California Cohabitation Abuse Laws


In California the law covering spousal abuse also covers abuse of a cohabitant and of a fellow parent. The law is California Penal Code 273.5: Corporal Injury on a Spouse, Cohabitant, or Fellow Parent. Allegations of abuse usually stem from highly emotional and stressful situation. It is important for all Californians who cohabit with another person to be familiar with this law.


  • California Penal Code 273.5 does not only cover spouses, cohabitants and fellow parents, including same-sex partners. It also covers prior relationships. This means it also covers former spouses and former cohabitants. It should also be noted that it is not necessary for parents of an individual child to be living together in order for one of them to be charged with abuse under this law. Even if you live separately from your fellow parent, if you inflict corporal harm on him or her, you may be convicted under California Penal Code 273.5.


  • In order for a prosecutor to convict someone of an offense under the cohabitation law, he must prove the incident or incidents included three crucial elements. He must prove the accused inflicted bodily harm on someone with whom he had one of the aforementioned relationships. He must prove the accused willfully inflicted the injury. He must prove the injury resulted in a "traumatic condition."


  • If a person is convicted of an offense under the cohabitation law he may be sentenced to serve jail time. Apart from this, like all criminal convictions, the conviction will appear on his permanent record. The charge may be fought using a variety of defenses, such as self-defense.

Dropping Charges

  • In some instances, such as spousal reconciliation, the person who initially filed the charge may ask the charges against the accused by dropped. However, since the state of California views crimes of this nature as carried out against the state in addition to the actual victim, the charges are not generally dropped in such cases. If the authorities feel they can make their case without the cooperation of the victim, they are likely to do so.


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