Sometimes, a spouse’s behavior leaves a great deal to be desired. Sometimes, they even cross the line into harassment, or abusive behavior.
When this happens, you do have recourse.
What is harassment?
Harassment can include a broad range of abusive or disturbing behavior. In California, you’d be making a domestic abuse allegation instead of calling it harassment, but the law itself includes “harass” in the list of behaviors covered by the domestic violence umbrella.
The behavior in question could include threats, stalking, destroying property, calling multiple times with the intent to annoy or disturb you, or disturbing the peace. It isn’t confined to physical or sexual violence.
Is harassment against the law?
Yes. Harassment can open the perpetrator up to criminal charges. These charges aren’t always as easy to handle in criminal court. The standard of evidence is different: beyond a reasonable doubt vs. by preponderance of evidence.
This is one reason why a restraining order can be so useful. Police can intervene based upon violations of the terms written in the order. This is an easy thing to demonstrate, and doesn’t rely on scant evidence and subjective accounts. The charge might be contempt of court instead of domestic violence, but your safety gets protected either way.
Is it possible to harass someone with litigation?
Not in legal terms, but we’ve seen plenty of cases where an angry spouse tries to file a bunch of superfluous motions just to cause their ex stress or to rack up legal fees. Fortunately, California courts don’t stand for this kind of behavior either.
Using the court system to abuse or punish a spouse is known as being a “vexatious litigant.” According to the California Code of Civil Procedure judges may institute a wide variety of sanctions against a vexatious litigant, including publishing a list so that judges may give the matter extra attention. They may also require vexatious litigants to have every potential motion reviewed prior to filing.
How might a restraining order impact the divorce process?
The restraining order can have several impacts. First, it will play into certain custody determinations.
Second, it may play into the division of marital property. For example, if a restraining order removes one spouse from the other’s home the spouse who ends up staying in the home might well end up keeping the home. In cases where the victim’s life is in danger these remedies can help protect the children as well as the victim.
Some people use harassment charges as a tactic to get the upper hand in their cases. This isn’t a good strategy if you’re the one making false accusations, because it can backfire. If you’re the one who is being accused you’ll need a great deal of help from your divorce lawyer.