How significant are domestic violence charges (and restraining orders) as a factor in divorce settlement and division of community property? If the restrained is a woman committing domestic violence against a man, does it typically make any difference?
Criminal Defense Attorney
Washington is a "no-fault" divorce state, which means that the property and debts of the parties are to be divided without regard to marital misconduct (including domestic violence) of either party.
That being said, there are occasionally situations where domestic violence is taken into account. If, for example, there are medical bills because one party injured the other, or the abused person was injured and is therefore unable to work and in debt, the court may consider it fair and equitable to distribute the debt to the abuser and provide support for the abused person. The court may require the abuser to leave the family home while the divorce is pending.
And of course, if there are children involved, then allegations of domestic violence will most likely play a huge role in deciding which parent the children will live with and what kind of visitation the other parent will have with the children.
I believe that there is a general stereotype in our society that domestic violence is mainly perpetrated by men against women. And when it is perpetrated by women against men it is not always taken as seriously. This is a touchy topic, but I do believe there is a double standard.
These online question forums are not meant to provide you with legal advice - they are not a substitute for talking to an attorney in person. You should meet with someone right away to see how these factors will affect your divorce. Domestic violence is always serious, and if you are a victim you need to make sure that you are protected as you move through the divorce process. And be aware that it is easy for either side to make up allegations of domestic violence to gain an advantage, making it vital that you have an attorney who can do their best to protect you from any false allegations that may be made against you.
Criminal Defense Attorney
In addition to what counsel has already eloquently and accurately stated, you should be aware that it makes no difference to prosecutors or judges whether the alleged abuser is a man or a woman. In my experience probably 30% of my DV cases involve women charged with abusing male partners and they face all the same consequences that men face.
Another thing to consider is that, if you are not a US citizen, a conviction for a DV assault could have drastic consequences for your status, Don't overlook this aspect if it applies to you, it's usually the biggest consequence hanging over my non-citizen clients.
And, finally, I agree, don't rely on online opinions for legal advice on your case. You will only have one chance to get this handled properly. Get an attorney and follow his or her advice.
Family Law Attorney
I concur with both responses provided but add on the concern of gender bias: our King Co. Superior court has worked very hard for many years to eliminate gender and any other bias that might impair equality of rights in the court. To the man and woman sitting on the bench, my experience in more than two decades of practice before the family law court is that while this concern about bias in our society at large may be justified, you need not have a generalized fear of gender bias in our court, which is not only very professional, but because this is a large, diverse urban area, has "seen it all" and thus learned that biases do in fact impair rather than advance an accurate perception of interpersonal relationships.
DV is primarily relevant in divorce cases only if there are children, or if the DV has or may in future economically impact either spouse. For instance, it could be "relevant" to spousal maintenance or property division decisions because the perpetrator is incarcerated, or because the victim spouse's ability to earn a living has been provably compromised by the DV.