Category: Domestic Violence

Divorce and Domestic Violence

Police in California are investigating whether a “tumultuous divorce” was the reason a father is accused of murdering his still-missing 5-year-old son. What is the link between divorce domestic violence?

Aramazd Andressian Sr. was arrested on Friday and set to be arraigned this week — allegedly executed a “pre-planned” killing of little Aramazd Andressian Jr., investigators said in a news conference. The boy was last seen after midnight April 21 at Disneyland in Anaheim with his dad, prompting an ongoing months-long search.

Andressian had intended to take his own life before he was found hours later passed out in South Pasadena’s Arroyo Park, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department officials said.

Police initially charged him with child endangerment and child abduction, but a lack of evidence allowed him to walk free from jail a few days later. Authorities arrested Andressian in Las Vegas Friday because they feared he would flee the country, they said Monday.

Florida Domestic Violence

Injunctions for protection against domestic violence are critical to the safety of many. I’ve written about domestic violence before. Anyone scanning the headlines in the Miami Herald knows that the horrors of domestic violence are all too real:

“Dania Beach man arrested in fatal shooting of girlfriend”

Miami Herald, Aug. 12, 2015

“Miami Gardens man held in fatal shooting of ex-girlfriend”

Miami Herald, June 25, 2015

“Man Charged with Murder After Killing Girlfriend . . .”

Miami Herald, May 17, 2015

In Florida, the term “domestic violence” has a very specific meaning, and it is more inclusive than most people realize. It means any assault, aggravated assault, battery, aggravated battery, sexual assault, sexual battery, stalking, aggravated stalking, kidnapping, false imprisonment, or any criminal offense resulting in physical injury or death of one family or household member by another family or household member.

When discussing family or household members, Florida law defines these to mean spouses, former spouses, persons related by blood or marriage, persons who are presently residing together as if a family or who have resided together in the past as if a family, and persons who are parents of a child in common regardless of whether they have been married.

In Florida, individuals who have experienced domestic violence have civil and criminal remedies to protect themselves from further abuse. Protection orders may include the victim’s children, other family members, roommates, or current romantic partner. This means the same no-contact and stay-away rules apply to the other listed individuals, even if the direct harm was to the victim.

Signs of Domestic Violence

While there are many signs, you may be experiencing domestic violence and not even realize it. For example, if your partner is doing any of these or other unwanted behaviors, you may be a victim of domestic violence:

  • Using your children against you
  • Calling you names and hurting you emotionally
  • Harming your pets
  • Acting with extreme jealousy and possessiveness
  • Isolating you from family and friends
  • Threatening to commit suicide or to kill you
  • Controlling your money
  • Withholding medical help
  • Stalking you
  • Hiding assistive devices
  • Minimizing the destructive behavior

Is there a link between divorce and domestic violence? Many believe that divorce can be a triggering event for domestic violence.

In fact, the danger of serious violence may be at its highest point when a person acts on a decision to leave an abusive relationship.

The California Case

The man, who’d dyed his hair and shaved his beard, was exhibiting behavior inconsistent with that of a grieving parent, police said. A detective cited “a tumultuous divorce that they were going through at the time” as a potential motive for the apparent killing.

“My heart is shattered and I will miss my son immensely each and every second of every day for the rest of my life,” Aramazd’s mother, Ana Estevez, said in a statement.

The grieving mom went on to use the little boy’s nickname: “Picqui was everything great in my life, and I cannot imagine the emptiness and the void that I will bear until we are together again someday,” she said. If convicted, Andressian faces 25 years to life behind bars.

The CNN story is here.

 

New Supreme Court Domestic Violence Ruling

By The Law Offices of Ronald H. Kauffman of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Domestic Violence on Wednesday, June 29, 2016.

It’s not every day the U.S. Supreme Court decides a case impacting family law. This week, it ruled on the intersection between domestic violence and gun control.

NPR reports that the majority opinion, written by Justice Elena Kagan, concludes that misdemeanor assault convictions for domestic violence are sufficient to invoke a federal ban on firearms possession.

I’ve written before about domestic violence. A 1996 federal law prohibits a person with a “qualifying” misdemeanor domestic violence conviction from possessing, shipping, or receiving a firearm or ammunition which has been shipped or transported in interstate or foreign commerce.

The plaintiff in the U.S. Supreme Court case, Stephen Voisine, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault charges after slapping his romantic partner. Several years later, he was caught with a firearm in violation of a federal law affecting convicted domestic abusers.

Stephen’s case, Voisine v. United States, attracted a lot of attention recently because Congress has been trying to tighten gun control laws, and because Justice Thomas asked questions during oral argument for the first time in a decade.

In Voisine, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, in a 6-2 vote, that people convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence can be barred from owning firearms.

The majority opinion, written by Justice Elena Kagan, concluded:

Our answer is informed by congressional recognition … of the special risks posed by firearm possession by domestic abusers. “Domestic violence often escalates in severity over time … and the presence of a firearm increases the likelihood that it will escalate to homicide….”

The NPR article is here.

Domestic Violence in the News

By The Law Offices of Ronald H. Kauffman of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Domestic Violence on Monday, June 20, 2016.

Johnny Depp was set to appear in court today over a domestic violence restraining order his wife filed in his divorce following claims of physical and verbal abuse. Why cancel?

As Salon reports, the World Health Organization reported an estimated 35% of women have been subjected to either intimate partner violence or sexual violence from a non-partner in their lifetime. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted a survey and discovered some alarming statistics:

“The lifetime prevalence of physical violence by an intimate partner was an estimated 31.5% among women and in the 12 months before taking the survey, an estimated 4.0% of women experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner.

An estimated 22.3% of women experienced at least one act of severe physical violence by an intimate partner during their lifetimes. With respect to individual severe physical violence behaviors, being slammed against something was experienced by an estimated 15.4% of women, and being hit with a fist or something hard was experienced by 13.2% of women.

In the 12 months before taking the survey, an estimated 2.3% of women experienced at least one form of severe physical violence by an intimate partner.”

Injunctions are issued ex parte, which means the accused has no notice of the proceedings and does not have the opportunity to defend themselves prior to its issuance.

Heard rescinded a request for temporary spousal support earlier this week, saying it’s been “used against me to distract and divert the public away from the very serious, real issue of domestic violence.

Far too many people use injunctions to gain a strategic. One study found that 59% of allegations of domestic violence between couples involved in custody disputes could not be substantiated by the courts as true.

What can be done if you are the victim of abuse? I’ve written about domestic violence issues before. In order to obtain an injunction against domestic violence, you must prove you are in imminent danger of becoming the victim of domestic violence. In addition to an injunction prohibiting domestic violence, Florida law allows for other types of injunctions as well, including:

Repeat violence injunctions, when two incidents of violence or stalking

Sexual violence injunctions, for certain criminal sexual acts are committed.

Dating violence injunctions, available to protect those who have a “continuing and significant relationship of a romantic or intimate nature” from violence.

From Hollywood marriages to the radical Islamic terrorist in Orlando, domestic violence can have tragic results if left alone.

The Salon article is here.

Domestic Violence is Now Illegal . . . in China

By The Law Offices of Ronald H. Kauffman of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Domestic Violence on Monday, January 18, 2016.

Roaring into the 21st Century, China approved its first law against domestic violence. The law “prohibits all forms of domestic violence” to protect people from abuse in the home.

The new law was approved after a seven-day session of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, and will come into force on March 1st.

In China, “the most heated arguments were over the definition of ‘family member’ and what constitutes “domestic violence.”

Who are Family Members?

Under current law, family members are blood relatives, people related by marriage, and those related by adoption.

The new domestic violence law includes an article that covers “people who live together” for example, guardians and their charges, those living in foster families and people in cohabiting relationships. Cohabiting relationships are not recognized under current Chinese law.

In Florida, “Family” includes people who you are related to by blood or marriage; spouses, ex-spouses, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles; parties intimately involved and living together but never married; adopted children; step-parents and step-children, and others or a person who is the parent of your child, regardless of whether or not you have ever been married or lived together.

What is Domestic Violence?

In China, the new law defines domestic violence as physical, psychological, or other harm, as well as verbal abuse. Sexual violence has not yet been written into the law.

In Florida, “domestic violence” can include: assault, aggravated assault, battery, aggravated battery, sexual assault, sexual battery, stalking, aggravated stalking, kidnapping, false imprisonment, or any other criminal offense resulting in physical injury or death.

According to the All-China Women’s Federation, almost 25 percent of Chinese women have experienced violence in their marriage, yet the organization said it receives only 40,000 to 50,000 complaints from women each year.

Until 2001, when China amended its marriage law, abuse wasn’t considered grounds for divorce and violence in the home has traditionally been regarded as a private matter to be dealt with by family members.

I’ve written about domestic violence issues many times. In Florida, as opposed to China, there are four kinds of civil injunction petitions that can be filed:

(1) domestic violence,

(2) sexual violence,

(3) dating violence, and

(4) repeat violence.

Each type has different requirements based on your relationship with the other person, and what occurred.

The China Daily article is here.

Send Domestic Violence Victims To Jail?

By The Law Offices of Ronald H. Kauffman of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Domestic Violence on Wednesday, October 14, 2015.

Domestic violence injunctions are critical for safety in divorce, but unlike other crimes, domestic violence victims sometimes fail to appear at trial. Can a victim go to jail?

I’ve written about domestic violence (D.V.) before. And anyone scanning the headlines in the Miami Herald knows that the dangers of domestic violence are all too real.

But in D.V. cases, a victim’s non-cooperation by failing to appear at trial, or recanting testimony, is a well-known problem. Some estimate up to 90% of D.V. victims recant or minimize reports of abuse.

The usual response to a failure to appear and recanting, (or even false statements) in D.V. cases is to turn a blind eye. After all, who wants the bad press for prosecuting – or sentencing to jail for contempt – a poor, battered, traumatized domestic violence victim?

On the other hand, turning a blind eye to a crime committed by domestic violence victim, such as perjury or disobeying a subpoena, has its own repercussions. This is a big conflict in D.V. court.

Earlier, a Seminole County domestic violence judge resolved the conflict by scolding the victim and then sentencing her to 3 days in jail for failing to appear to testify against her attacker.

The link below has a video of the proceedings in July as a sobbing woman tried to explain why she didn’t attend the trial for the father of her 1-year-old son – even though a subpoena required her presence and the judge seated a jury.

“Your Honor, I’m very sorry for not attending …,” said the woman. “I’ve been dealing with depression and a lot of personal anxiety since this happened …”

As deputies placed the woman in handcuffs, she begged Collins for a different outcome. But the judge closed her binder and told the woman to “turn around.”

In addition to the wasted resources, because she refused to testify against her attacker, the defendant was sentenced to only 16 days in jail, minimizing a violent crime.

There is a conflict about how to handle victims who fail to appear or lie in a domestic violence cases. There is little guidance over when and if a victim should be charged can be arbitrary.

The video and story can be seen here.

Cyberstalking: Husbands, Wives & Girlfriends

By The Law Offices of Ronald H. Kauffman of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Domestic Violence on Sunday, September 27, 2015.

Florida domestic violence laws are broad. They provide protection against violence between spouses and partners. But can a girlfriend or boyfriend get protection from the threats of a wife or husband for cyberstalking?

Don’t laugh, as I’ve written before, social media and blogging has become a part of family law. And domestic violence issues – such as cyberstalking – come up frequently.

One recent appeal from the Florida appellate district including Tampa, arose out of an eighteen-month affair a woman named Kersey had with a very married Dr. Leach.

After Dr. Lynch’s wife learned of the affair, she started contacting Kersey by phone, by messages and “friend” requests on Facebook, and posted Kersey was a “homewrecker” on a public blog.

Kersey, worried that something was up with the wife of Dr. Leach trying to friend her and contact her, and applied for an injunction. Florida Statutes provides for an injunction against stalking, including cyberstalking, and the statute is reviewed the same as injunctions against repeat violence.

Before seeing how the courts handled Ms. Kersey’s petition for protection, a few definitions:

Stalking occurs when a person “willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows, harasses, or cyberstalks another person.”

“Harass means to engage in a course of conduct directed at a specific person which causes substantial emotional distress to that person and serves no legitimate purpose.”

Cyberstalking involves a course of conduct through “electronic mail or electronic communication, directed at a specific person, causing substantial emotional distress to that person and serving no legitimate purpose.”

Substantial emotional distress involves the courts looking to whether a reasonable person in the petitioner’s shoes thinks.

In Kersey’s case, the appellate court found her evidence did not show that the wife’s contacts “serve[d] no legitimate purpose.” The Court thought Dr. Leach’s Wife was contacting her for the legitimate purpose of telling Kersey to stay away from her husband.

In addition, the evidence did not show that messaging and Facebook friend requests would cause a reasonable person in Kersey’s circumstances to suffer substantial emotional distress.

The court thought a reasonable woman – who had an eighteen-month affair with another woman’s husband – would actually “expect to hear the scorn of an angry wife.”

What about posting on a public blog that Kersey was “a Homewrecker?”

The appellate court held that even if Mrs. Leach’s blog posting served no legitimate purpose – and would cause substantial emotional distress to a reasonable person – it only constitutes one incident of stalking, and you need to prove two incidents of stalking.

The opinion can be read here.

Divorce, Separation & Domestic Violence

By The Law Offices of Ronald H. Kauffman of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Domestic Violence on Thursday, August 13, 2015.

Injunctions for protection against domestic violence are critical to the safety of many. But they also represent a court system which can be easily abused as a tactical advantage in a custody case.

I’ve written about domestic violence before. Anyone scanning the headlines in the Miami Herald knows that the horrors of domestic violence are all too real:

“Dania Beach man arrested in fatal shooting of girlfriend”

Miami Herald, Aug. 12, 2015

“Miami Gardens man held in fatal shooting of ex-girlfriend”

Miami Herald, June 25, 2015

“Man Charged With Murder After Killing Girlfriend . . .”

Miami Herald, May 17, 2015

However, because they are easy to obtain, restraining orders are misused, usually against men, but sometimes against women too.

When someone has an injunction against violence issued against him, many automatically think that they are an abuser, and injunctions also force you to leave the home, stay away from a partner, and your children.

In order to obtain an injunction against domestic violence, you must prove you are in imminent danger of becoming the victim of domestic violence. In addition to an injunction prohibiting domestic violence, Florida law allows for other types of injunctions as well, including:

Repeat violence injunctions, when two incidents of violence or stalking

Sexual violence injunctions, for certain criminal sexual acts are committed.

Dating violence injunctions, available to protect those who have a “continuing and significant relationship of a romantic or intimate nature” from violence.

Injunctions are issued ex parte, which means the accused has no notice of the proceedings and does not have the opportunity to defend themselves prior to its issuance.

Far too many people use injunctions to gain a strategic. One study found that 59% of allegations of domestic violence between couples involved in custody disputes could not be substantiated by the courts as true.

However, the filing of a false domestic violence injunction can also backfire. In the event your injunction is dissolved, and it is demonstrated that it was filed falsely, that could be evidence in a custody battle.

Every day it seems the Miami Herald has a story about domestic violence. The results are tragic. Conversely, many people abuse the system. Domestic violence injunctions are a part of family law and divorce cases to consider carefully.

Domestic Violence and Zero Tolerance: Is It Better Protection

On behalf of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Domestic Violence on Monday, September 15, 2014.

The NFL has a “zero tolerance” policy for divorce. Will this increase reporting of violence or decrease it?

I’ve written on domestic violence issues before. The NFL’s new zero tolerance policy for domestic violence makes good commercial sense for the NFL. But what about football players’ wives?

If they call the police, and their football star husband is prosecuted, that likely means a loss of millions of dollars to the wife when they are suspended. A battered wife calls the police, and their husband is out of a job, can’t pay the mortgage, and the wife and their children are headed for the poor house.

The Ray Rice case is a good example of the problem. Because the Ravens terminated his contract, they no longer owe him a $3.529 million nonguaranteed salary for this year. Rice had remaining nonguaranteed base salaries of $3 million in 2015 and 2016 that have now been eliminated.

The Ravens don’t owe him any more money. In any other job and you get arrested for domestic violence, and you could get fired. In the NFL though, you could get blackballed.

Previously, an abused woman might be willing to expose abuse to obtain protection against domestic violence. But what if every time a spouse reported domestic violence it meant the loss of their husband’s career?

The husband’s job loss would mean that the standard of living enjoyed during the marriage would be over. And worse still, the husband would be unable to pay child support, or keep the wife and the children in the family home, or have the ability to pay alimony.

This policy places abused women in a difficult choice: don’t report abuse and continue to enjoy a wealthy lifestyle, or report abuse and suffer a dramatic financial loss.

There is a likelihood that some women may not be willing to make that choice, and won’t call the police or tell their attorney out of a fear that it will leak out.

Alternatively, a battered woman may not want to say anything when the abuse first starts. By the time they do call the police, the abuse has become so bad that they’d be willing to ruin their own financial success for protection it may be too late.

What if the zero tolerance policy makes abused wives unwilling to report initial or less severe abuse, out of a well-founded fear of losing their financial standing, until the abuse becomes so bad, they risk their very lives?

The Volokh Conspiracy post is here.

New Domestic Violence Law & Does Margarine Cause Divorce?

On behalf of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Domestic Violence on Friday, May 16, 2014.

Few people realize that the first hearing for a divorce injunction is ex parte – meaning the other side doesn’t show up or even know about it. In ex parte hearings, you can’t introduce evidence other than sworn pleadings and affidavits. A new law changes that.

The latest legislative session ended, and Governor Scott signed many bills into law. As part of the flock of bills flying out of Tallahassee, a new bill amends Florida law to allow courts in domestic violence cases to take judicial notice of court records when imminent danger is alleged.

Ordinarily, the Due Process clause of the Constitution protects litigants in ex parte hearings, limiting the kind of evidence a party can try to admit without them knowing.

This new bill, which became law this week, provides a waiver to the Due Process requirements for the admissibility of evidence at ex parte temporary injunction hearings.

The Senate bill can be read here.

***

Is there a link between eating margarine and the divorce rate?

Florida is a No-Fault Divorce state, so it doesn’t much matter the cause of a divorce. But, have you ever wondered why people get a divorce? I’ve blogged about this topic before. For instance, could divorce rates be linked to other variables?

There could be a correlation, but proving a mere correlation between things does not mean that one causes the other. Just because there is snow outside your window in the morning doesn’t mean sleeping causes snow. Some events are just coincidences, or in statistic-speak, “spurious correlations.”

A spurious correlation occurs when two things appear related, but in reality are not. For the statistically inclined, Tyler Vigen has assembled a few funny charts of spurious correlations. I’ve copied a funny chart showing the rates of divorce and margarine consumption.

More of these funny correlations are available at Tyler Vigen’s website.

Are the ashes from a cremation marital property?

On behalf of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Equitable Distribution on Monday, January 27, 2014.

Dividing up of assets and liabilities in a divorce does not always mean money, houses, and credit cards. divorced can involve surprising things like breast augmentation, and very sad things like the remains of a stillborn fetus. And that’s exactly the asset a court in Albany, New York had to divide. Should the court’s decision be based on equitable distribution theory or on a Roe v. Wade woman’s right to choose?

In Jackson v. Jackson, the “property” was a stillborn fetus that was miscarried at 26 weeks. The parties separated a few months later. The wife testified during separation, the husband threatened to flush the ashes down a toilet. He testified he had a bad year, and made the comment in anger.

New York law provides that a fetal death is defined as death prior to the complete expulsion or extraction from its mother of a product of conception.

Do the ashes of a stillborn fetus conceived and miscarried during the marriage constitute marital or separate property? Like Florida, New York defines marital property as property acquired during the marriage.

Ashes are clearly marital property because there is no other alternative. However, the Wife owned the eggs from which the fetus developed before the marriage. The Husband impregnating her with sperm acquired after the marriage would clearly be a co-mingling.

Moreover, there is no way to characterize or to measure any enhanced value of a 26 week old fetus that was produced by the joining of the mother’s egg and the father’s sperm, regardless of when each contribution was made.

While property acquired during marriage is presumed to be marital, the public policy of New York gives the woman full control over the progress and outcome of her pregnancy without veto power by a husband or putative father – subject only to the restrictions of the Roe v. Wade trimester regime, upon which the Florida law is based.

Accordingly, the ashes of the stillborn birth are the Wife’s separate property.

This case raises questions that have never been answered in Florida. If a pregnancy terminates in a stillbirth, should the man and woman have equal rights to the remains under standard equitable distribution law? Or does a woman’s control of her own body lead to the right answer under a Roe v. Wade approach?

Thanks to Prof. Eugene Volokh at the Volokh Conspiracy for the pointer. The case of Jackson v. Jackson can be read here.