Diego County representing clients in divorces, who is a Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) and who is actively licensed as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Don't settle for less when determining your rights. Call 858-793-8884 in Del Mar, Carmel Valley, North County or San Diego.

Domestic Violence and Spousal Support in San Diego

October 25, 2012

440262_arguing.jpgIn San Diego, domestic violence can have a tremendous impact in divorce proceedings, especially in cases involving spousal support. As we have previously blogged, spousal support can be classified as "temporary" or "permanent." Two different standards are used to determine support based on its duration. Temporary support is usually determined using the guideline spousal support formula and permanent support takes into consideration the Family Code section 4320 factors. The role domestic violence plays in an award of spousal support is dependent on the type of support.

Temporary Spousal Support: In an award of temporary spousal support, the Family Code section 4320 factors are normally not controlling. However, there is one statutory exception to this rule. The trial court must consider 4320(i) in setting temporary spousal support. Section 4320(i) states that the court must consider, "documented evidence of any history of domestic violence, as defined in Section 6211, between the parties, including, but not limited to, consideration of emotional distress resulting from domestic violence perpetrated against the supported party by the supporting party, and consideration of any history of violence against the supporting party by the supported party." Despite this clear exception, the code is ambiguous as to the terms "domestic violence" and "documented evidence." Due to public policy concerns against requiring a victim of violence to provide financial support to his or her abuser, the court will consider violence amongst the parties even when making a temporary order.

Permanent Spousal Support: Like in a temporary spousal support situation, the Court must consider the 4320 factors in deciding the issue of permanent spousal support. Also like in a temporary spousal support situation, the court must consider any documented evidence of a history of domestic violence.

Documented Evidence of a Conviction of Domestic Violence: Family Code section 4325 provides, "In any proceeding for dissolution of marriage where there is a criminal conviction for an act of domestic violence perpetrated by one spouse against the other spouse entered by the court within five years prior to the filing of the dissolution proceeding, or at any time thereafter, there shall be a rebuttable presumption affecting the burden of proof that any award of temporary or permanent spousal support to the abusive spouse otherwise awardable pursuant to the standards of this part should not be made." Although section 4320 permits the court to consider "any documented evidence of a history of domestic violence" and does not require a criminal conviction, section 4320 only permits the court to consider the evidence. Section 4325 has a much more powerful effect because it creates a presumption that an award of spousal support should not be made to an abusive spouse. One policy motivation behind this distinction is the hope that more victims of domestic violence will pursue criminal convictions against their abusers.

Please contact us if you are considering a divorce from your spouse, a legal separation, or have questions regarding child custody and visitation. Nancy J. Bickford is the only attorney in San Diego County representing clients in divorces, who is a Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) and who is actively licensed as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Don't settle for less when determining your rights. Call 858-793-8884 in Del Mar, Carmel Valley, North County or San Diego.

Child Protective Services Visits Honey Boo Boo

October 4, 2012

Child protective services ("CPS") recently visited the seven-year-old star of TLC's Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, Alana Thompson. The controversial show depicts the life of a young child on the pageant circle. However, despite the glamorous style of a pageant princess, Alana's family is always cutting corners to make ends meet. While many viewers criticize the show as "offensive" and "exploitative," it managed to garner 2.2 million viewers. The show caught the attention of CPS with "go go juice." Go go juice is a concoction created by Alana's mother, June. It consists of Mountain Dew, and Red Bull. While under the "influence" of go go juice, YouTube videos surfaced of Alana dancing on a table at a bar for dollar bills.

June defended her daughter's behavior by saying "at least it [the bar] wasn't one of those sleazy ones." The child abuse charges were eventually dropped after the court appointed June an attorney. Although it is not unusual for children in the rural part of Georgia, where the Thompson family lives, to consume road kill or eat junk food exclusively, CPS was concerned about Alana dancing on a bar table for money. Neighbors scrutinized the Thompson lifestyle long before Here Comes Honey Boo Boo aired; however, the visit from CPS really raised eyebrows in the neighborhood.

Fortunately, in Alana's case, the court found no reason to continue investigating the Thompson family. Under California Family Code section 3020, "the legislature finds and declares that it is the public policy of this state to assure that the health, safety, and welfare of children shall be the court's primary concern when making any orders regarding the physical or legal custody or visitation of children." The overriding concern of the family court system is the best interest of the child and any domestic violence in a household where a child resides or child abuse is detrimental to a child. Under California Family Code section 3027, the court has the ability to take temporary steps to protect children while further investigation is conducted. Not only does the court have the ability to issue restraining orders but also it may request that the local child welfare services agency conduct an investigation.

Judges are not the only people who can engage child welfare services to investigate the welfare of a child. In San Diego, any person can call the child abuse hotline and provide a referral to a Hotline social worker who will do an immediate assessment of the referral. If this social worker determines that a child is at risk, a social worker is assigned to investigate the situation. In particularly dangerous cases, the social worker and/or enforcement officer may visit the home within a few hours of receiving the referral.

Please contact us if you are considering a divorce from your spouse, a legal separation, or have questions regarding child custody and visitation. Nancy J. Bickford is the only attorney in San Diego County representing clients in divorces, who is a Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) and who is actively licensed as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Don't settle for less when determining your rights. Call 858-793-8884 in Del Mar, Carmel Valley, North County or San Diego.

Dallas Cowboys Rally for Teammate Accused of Domestic Violence

August 21, 2012

This July, Dallas Cowboy wide receiver Dez Bryant was arrested in Texas as the result of an incidence of violence that occurred between Bryant and his mother. According to the police report, Bryant slapped his mother with a baseball cap on her face and pulled her hair. It seems as if this athlete is not receiving any special treatment. He is facing up to a year in jail and discipline by the National Football League (NFL) under the personal-conduct policy. Texas may also impose a $4,000 fine, although that is not likely to deter a successful professional football player.

Although Bryant's mother, Angela Bryant, initially called the police on her son, she is now requesting that charges against him be dropped. In a criminal case such a request does not automatically mean that the case will be dropped. However, it may be more difficult for the prosecution to obtain a conviction without the assistance of the victim. In San Diego, the Office of the City Attorney of San Diego has the authority to decide whether to prosecute a case of domestic violence, not the victim. This is likely due to recognition of the cycle of domestic violence. Victims often return to their abusers for various reasons including fear, the safety of others, and out of love. Thus, if victims decided whether or not to prosecute cases of violence against them, fewer violent perpetrators would be put behind bars.

The details of the altercation between Bryant and his mother are still debated. However, Bryant has received the support of his teammates. Fellow Dallas Cowboy Tony Romo has stated, "the one thing I know is that Dez knows I have his back" and "Dez knows I'll be there for him. Dez knows that I'm going to stick up for him." If Bryant does receive jail time, he will be putting his teammates in a tough situation. Bryant is a valuable player and will be unable to fulfill his obligations to the NFL if placed in jail. Romo also mentioned that Bryant had a difficult life and upbringing possibly hinting that a self-defense claim may be brought.

Under Texas laws, Bryant was charged with "family violence." In California, he would likely be facing charges of domestic violence. Domestic violence is not only recognized in romantic relationships but also in various other situations. Under the California Family Code section 6211, domestic violence is abuse perpetrated against any of the following persons: (a) a spouse or former spouse, (b) a cohabitant or former cohabitant, (c) a person with whom the alleged abuser is or has dated or been engaged to, (d) a person with whom the alleged abuser has had a child, (e) a child of a party or a child, and (f) any other person related by consanguinity or affinity within the second degree. Thus, in the case of Dez Bryant and his mother, due to the close familial relationship, he would likely be charged under domestic violence statutes in California.

Any situation involving domestic violence is dangerous. Please contact us if you have questions regarding the effects of domestic violence on child custody or divorce. Nancy J. Bickford is the only attorney in San Diego County representing clients in divorces, who is a Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) and who is actively licensed as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Don't settle for less when determining your rights. Call 858-793-8884 in Del Mar, Carmel Valley, North County or San Diego.

Elder Abuse Charges Against Mel Gibson

August 3, 2012

Elder abuse is a crime that often goes unnoticed and unreported in Del Mar and throughout San Diego County. However, thanks to local organizations such as the H.O.P.E. team and the San Diego Family Justice Center, elderly victims of abuse have community resources to turn to for help. In recent news, infamous actor and director, Mel Gibson, has been accused of elder abuse. The alleged victim is Teddy Joye Hicks Gibson, Gibson's stepmother. Seventy-eight year old Teddy claims that Gibson spat in her face and threatened her. As a result of the incident, she is seeking a restraining order against Gibson.

In addition to the physical attacks and threats, Teddy alleges that Gibson has waged an emotional and psychological assault on her. She asserted that Gibson has contributed to the final breakdown of her marriage to Gibson's father and that he is trying to force her out of her home. The home is currently owned by a charity over which Gibson has significant control. Gibson's ninety-three year old father recently filed for divorce but Teddy says this is a product of Gibson's interference. She bases this claim on a love note recently given to her by Gibson's father, evidencing the intent to remain married. The judge declined to issue a temporary restraining order in favor of Teddy. Alternatively, the judge decided to set a date for a full hearing on the matter.

Elder abuse can appear in many forms just like domestic violence. The definition of domestic violence includes all forms of abuse such as physical abuse, mental/emotional abuse, and financial abuse. Common forms of elder abuse include physical and financial abuse. Because the elderly are in a vulnerable position both physically and financially, they are often the targets of such abuse. Additionally, those paid to care for elderly patients may continue to collect their pay yet neglect the needs of the patient. This type of abuse forces elderly patients to live in inhumane, unsafe, and filthy environments. Although incidents of elder abuse are drastically underreported, the number of reports has risen in San Diego County. According to the office of the District Attorney the elder abuse hotline receives 10,000 calls per year. Of these calls, approximately forty percent involve claims of financial elder abuse.

Ninety-five percent of incidents of elder abuse occur in the home. The groups of these in-home offenders include the most trusted individuals in an elderly person's life. For example, the largest group of abusers are related to the victim. The second largest group is comprised of caretakers, neighbors, and friends. The remaining five percent of incidents occur in nursing homes. The offenders in these cases most often include trusted financial planners.

Any situation involving domestic violence is dangerous. Please contact us if you have questions regarding the effects of domestic violence on child custody or divorce. Nancy J. Bickford is the only attorney in San Diego County representing clients in divorces, who is a Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) and who is actively licensed as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Don't settle for less when determining your rights. Call 858-793-8884 in Del Mar, Carmel Valley, North County or San Diego.

Temporary Restraining Orders - More Than Just Paper?

June 5, 2012

Twenty-two year old Sophia Ortiz obtained a temporary restraining order issued to protect her from the father of her children Julio Martinez. The couple's two young children are only ages one and two. After the restraining order was issued, Martinez blatantly disobeyed it by appearing at Ortiz's apartment twice. Each time Ortiz called the local police and by the time they arrived Martinez had fled the scene. The police continued to search for Martinez while he made his way back to the apartment and succeeded in breaking in.


According to authorities, upon entry into the apartment, Martinez brutally murdered Ortiz in the presence of his two children. When the police arrived back at the apartment, they discovered Ortiz in the bedroom with a carving knife still in her back; she died during surgery early the next day. The children were physically unharmed and Martinez was apprehended. He is currently being held on one million dollars bail.

Many are outraged by the lack of protection provided to Ortiz by the judicial process, especially the temporary restraining order (TRO). Unfortunately approximately 11% homicides committed throughout the United States between 1979 and 2002 were attributable to domestic violence. Considering this statistic, it is estimated that 3,300 children lose a parent every year to domestic violence related homicides in the United States. However, it is important to note that the TRO was never served on Martinez. Any relationship involving domestic violence can be dangerous for both parties at all times, particularly when the victim attempts to end the relationship and leave his or her abuser. A TRO can provide the victim with the power to have his or her abuser arrested if they violate the stipulations of the order.

In San Diego, an estimated one out of every four children, like Ortiz's children, is directly exposed to domestic violence either has a victim or a witness. Regardless of whether a child is physically abused, domestic violence will have an enormous impact in many other areas of his or her life. According to the American Psychiatric Association, children merely exposed to domestic violence are at risk for a variety of developmental problems, difficulty in school, aggressive behavior problems, psychiatric disorders, and low self-confidence. In addition to behavioral, developmental, and social consequences to children, children who witness domestic violence may have a resulting impaired educational attainment.

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Domestic Violence in the Spotlight

May 17, 2012

The overnight hit television show Glee has become extremely popular with its teenage audience. The show follows a group of fictional high school students as journey through their teenage years. One of the show's attractions is its many singing and dancing numbers performed by the students for their glee class. Glee's most recent episode entitled "Choke" featured a more serious topic, domestic violence. Harsh criticism has followed the show's depiction of this important cause, one critic stated "Choke is a morally reprehensible hour of television, one from which the show many never fully recover." The most common complaint from viewers and supporters of the fight against domestic violence is that the show gave the topic an "insultingly short shrift".

Glee attempted to shed some light on various misconceptions about domestic violence. The victim in this episode is the loveable "Coach Beiste". Beiste is a large and masculine woman who always had trouble finding a date because of her macho nature. She is the coach of the boy's football team for the high school and is often seen lifting weights and screaming at the players. Recently Beiste married Cooter Menkins, a well-liked football recruiter. Regardless of size, shape, appearance or gender any person can be victimized by domestic violence. In fact, because so many instances of domestic violence go unreported, it is difficult to get a clear understanding of what is exactly going on behind closed doors. Throughout the United States only one out of every four incidences of domestic violence get reported.

The episode portrayed one incident in which, out of an alcoholic rage, Cooter punched Coach Beiste and gave her a black eye. Alcoholism, drug abuse and addiction in general are often researched in connection with domestic violence. Although researchers debate the actual percentage of domestic violence incidents, which are fueled by substance abuse, generally many batterers admit they consumed alcohol or abused illegal drugs on the day of the incident.

Like many victims who do not want to disclose incidents of violence, Coach Beiste told her coworkers and students that she got her black eye in the gym from a punching bag. Victims hide their injuries for a number of reasons including, but not limited to fear of the abuser, judgment from friends and family, in efforts to protect their abuser, out of a belief that police and other agencies cannot help them. San Diego offers many resources throughout the community that specialize in helping victims of domestic violence. The San Diego Family Justice Center is a one-stop-shop for all victims regardless of whether they are ready to leave their abuser.

The key to understanding the crime of domestic violence is recognizing that it is a deliberate pattern of abuse that results in a cycle. Throughout the cycle, the couple rotates through many stages and these stages can appear in any order and possibly occur all in one day. Generally in the cycle there is a tension-building stage where the abuser is becoming angry and the victim may feel as if he or she is walking on eggshells in the relationship. Next an incidence of violence including emotional, physical or sexual violence can occur as a result of the mounting tension. Following the violent incident the abuser is likely to apologize and promise it will never happen again or blame the victim for the incident. The next stage typically is called the honeymoon stage or the "making-up" stage where the abuser fulfills most of his or her promises and the victim might believe he or she has changed. The last seen of Glee's Choke episode depicts Beiste returning to her husband after she vowed to leave him. This is not uncommon and a predictable part of the cycle.

Any situation involving domestic violence is dangerous. Please contact us if you have questions regarding the effects of domestic violence on child custody or divorce. Nancy J. Bickford is the only attorney in San Diego County representing clients in divorces, who is a Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) and who is actively licensed as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Don't settle for less when determining your rights. Call 858-793-8884 in Del Mar, Carmel Valley, North County or San Diego.

Domestic Violence at the Mexican-American Border

April 27, 2012

One key aspect of a domestic violence relationship is the cycle of power and control. San Diego community service programs such as the San Diego Family Justice Center recognize this cycle of abuse and help victims break through the destructive pattern. One method of control often utilized particularly by domestic violence abusers in San Diego is immigration status. San Diego's location so close to the Mexican-American border is an ideal place for many Mexican immigrants. Further, some immigrants are native Spanish speakers and are unable or struggle to understand and/or speak English. Many abusers exploit this language barrier as a tool to maintain control over their partners. Because immigrants fear deportation and are uninformed regarding various United States' laws and regulations in place to protect them, they feel trapped and continue to remain in abusive relationships.


Domestic violence abusers use one or a variety of methods to use immigration status as a tool to manipulate and control their victims. First, the batterer may promise to file papers to legalize the immigration status of his or her victim. Once the victim believes he or she may have a chance to become a legal citizen, the batterer may fail to file, withdraw or threaten to withdraw the necessary paperwork. The victim's immigration status becomes a weapon used against him or her. Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in order to help domestic violence victims through this form of abuse by providing them with a method of gaining citizenship independent of their abuser. Although the act is entitled the Violence Against Women Act, men may also apply for relief under VAWA provided they satisfy the eligibility requirements. Under the act, a victim may apply for permanent-resident status and neutralize the fear of deportation.

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Texting Can have a BIG Impact on your Divorce Case

We have blogged several times about the potential problems that Facebook and other social media sites can have on a divorce. The same potential for problems also applies to the text messages you send. Although it is sometimes difficult to get text messages into evidence (meaning properly in front of a judge), once the text message is in evidence, it could change the outcome of your case!


Unlike Facebook and other social media posts, text messages cannot be deleted or recalled. Any text that you send to your spouse, or even to a third party, can end up being used against you in a divorce. With phones now having up to 64 gigabytes of storage, or more, texts from many years ago could end up being presented as evidence to the judge in your divorce case.

• If you threaten to harm your spouse in a text, that may be the basis for a restraining order, or even criminal prosecution.

• If you call your spouse names in texts, the judge could end up with an unfavorable opinion of you.

• If you say one thing in your declaration (such as, "I do not use drugs") and text something contrary to your spouse or a third party (such as, "I can't believe how stoned I was at the party"), you will ruin your credibility with the judge.

In a recent story on NPR, Ken Altshuler, president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, provided the following tips for keeping your texts out of court, upon which I elaborate:

• Do not text your spouse anything that you would not want a judge to see. This also applies to Facebook and other social media posts, messages or comments, emails, and even voice mail messages. It is always best to assume that any text, anything you write or any voice message you leave for your spouse will end up in front of your judge. Some examples of what not to post, blog or text about can be found here.

• If your spouse or former spouse sends you an inappropriate text, do not respond in kind because a judge will see that. The judge usually does not care who started an inappropriate exchange because the exchange is usually just a small part of the bigger picture. In one of my cases after reviewing hateful emails back and forth between the parties, the judge (slightly misquoting Mercutio's famous line from Shakespeare's Romeo and Julie), said "A pox on both your houses." When the other party blurted out, "She started it!" the judge replied, "Sir, two wrongs do not make a right - and your emails back to here were totally inappropriate, no matter who started it."

• Do not send messages that set your spouse up for an inappropriate or angry response. On the other hand, some Judges will look into who started it. You do not want your judge to find that you were the party that started it, or someone who is baiting the other side. This could ruin your credibility with the judge for the rest of your case.

• If you are worked up and want to send your spouse a message, take time to calm down before putting anything in writing. Again, if it is in writing, you must assume that your judge will eventually read it. If you are unsure about a written response to your spouse, send it to your attorney for review before sending it to your spouse.

Always remember, do not text anything to anyone that you would want the family law judge in your case to see or read.

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How Does Domestic Violence Impact Custody Cases in San Diego?

In San Diego County an estimated one out of four children is exposed to domestic violence either as a victim or a witness. According to the San Diego Domestic Violence Council over 500 women and children need to stay in a shelter each day. In a relationship that involves a history of domestic violence, if a partner decides to leave, he or she will have many questions about how that history can impact a child custody case.

Understanding what constitutes domestic violence can be complex. Under California Family Code section 6211, domestic violence is defined as abuse perpetrated against specific categories of family members. Mental health professionals agree that domestic violence is a pattern of behavior characterized by an abusers attempt to control his or her victim through the use of a variety of techniques.

In a case that does not involve domestic violence, the court decides the outcome of a custody case based on the best interest of the child. The court considers a variety of factors such as:

1. The health safety, and welfare of the child
2. Any history of abuse by one parent
3. The nature and amount of contact with both parents
4. Habitual or continual illegal drug or alcohol abuse by either parent

There is a prevalent belief in society that when a couple separates, it is in the best interest of the child to have the most extensive relationship possible with both parents. This assumption is true in a typical separation. However, a separation involving domestic violence is not a typical separation. Family Court judges have many options to consider when deciding which parent, or combination of parents, will make decisions on behalf of a child and take care of that child. If a parent has sole legal custody, he or she has the exclusive right and responsibility to make decisions for the child regarding his or her health, education and welfare. If a parent has sole physical custody, the child will live with that parent subject to the visitation rights of the other. Any joint custody arrangement involves the sharing of these rights and responsibilities.

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Do I qualify for a Domestic Violence Restraining Order in San Diego County?

More than 5,000 phone calls of domestic violence are reported to the domestic violence hotline in San Diego County per year. It is a serious problem that has life threatening consequences. It is estimated that there are thousands of domestic violence incidents that go unreported in San Diego alone. There are many different forms of domestic violence that go unreported because victims don't realize they qualify for a domestic violence restraining order.

A restraining order is an order made by the Family Court to protect victims, children and families from abuse (physical, emotional, verbal, sexual), threats of abuse, stalking and harassment. The abuse can be spoken, written or physical. In order to qualify for a domestic violence restraining order you must have a "relationship" with the abuser. You qualify if you are married, divorced, separated, registered domestic partners, have children together, are dating or used to date, living together or used to live together with the abuser.

You may qualify if you have experienced any of the following types of abuse:

* Emotional - verbal abuse, isolation from friends and family, humiliation
* Psychological - threats, stalking, intimidation by fear or force, harassment
* Economic - not allowing you to have transportation, work, credit or insurance
* Legal threats - false accusations, deportation, reporting crime or calling police
* Physical - scratching, hitting, kicking, pushing, choking, spiting, use of weapons
* Sexual - coerced sex, physical force, threats, making you watch pornography

The first step is filing for a temporary restraining order which usually takes less than 24 hours to get from the Judge. If a temporary restraining order is granted, you and your family will be protected until the hearing for a permanent restraining order which is usually set for three weeks from when the temporary order was issued. Things you may ask for in the temporary restraining order include: child custody, child support, spousal support, for the abuser to move out of your home and turn over all guns/weapons to the authorities, to have no contact with you or your children, rights to property, right to record future communications, and for the abuser to complete a Batter's Intervention Program.

Once you attend the hearing for a permanent restraining order, the Judge can issue an order that lasts anywhere from 6 months to 5 years. This is the opportunity for you to get out of the situation and start over. ANY contact with you during the time you have a restraining order is a violation of court order and is taken very seriously. If the abuser tries to contact you, you call the police and tell them you have a restraining order and they will take care of it. Phone calls, texts, e-mails, drive-bys, showing up anywhere you are or contacting your family are all violations of the restraining order. Sending you flowers at work or mailing you an apology letter are also violations of the restraining order. An abuser may be arrested for multiple violations.

It is important to get help right away and to record all communications or physical evidence of abuse. One thing to consider is developing a personal safety plan. This way you can be prepared for a dangerous situation if it arises in the future. There are several things you can do to ensure your safety. For example, identify a friend or family member that you can call or stay with should the abuser violate the restraining order. Inform employers, co-workers, neighbors and your children's teachers that you have a restraining order in case the abuser shows up where you are. Also, consider putting together a bag of things you would need in case of an emergency such as money, extra clothes, address book, passport and a copy of the restraining order. Keep it in a safe place where you can easily access it quickly. If possible, consider moving from your residence or changing your locks and phone number to make it harder for the abuser to locate you. Also, make multiple copies of the restraining order, so you have a copy in your car, at your work, and other places you might be.

Please don't hesitate; this could save your life. Contact the Law Offices of Nancy J. Bickford to help you get a fresh start today. Call (858) 793-8884 to make an appointment with a Certified Family Law Specialist.

R&B Singer Rihanna's Restraining Order Against Chris Brown Modified: An Overview of the DVPA

This month's edition of Rolling Stone magazine features a cover story on R&B singer Rihanna, in which she opens up about why she agreed to a modification of her restraining order against ex-boyfriend and fellow R&B singer, Chris Brown. The restraining order stems from an assault that occurred on the then couple's way to the 2009 Grammy Awards.

Discussing her decision, Rihanna explained:

"It doesn't mean we're gonna make up, or even talk again. It just means I didn't want to object to the judge."

She continued:

"We don't have to talk ever again in my life."

"I just didn't want to make it more difficult for him professionally."

"What he did was a personal thing -- it had nothing to do with his career."

"Saying he has to be a hundred feet away from me, he can't perform at awards shows -- that definitely made it difficult for him."

According to US, the original restraining order required that Brown stay 50 yards from Rihanna, unless they were both attending an "industry event", in which case Brown was permitted to be within 10 yards of Rihanna. The modified restraining order now permits Brown to have contact with Rihanna, provided he does not harass, annoy or molest her.

Although in this case the restraining order was issued as part of a criminal case, Rihanna could have pursued a restraining order in family court as well. The Domestic Violence Prevention Act authorizes the family court to issue a restraining order for certain acts of abuse perpetrated against certain individuals with whom the respondent has a domestic relationship. Those relationships include, among others, a spouse, a cohabitant or former cohabitant, and a person with whom the respondent is having or has had a dating or engagement relationship (as was the case with Rihanna and Brown).

Importantly, the remedies provided in the DVPA are not exclusive, meaning that they are in addition to any other civil or criminal remedies that may be available such as a criminal complaint or a civil tort action. Thus, had Rihanna pursued a restraining order in family court, it would not have precluded the filing of the criminal complaint against Brown.