THE GROWING PROBLEM OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
A disturbing trend that unfolded in parts of the Bay Area in the past year was a surge in domestic killings. As reported by Mark Gomez and Sean Webby for the San Jose Mercury News, ten of Santa Clara County’s 55 homicides involved domestic violence, with an additional five related suicides. This is the highest toll since 2003.
The killers in the Santa Clara County cases came from all walks of life, including a Los Gatos area multimillionaire, a San Jose motorcycle cop, and a Silicon Valley engineer whose much younger wife attended San Jose State.
The slayings cut across socio-economic, ethnic and gender lines. The men who killed their wives, girlfriends, ex-lovers and family members were white, black, Hispanic and Asian-American. Some were rich. Some were impoverished. Most were 50 or older. In one recent case, an African-American woman savagely murdered the mother of her estranged same sex partner.
Domestic violence can happen in any family at any time, and it’s imperative to be vigilant in order to spot these types of controlling relationships early.
In the domestic violence cases I’ve encountered in my years as a family law attorney, there were always warning signs and a steady increase in the abuse. Sadly, many victims blame themselves for not managing their abusive partner’s behavior better and they erroneously believe that they can control the other person’s behavior.
Protection from harm starts with the potential victim facing the reality of the situation. The abuse will not go away or decrease if nothing is done to stop it.
If you are sincerely trying to work on your relationship with an abusive partner, the proper action is to immediately get both parties into counseling, as well as for the abuser to enter into an anger management program. Unfortunately, many abusers refuse to cooperate with this approach because they do not believe their own behavior is a problem.
If the abuser is unwilling to accept help and change the behavior, the next inevitable step is to distance yourself and any children from this conduct. There are many safe houses and battered spouse and partner programs you can turn to. You and your children do not have to spend another night under the same roof with the abuser.
CALIFORNIA RESTRAINING ORDER: CLETS
The family law courts are very responsive to claims of domestic violence and a victim’s request for protective restraining orders.
In California there is an emergency protective restraining order referred to as a CLETS order that is available to victims. This order requires filing a request with the court which may enable the petitioner to acquire tailor made orders that can prevent the abuser from contacting the victim, the children, members of the extended family, friends and places of employment. Once granted by the judge and served on the abuser, the order is enforceable by the police. A violation of the order by the abuser permits immediate arrest by law enforcement authorities.
ROLE OF THE LAWYER
Anyone in need of a restraining order can personally submit pleadings to the court without the assistance of an attorney. However, the declarations and information contained in your paperwork must be exacting and detailed enough for the judge to consider granting your emergency request.
Other issues that may need attention and court orders in your family law matter could include child custody and visitation, child and spousal support, and property control and its division. An experienced family law attorney will be able to properly organize pleadings and information in a way that can maximize the court’s response to your situation.
If you had to borrow money to hire an attorney, your lawyer can include in the pleadings a request for attorney fee reimbursement. Even if you have adequate financial resources available for legal expenses, the court can order the other party to reimburse you for fees and pay future attorney fees if your financial situation justifies that request.
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE COUNSELING
As part of your recovery process, you and your children must consider mental health counseling that specifically addresses victims of domestic violence and abuse. Studies have established that even in situations where the abuse takes the form of purely verbal assaults, the emotional damage inflicted is no different than the emotional damage endured by someone who has been physically assaulted.
GET THE HELP YOU NEED AND DESERVE
Waiting for an abusive spouse or partner to change their behavior will only delay your ability to receive the help and protection you deserve . Waiting also increases the risk that the severity of the abuse will grow. Your children deserve a safe environment in which to live and should not be subjected to witnessing abusive behaviors that they could ultimately carry into their own adult relationships.
If your spouse or partner demonstrates repeated signs of controlling behaviors, act now to seek counseling and legal assistance from qualified professionals.
Arlene Kock, CEO of the Law Offices of Arlene D. Kock has over 30 years experience in handling difficult child custody and family law matters. Proficient in practicing in all Northern California Jurisdictions, Arlene Kock’s office is located in San Ramon CA and you may visit her website at http://www.divorce-childcustody-sfbayarea.com/. Ms. Kock is also a member of the LawGuru Attorney Network.