Family Law Developments
New Laws from the 2021 Legislative Cycle

Domestic Violence Protections Prompted By The Pandemic

The increase in reported domestic violence caused by the COVID-19 pandemic prompted the California Legislature to make some significant changes, including authorizing electronic filing by DVPA petitioners, protections against reproductive coercion, and the closing of some loopholes on gun ownership. In other news, parents who relapse may still be entitled to reunification services in juvenile dependency matters.

Electronic Filing for DVPA Petitioners

AB 887 adds two new sections to the Family Code that all family law practitioners should be familiar with. The first of these is Family Code section 6306.5, which authorizes the electronic filing of Domestic Violence Prevention Act (DVPA) petitions; and the second is Family Code section 6306.6, which mandates online access to domestic violence restraining order information on superior court websites.


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Protection from Reproductive Coercion

The Domestic Violence Prevention Act (Fam. Code, §§ 6200-6409) authorizes a court to issue a protective order enjoining a party from engaging in specified acts, including threatening or harassing the other party or disturbing the peace of the other party, which includes “coercive control.” On July 23, 2021, California expanded the definition of “coercive control,” apparently becoming the first state to expressly recognize reproductive coercion as a form of domestic violence in statute. (Stats. 2021 ch. 135).

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Additional Domestic Violence Protections

In response to the spike in domestic violence during the COVID-19 pandemic, much of the family law legislation was aimed at bolstering protections for victims of domestic violence and will, for the most part, go into effect on January 1, 2022. New protections include: AB 1057 (closes a pre-existing loophole and now enables law enforcement to seize ghost guns under gun violence or domestic violence restraining orders) and SB 320 (strengthens procedures ensuring the relinquishment of firearms by a person subject to a domestic violence restraining order by requiring the courts to notify law enforcement and the county prosecutor’s office when there has been a violation of a firearm relinquishment order).

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Juvenile Dependency: Support for Parents Making Efforts Toward Sobriety

AB 788 clarifies that in the context of a juvenile dependency proceeding, “relapse” is not the same as “resistance” to court-ordered drug or alcohol treatment for purposes of determining whether parents are entitled to reunification services. This codifies the decision in In re B.E. (2020) 46 CA5th 932, where the court broke with a line of cases that previously interpreted the meaning of “resist” to encompass significant relapses in addiction recovery.

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