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Domestic Violence and Divorce

Categories: Family Law, Article

domestic violence in divorce litigation

Thanks to the NFL these past few weeks, domestic violence has gained national attention and even received a comment from the President of the United States. However, domestic violence ("DV") is bigger than most American's realize.  Most of the statistics used to describe the problem are obtained using reported acts, but there are a significant number of acts that never get reported.  According to the National Collation against Domestic Violence, there are 1.5 million acts of DV each year and 1.3 million are female victims. But, what is DV?

Domestic Violence from a Legal Perspective

In Arizona, DV is defined under A.R.S. 13-3601, which states that "DV" means any act that is a dangerous crime against children as defined in section 13-701 or an offense prescribed in several sections that include, negligent homicide; manslaughter; 1st degree murder; endangerment; threatening or intimidating; assault, aggravated assault; custodial interference; unlawful imprisonment; kidnapping; sexual assault; unlawful distribution of images; criminal trespass; criminal damage; or interfering with judicial proceedings.  However, the criminal act is only one portion of the classification, the other and most importantly is the relationship between the victim and violator.  The relationship between a victim and defendant must be one of marriage currently or previously, person residing or formerly residing in the same household, have a child in common, victim is related to the defendant or defendant's spouse by blood or court order as a parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, brother or sister by marriage as a parent-in-law, stepparent or brother/sister-in-law. Additionally, it will also be a DV relationship if the victim and defendant currently are or were romantically/sexually involved. So, while the list of relationships that qualify for a DV classification it is not all relationships and without a relationship as defined above it is not a DV charge.  Now, as expressed above, this is the legal definition and it does not cover all forms of DV. 

Types of Domestic Violence

According to several organizations, DV is defined much broader and is categorized into types of acts.  In summary, there seems to be a general acceptance that there are five (5) types of DV ,which includes physical, sexual, psychological, emotional, and economical. By expanding the definition to five types, you encompass an enormous number of acts that are not included in the criminal definition and thereby increase the number of domestic violence acts that occur everyday.  In the case of divorce, the courts/judges are trained and have received education on the various types of DV and recently there has been a number of trainings regarding coercive control, which can appear in all types of DV. Therefore, if there have been any acts of DV in your relationship or there are allegations of DV (even if not actually occurring) your attorney must have knowledge of and have experience with handling these types of DV cases in order to protect you and present your case in the best light possible when it will have an impact on other areas of the divorce being decided by the judge. 

Domestic Violence & Divorce Implications

It is my opinion, with all of the recent national attention, we will see DV cases become an even bigger part of divorce litigation with Courts/Judges being more sympathetic to claims of DV as public outcry increases over the enormous problems with DV being highlighted in the media today.  These changes will make the importance of having a knowledgeable attorney to represent you even more important. My experience as a counselor combined with my criminal experience gives me a unique training and experience to represent parties dealing with these types of cases.  


About the author: Jason B. Castle is a Partner at the Phoenix law firm of Jaburg Wilk. He is the President of the Arizona Chapter of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, member of the State Bar of Arizona, and a member of the Maricopa County Bar Association, where he chaired the Family Law Section and Legislative Committee. He has expertise in child custody and Decision Making Authority. More recently he was named a Southwest Super Lawyer Rising Star.


This article is not intended to provide legal advice and only relates to Arizona law. It does not consider the scope of laws in states other than Arizona. Always consult an attorney for legal advice for your particular situation.