,California has a new bill that aims to offer expanded protections and rights to the victims of domestic violence — but not everyone agrees that the bill, if it becomes law, will be helpful.
Senate Bill 1141 passed the state Senate at the end of June and is now before the California Assembly. If passed, the new law would broaden the definition of domestic violence to include behavior that exerts a “coercive control” over one’s partner or spouse. Examples of this behavior include (but are not limited to) things like:
- Isolating the victim from their main sources of support, including friends, relatives and therapists, and limiting the victims’ communications
- Controlling the victim’s movements and monitoring their behavior
- Controlling or monitoring the victim’s money or assets
- Depriving the victim of the basic necessities in some way
- Forbidding the victim from certain conduct that they have a right to do
- Forcing the victim to engage in conduct they don’t want to do
So what’s the potential problem? Critics argue that the umbrella is simply too big and too easy to use. Virtually anyone engaged in a failing relationship with their spouse could have their actions or words filtered through a jaundiced lens and end up accused of coercive control in court filings. It could easily encourage a “race to the courthouse” as each spouse seeks to gain a tactical advantage during their divorce (particularly when child custody is an issue).
Domestic violence is a very real problem — and it can (and frequently does) include acts of coercion or control toward the victim. Unfortunately, some people see allegations of domestic violence as nothing more than a tool they can use to gain some leverage in a divorce or custody case. If you’ve been falsely accused of domestic violence, get experienced legal assistance as soon as possible.