How to Respond to a Domestic Violence Case during COVID-19

The novel coronavirus has left our nation – and, indeed, the world – in a state of emergency as we battle this virus and the illness it causes, COVID-19. With social distancing, school closings, job closings, business closings, and court closings in place, it can make those living with domestic violence feel even more isolated and unsure about how to address this serious issue. If you are living with domestic violence, however, it is important not to succumb to feelings of hopelessness during these unprecedented times. An experienced California family law attorney is standing by to help – there are exceptions in place to help clients like you find the relief you need.

Complications that Arise from Sheltering in Place

For everyone’s safety, we’ve all slowly been trying to get used to sheltering in place, which basically means staying at home as much as possible. This strategy is the best way to curb the rise of COVID-19 cases, but it can also give rise to uniquely stressful living situations that can seriously exacerbate domestic violence in the home.

Living with the threat of the coronavirus is unavoidable at the moment, but no one should have to live in fear of being harmed by one’s spouse or partner. Living arrangements that were tolerable before coronavirus became a national emergency may no longer be safe.  If you’re living under the threat of domestic violence – or actual domestic violence – remember that there are resources available to you. Your physical safety and well-being are far too important not to.

Domestic Violence Defined

Domestic violence isn’t always as black-and-white as many people think. In fact, such abuse can be so stealth and manipulative that the victim himself or herself isn’t even certain that it’s taking place. Better understanding how the State of California defines domestic abuse can help victims come to terms with the domestic abuse with which they are living. Domestic violence amounts to abuse or threats of abuse made by one person in an intimate relationship (of any kind) toward the other person in that relationship. In other words, your partner doesn’t have to physically harm you to abuse you – credible threats of physical harm are deemed just as abusive.

Such abuse is classified into the following categories:

  • Intentionally or recklessly harming or attempting to harm the victim physically
  • Sexually assaulting the victim
  • Leaving the victim reasonably afraid that he or she – or someone else – is in imminent danger of being seriously harmed (as the result of threats or promises of causing harm)
  • Engaging in behavior such as harassing, stalking, threatening, or hitting (or otherwise physically assaulting) the victim
  • Disturbing the victim’s peace
  • Destroying the victim’s personal property

Domestic abuse can be physical, emotional, and/or psychological, and should never be ignored. Don’t wait until the threat of COVID-19 has receded – domestic violence tends to escalate during times of stress, and the self-isolation fostered by sheltering in place provides the domestic abuser with an ideal opportunity to engage in abusive behavior that is difficult to detect from the outside. If you’re scared, reach out.

Court Closings

You’ve probably heard that many courts in California are closed and that many others are hearing only emergency cases. The fact is, however, that domestic abuse is often considered an emergency, and an experienced family law attorney can help you obtain the help you need – even in these trying times. There are mechanisms for obtaining a restraining order without entering a courthouse or even your attorney’s office. With electronic filings and telephone and video conferences, you can get the help you need without also risking your health through potential exposure to the coronavirus.

If You Are in Imminent Danger

It’s important to recognize that if you are facing imminent danger, your best course of action is to call 911 immediately. The police can obtain an Emergency Protective Order (EPO) from the court to provide expedited relief now. Further, the National Domestic Violence Hotline has 24/7 availability and can provide you with important information – in both English and Spanish – about local resources that can help you remain safe.

Your Family Law Attorney

If you already have an EPO or believe you need one, the next step is to contact an experienced California family law attorney. EPOs are temporary orders that are intended to protect you while you apply for your temporary restraining order. In other words, your EPO is a preliminary step that is essential in an emergency. From here, your dedicated attorney will begin the process of applying to the court for a temporary restraining order against your abuser, which generally lasts from 20 to 25 days. If you move forward to obtain a domestic violence restraining order, that protection remains enforceable for three years.

The Temporary Restraining Order

A temporary restraining order (TRO) is issued when a judge determines you are in danger and in need of protection before the court will have time to officially hear and rule on your case. This TRO will provide you with the protection you need in the interim. After the 20 to 25 days pass, the court will hear your case and make its determination related to a domestic violence restraining order. While it’s difficult to predict where the courts will be when your case comes due, courts all over the state are implementing workarounds to help ensure that victims of domestic violence are receiving the necessary protections. This process will likely involve a combination of written filings and either a videoconference or conference by phone with the judge.

You Need an Experienced California Family Law Attorney on Your Side

If you are experiencing domestic violence in the time of COVID-19, obtaining the assistance you need is critical to your physical, mental, and emotional well-being and overall safety. The dedicated Silicon Valley family law attorneys at Morgan Tidalgo Sukhodrev & Azzolino LLP understand the dangers inherent during lockdown for those vulnerable to domestic abuse, and we’re here to get you the help you need now. The courts take domestic violence very seriously, so please don’t hesitate to contact or call us at 408-244-4570 (San Jose) or 650-381-0467 (San Mateo) to obtain the help you need today.

If you are going through a separation or divorce and you need answers to your questions, or you are seeking to learn your best options available, you can schedule a consultation to talk to one of our MTSA expert family attorneys.

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