Definitions of Domestic Violence - California

Date: January 2021

Defined in Domestic Violence Civil Laws

Citation: Fam. Code §§ 6203; 6320

The term 'abuse' means any of the following:

  • Intentionally or recklessly causing or attempting to cause bodily injury
  • Sexual assault
  • Placing a person in reasonable apprehension of imminent serious bodily injury
  • Engaging in any behavior that has been or could be enjoined pursuant to § 6320

Abuse is not limited to the actual infliction of physical injury or assault.

The court may enjoin a party from molesting; attacking; striking; stalking; threatening; sexually assaulting; battering; harassing; telephoning, including making annoying telephone calls; destroying personal property; contacting, either directly or indirectly, by mail or otherwise; coming within a specified distance of; or disturbing the peace of the other party.

The term 'disturbing the peace of the other party' refers to conduct that destroys the mental calm of the other party. This conduct may be committed directly or indirectly, including through a third party, and by any method including, but not limited to, telephone, online accounts, or text messages. This conduct includes, but is not limited to, coercive control, which is a pattern of behavior that in purpose or effect unreasonably interferes with a person's free will and personal liberty. Coercive control includes, but is not limited to, unreasonably engaging in any of the following:

  • Isolating the other party from friends, relatives, or other social support
  • Depriving the other party of basic necessities
  • Controlling, regulating, or monitoring the other party's movements, communications, daily behavior, finances, economic resources, or access to services
  • Compelling the other party by force, threat of force, or intimidation, including threats based on actual or suspected immigration status, to engage in conduct from which the other party has a right to abstain or to abstain from conduct in which the other party has a right to engage

Defined in Child Abuse Reporting and Child Protection Laws

This issue is not addressed in the statutes reviewed.

Defined in Criminal Laws

Citation: Penal Code § 273.5

Any person who willfully inflicts corporal injury resulting in a traumatic condition upon a victim described in the section below is guilty of a felony.

As used in this section, the term 'traumatic condition' means a condition of the body, such as a wound or external or internal injury, including, but not limited to, injury as a result of strangulation or suffocation, whether of a minor or serious nature, caused by a physical force. For purposes of this section, 'strangulation' and 'suffocation' include impeding the normal breathing or circulation of the blood of a person by applying pressure on the throat or neck.

Persons Included in the Definition

Citation: Fam. Code § 6211; Penal Code § 273.5

In civil law: 'Domestic violence' is abuse perpetrated against any of the following persons:

  • A spouse or former spouse
  • A cohabitant or former cohabitant, as defined in § 6209
  • A person with whom the respondent is having or has had a dating or engagement relationship
  • A person with whom the respondent has had a child, where the presumption applies that the male parent is the father of the child of the female parent under the Uniform Parentage Act
  • A child of a party or a child who is the subject of an action under the Uniform Parentage Act, where the presumption applies that the male parent is the father of the child to be protected
  • Any other person related by consanguinity or affinity within the second degree

In criminal law: Section 273.5(a) shall apply if the victim is or was one or more of the following:

  • The offender's spouse or former spouse
  • The offender's cohabitant or former cohabitant
  • The person to whom the offender is engaged or someone with whom the offender has, or previously had, an engagement or dating relationship
  • The mother or father of the offender's child

Holding oneself out to be the spouse of the person with whom one is cohabiting is not necessary to constitute cohabitation as the term is used in this section.