AN action under the DVPA (Domestic Violence Protection Act) seeking a restraining order often is necessary to protect parties from abuse or domestic violence perpetrated by the other spouse or significant other. At times, it is effective in preventing harm to one of the parties. At the same time, this process is sometimes abused by family law litigants as a strategy for obtaining an advantage in a child custody case. The basis for this is the presumption against sole or joint custody under California family code section 3044.
California Family Code Section 3044 (a) provides “Upon a finding by the court that a party seeking custody of a child has perpetrated domestic violence against the other party seeking custody of the child or against the child or the child’s siblings within the previous five years, there is a rebuttable presumption that an award of sole or joint physical or legal custody of a child to a person who has perpetrated domestic violence is detrimental to the best interest of the child, pursuant to Section 3011. This presumption may only be rebutted by a preponderance of the evidence.
In determining whether the presumption in family code 3044(a) has been overcome, the court shall consider all of the following factors:(1) Whether the perpetrator of domestic violence has demonstrated that giving sole or joint physical or legal custody of a child to the perpetrator is in the best interest of the child. In determining the best interest of the child, the preference for frequent and continuing contact with both parents, as set forth in subdivision (b) of Section 3020, or with the noncustodial parent, as set forth in paragraph (1) of subdivision (a) of Section 3040, may not be used torebut the presumption, in whole or in part.(2) Whether the perpetrator has successfully completed a batterer’s treatment program that meets the criteria outlined in subdivision (c) of Section 1203.097 of the Penal Code. (3) Whether the perpetrator has successfully completed a program of alcohol or drug abuse counseling if the court determines that counseling is appropriate. (4) Whether the perpetrator has successfully completed a parenting class if the court determines the class to be appropriate. (5) Whether the perpetrator is on probation or parole, and whether he or she has complied with the terms and conditions of probation or parole. (6) Whether the perpetrator is restrained by a protective order or restraining order, and whether he or she has complied with its terms and conditions. (7) Whether the perpetrator of domestic violence has committed any further acts of domestic violence.
A person has “perpetrated domestic violence” when he or she is found by the court to have intentionally or recklessly caused or attempted to cause bodily injury, or sexual assault, or to have placed a person in reasonable apprehension of imminent serious bodily injury to that person or to another, or to have engaged in any behavior involving, but not limited to, threatening, striking, harassing, destroying personal property or disturbing the peace of another, for which a court may issue an ex parte order pursuant to Section 6320 to protect the other party seeking custody of the child or to protect the child and the child’s siblings.The requirement of a finding by the court shall be satisfied by, among other things, and not limited to, evidence that a party seeking custody has been convicted within the previous five years, after a trial or a plea of guilty or no contest, of any crime against the other party that comes within the definition of domestic violence contained in Section 6211 and of abuse contained in Section 6203, including, but not limited to, a crime described in subdivision (e) of Section 243 of, or Section 261,262, 273.5, 422, or 646.9 of, the Penal Code.The requirement of a finding by the court shall also be satisfied if any court, whether that court hears or has heard the child custody proceedings or not, has made a finding pursuant to subdivision (a) based on conduct occurring within the previous five years.
In Christina L v. Chauncey B, 229 Cal. App 4th 731 (2014),the Court of appeal held that because a Domestic Violence restraining order must be based on a finding that the party being restrained committed one or more acts of domestic abuse, a finding of domestic abuse sufficient to support a DVPA restraining order necessarily triggers the rebuttable statutory presumption that an award of sole or joint physical or legal custody of a child to a person who has perpetrated domestic violence is detrimental to the best interest of the child. Cal. Fam. Code §§ 3044. The presumption that an award of sole or joint physical or legal custody of a child to a person who has perpetrated domestic violence is detrimental to the best interest of the child changes the burden of persuasion, but may be overcome by a preponderance of the evidence showing that it is in the child’s best interest to grant joint or sole custody to the offending parent. Cal. Fam. Code § 3044. In that case, the father had a history of perpetrating domestic violence against the mother. Domestic Violence restraining orders has been issued multiple times over the years including within the last 5 years. The trial court ignored both the existing restraining order, the legal effect of such a judicial finding, and failed to apply the family code 3044 presumption and instead awarded joint custody to father. The Court of appeal reversed and remanded the case back to the trial court. (copyright 7/7/15).
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Please note that this article is not legal advice and is not intended as legal advice. The article is intended to provide only general, non-specific legal information. This article is not intended to cover all the issues related to the topic discussed. The specific facts that apply to your matter may make the outcome different than would be anticipated by you. This article does create any attorney client relationship between you and the Law Offices of Kenneth U. Reyes, APLC This article is not a solicitation.
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Attorney Kenneth Ursua Reyes is a Certified Family Law Specialist. He was President of the Philippine American Bar Association. He is a member of both the Family law section and Immigration law section of the Los Angeles County Bar Association. He is a graduate of Southwestern University Law School in Los Angeles and California State University, San Bernardino School of Business Administration. He has extensive CPA experience prior to law practice. LAW OFFICES OF KENNETH REYES, APLC. is located at 3699 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 747, Los Angeles, CA, 90010. Tel. (213) 388-1611 or e-mail [email protected] or visit our website at Kenreyeslaw.com.