After centuries of letting domestic violence incidents slide by without consequences, American courts, especially in California and even more especially in Los Angeles County, are taking domestic violence seriously.
This can be, however, a two-edged sword. People can make these charges thoughtlessly and then wish they had not, or people can decide not to bring charges and then wish they had. The best course of action, whether you are a victim or an alleged perpetrator, is to talk to a lawyer so you can be sure you understand the process. (But don’t misunderstand me—if you are a victim in danger, get help now, without delay, until you are safe. Then consider talking to a lawyer.) The first priority is safety, but after that, slow down long enough to consider what the future holds for you.
There is, for example, an important distinction between chronic and situational incidents, and a further important distinction between violence and non-violence.
There is an important distinction between withholding charges for good reasons and withholding charges because of fear or codependency. Anyone in a domestic violence household, whether victim or perpetrator, should get help immediately to stop the behavior and to learn about the dynamics of domestic violence.
From a legal point of view in Los Angeles County, domestic violence can land both victim and perpetrator into multiple legal processes.
There is criminal prosecution. There is Children’s Court, set up to protect children in the household from the physical and psychological dangers of domestic violence. There is Family Court, where divorces, separations and non-marital relationships are adjudicated. And there are multiple courts issuing restraining orders. There are also administrative consequences affecting immigration, gun ownership, financial support orders, child custody, and much more.
When a man or a woman calls a lawyer to talk about a domestic violence situation, the lawyer should be well versed in both family and criminal law, so that all the consequences can be intelligently considered.
The sooner the victim or perpetrator consults such a lawyer, the sooner the ounce of prevention (to prevent the pound of cure) can be implemented. This is not the time for the couple to try to work it out between each other. This is the time to get professional help, long before the already bad situation gets much worse.