Lawyer Monthly - May 2022

which has the most immediate effect on custody disputes is Cal. Fam. Code §3044. This code section creates a rebuttable presumption that the abusive parent is not fit to share joint legal or joint physical custody with the victim spouse or partner. This presumption can be overcome by the abusive spouse showing that they have done one of the following: demonstrated that it is in the best interests of the child/ren for them to have custody; successfully completed a batterer’s intervention program (typically a 52week course); successfully completed an appropriate parenting class; if the abuser is on probation or parole, whether they have successfully completed the terms of that probation or parole; where there is a restraining order of any kind, whether the parent has complied with the terms and conditions of that order; and whether that abuser has committed any further acts of abuse. California law has a very strong presumption in favour of children having “frequent and continuing contact” with both parents (Cal. Fam. Code §3020.). Therefore, the aim of the §3044 71 MAY 2022 | WWW.LAWYER-MONTHLY.COM THOUGHT LEADER - ELIZABETH VOORHEES Contact Elizabeth Voorhees, Senior Attorney, Seabrook Law Offices, Inc 6840 Via Del Oro Suite 265, San Jose, CA 95119 Tel: +1 408-212-7915 E: Elizabeth Voorhees “My name is Elizabeth Voorhees, and I have been a licenced attorney in California since November of 2004. Prior to that time, I served as a state-certified Domestic Violence Advocate for seven years with various nonprofit organisations in Santa Cruz County. My firm is Seabrook Law Offices, Inc. We are a relatively new family law firm serving Silicon Valley, Santa Cruz County and other communities in the Bay Area. Our firm employs four attorneys and the best support staff in the Bay Area!” presumption is to hold the abusive parent accountable and to encourage them to get help to add different and more constructive tools to their parenting toolbox before moving them to a more equal timeshare with the children. How would you advise a spouse who has been the victim of domestic abuse to protect themselves and their family during divorce proceedings? In terms of a spouse protecting themselves during a divorce, I only recommend seeking a restraining order under the DVPA if there has been a pattern of coercive control or violence. Seeking a restraining order against their partner often keeps spouses intertwined with their abuser in terms of repeated court hearings, etc. I always advise my clients to first make a safety plan, which includes packing essential items like passports, birth certificates and changes of clothing for themselves and the children into a “go-bag” and hiding that bag with a friend or relative. I encourage them to plan to be away from home for two to three weeks and to block their social media accounts. If the violence is particularly frightening to them or to the children, I tell them to leave their cell phone in the house and pick up a burner phone so that they cannot be tracked. My county has very good domestic violence shelters for women and children, but these shelters do not house men who are abused and typically do not allow boys over the age of 13 to stay there, so I do not always send my clients to shelters. As far as I know, there are no shelters for men who are victims of domestic violence in the Bay Area at this time. I advise my male clients in the same way in terms of safety planning and hiding for a time until we can file the restraining order, if needed, and get their partner served with process. I always advise a clean break with the abuser, but that is something that is particularly challenging for people to do. It takes domestic violence victims an average of seven tries to successfully leave their abuser, and if you really think about it, that makes some sense. This

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