Intimate partner violence is a term used to describe cyclical occurrences of physical abuse or violence between married persons, those joined by civil union, or live-in partners. It is also referred to as "spousal abuse," although that term is often used to specifically describe married couples.

Most cycles of intimate partner violence follow a predictable pattern of stages:

  • Tension: Here, the couple experiences emotional tension, usually accompanied by arguments, poor communication, etc.
  • Violence: At this stage the abuser seeks to gain control over their partner through the use of physical force. Emotional and psychological abuse may also be a factor.
  • "Make-up" phase: Here, the couple seeks to reconcile after the outburst of violence. The abuser may feel guilty and take steps to make the victim accept them again.

Thus, intimate partner violence often involves multiple incidents of violence that stretch out over long periods of time (like months or years). Some states only recognize domestic violence cases between those who are legally married or joined by civil union. Many states recognize domestic violence protection for gay persons and other arrangements.

What Are the Legal Consequences of Intimate Partner Violence?

Intimate partner violence can result in various legal consequences. They include:

  • Legal damages for losses caused by injuries
  • Criminal charges, such as assault charges (depending on the circumstances)
  • Loss of certain rights (such as a loss of child visitation or custody rights)

Is Domestic Violence a Felony?

Domestic violence or intimate partner violence can sometimes be charged as a felony. This can happen in cases involving:

  • Serious bodily injury or death
  • Violence involving a deadly weapon

Felony charges can result in prison sentences (greater than one year, sometimes up to 10 or 15 years). Monetary criminal fines may also apply in felony cases. Remember, though, that there are defenses available to those accused of all types of domestic violence, including intimate partner violence and dating violence.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

Intimate partner violence cases can often be very complex. They may involve many different legal issues from both civil and criminal law systems. You may wish to hire a family law lawyer if you need help with a domestic violence case. Your attorney can provide you with legal advice for the issue. Also, your lawyer will be able to represent you during the actual proceedings in court.