A common reason for divorce is domestic abuse. Many victims of domestic violence decide to divorce their abuser. However, what happens if you are the victim of domestic violence while getting a divorce in Arizona?
In this case, you should call the police and report the abuse immediately. After reporting the crime to the police, call your divorce attorney. Allegations of domestic violence may impact your divorce proceeding.
How is Domestic Violence Defined in Arizona?
Technically, domestic violence is not defined as a specific crime under Arizona statutes. Instead, domestic violence is a set of specific crimes committed against someone with whom a person shares a domestic relationship.
Spouses are included in the definition of “domestic relationship” under Arizona’s domestic violence statute. A spouse’s crime must be listed as a domestic violence offense for them to be charged with domestic violence.
Criminal Offenses That Lead to a Domestic Violence Charge in Arizona
Numerous crimes can result in a domestic violence charge. Examples of offenses that could result in a criminal charge of domestic violence include, but are not limited to:
- Aggravated assault and assault
- Sexual assault
- Endangerment under ARS §13-1201
- Criminal trespass
- Unlawful imprisonment under ARS §13-1303
- Custodial interference
- Threatening or intimidating a person under ARS §13-1202
- Disorderly conduct under ARS §13-2904
- Preventing you from using a telephone in an emergency
- Harassment and aggravated harassment
- Child abuse
- Assault with a deadly weapon
Domestic violence offenses are classified as a misdemeanor or a felony. However, remember: domestic violence is a designation attached to another crime. Therefore, the penalties are based on the underlying criminal offense. However, the domestic violence designation can enhance the penalties.
If your spouse is convicted of domestic violence charges, they could be sentenced to:
- A mandatory 32-week domestic violence intervention program
- Jail sentences
- Restraining or protective order
- Restrictions on probations
- Reduced parole eligibility
The punishments for felony domestic violence charges could result in several years in state prison. In addition, aggravating circumstances increase the penalties for domestic violence.
Steps to Protect Yourself if You Are the Victim of Domestic Violence
Your divorce attorney can advise you of the steps you need to take if you are currently in a divorce proceeding. However, if you have not filed for divorce or do not have an attorney, you may want to consider contacting a lawyer immediately.
Steps your attorney may advise you to take include:
- Leave home if you or your children are in immediate danger
- Call the police to file criminal charges
- Petition the court for a protective order
- Obtain a post office box to conceal your physical location from your spouse and prevent your spouse from reading your mail
- Petition for sole custody and supervised visitation
- File a motion for temporary spousal support and child support
Remember, your safety is the first priority. If you are in immediate danger, call 911.
Develop a safety plan if you feel threatened, but your spouse has not harmed you yet. Having a safety plan can help you leave home quickly if your spouse escalates their aggressive or abusive behavior. Build a support system you can rely on in an emergency, including a safe place to stay if necessary.
Do not use your cell phone or a computer in your home to search for domestic violence attorneys or information. Your spouse may be monitoring your communications and could become violent.
Domestic Violence Charges Impact Your Divorce Proceedings
The criminal charges against your spouse are handled through the criminal court. They are independent from your divorce proceeding. However, they do impact your divorce.
Family court judges view domestic violence offenses very seriously in a divorce action. The judge analyzes domestic violence allegations to determine if they are “significant.” Numerous pending criminal charges could be taken together as “significant” even though one charge alone would not be considered significant.
Once a judge finds significant domestic violence exists, the court typically grants the victim of domestic violence sole custody of the children. The abusive parent would need to provide evidence to overcome the presumption that sole custody is in the child’s best interest.
Domestic violence may also impact other issues in a divorce proceeding. Seeking legal advice is the best way to protect yourself and your children from an abusive spouse during a divorce proceeding.