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Domestic abuse has gone digital, prompting new California laws

Domestic abuse includes verbal and written harassment. These days, of course, there are multiple ways to harass a person without actually doing it to one's face. While this is easier for the person doing the harassing than confronting the person, it can nonetheless be terrifying to the victim.

Harassment over Facebook, Twitter and email is becoming more and more common. Stalking a victim no longer means just driving by a person's home, following him or her around or making vicious phone calls.

On Jan. 1 of this year, California added new laws in an effort to reduce cyberstalking. These new statutes make cyberstalking a crime. This type of criminal behavior could result in a penalty of a year in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.

One Southern California family law attorney states that in his practice, he finds that some of those who engage in cyberstsalking have personality disorders. He described one case where a man who was angry at his wife for having an affair sent his young daughters messages telling them their mother had a sexually transmitted disease that they could get if they had contact with her. The judge determined that this was spousal and child abuse.

As the attorney notes, if people realize that these actions have serious real-life consequences such as jail time and fines, they may think twice about engaging in this behavior. He says, "When they realize this could cost them money or their freedom ... it should make a difference."

If you are being harassed by a former girlfriend, boyfriend or spouse online, you can and should take legal action. If you are in the midst of a divorce when you are the victim of cyberstalking or harassment, your California family law attorney can work to help you put an end to it. They may, and possibly should, be relevant to any settlement and decisions made in your divorce case.

Source: San Gabriel Valley Tribune, "Tougher California laws protect victims of digital harassment," Kevin Smith, Feb. 09, 2016

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