Civil vs Criminal Domestic Violence: What's The Difference?

Civil vs Criminal Domestic Violence: What’s The Difference?

by Oct 16, 2019Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is a complex issue. Often, the line separating civil vs criminal domestic violence cases is razor-thin and may depend largely on factors outside of a victim’s control. Understanding which aspects of a domestic violence case fall under criminal or civil law can be helpful for victims who are seeking to escape and/or prevent existing abuse, as well as possibly pursuing charges against their abuser.

Civil Domestic Violence Issues

Generally speaking, civil domestic violence issues are concerned with protecting a domestic violence victim. A victim can go to court (or their attorney can go for them) to request legal protection for themselves and their children. This includes:

  • Temporary restraining orders
  • Emergency child custody orders
  • Filing for divorce

Because the burden of proof in civil domestic violence cases is lower than in criminal cases, it’s usually easier for victims to get civil legal protection from their abusers as opposed to trying to have them arrested, convicted, and sent to jail. With that said, many domestic violence cases result in both civil and criminal action at the same time.

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Criminal Domestic Violence Issues

Criminal domestic violence cases are primarily focused on investigating and prosecuting domestic violence offenders and punishing them if they are convicted of a crime.

It’s important for victims to remember that physical abuse is just one type of domestic violence. There are several other types that a victim may be subjected to that are also considered crimes in California.

The burden of proof in criminal domestic violence cases is much higher and often requires evidence to be gathered before a prosecutor is willing to file charges. However, if an offender is convicted of criminal domestic violence charges, they face severe punishment, including jail time, loss of rights, probation, and payment of restitution in some cases.

Getting Help With Domestic Violence Issues

If you are a victim of domestic violence looking for legal assistance, a good first step is to get what’s known as a Domestic Violence Restraining Order, or DVRO. A DVRO can be issued by any judge and can last anywhere from a few days to five years, depending on the type of order issued.

Other resources, like the National Domestic Violence Hotline, are available as well.

If you need help dealing with a legal issue relating to domestic violence or obtaining a restraining order, please contact us as soon as possible.


At Vonder Haar Law Offices, we offer every client a free phone consultation to discuss their unique situation and determine how we can help. To arrange a consultation, please fill out the adjacent form or call us at: (707) 529-3200.

We provide representation in California State and Federal Courts. We accept most major credit cards for your convenience.

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