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Defining Legal Relationships - How Living as if a Spouse Can Apply in Domestic Matters

Defining Legal Relationships: How “Living as if a Spouse” Can Apply in Domestic Matters

Recent blogs have discussed civil protective orders and related matters when there is a harm or threat of harm from a family or household member1. In filing a petition for a civil protection order, the party petitioning for same must check whether the person they are seeking to protect themselves against relationship to them2. For example, the person may be a spouse, former spouse, the parties may have a child in common, the parties may have resided together in an intimate relationship, or the person may be a parent or foster parent.

In Indiana, the domestic battery statute defines an individual for purposes of domestic violence as a former or current spouse of the person who touched them, a person who is or was living as if a spouse of the person who touched them, or has a child in common with the person who touched them3. There is a different standard between the civil order of protection relationships and the domestic battery relationships.

A recent Court of Appeals case addressed the issue of the definition of “living as if a spouse”. In Bowling v. State4, the defendant was married with a child and involved in a romantic relationship with another man, C.C. Defendant and C.C. had a volatile relationship, which became violent at times. After a dispute in a barn, which a neighbor overheard and called the police out of concern, both Defendant and C.C. were arrested. Defendant was convicted of, among other charges, domestic battery.

Defendant appealed, contending that she could not be convicted of domestic battery against C.C., who was not her husband, because she was married, and as such, could not be “living as if a spouse” with C.C. Therefore, Defendant argued a question of interpreting the statute on appeal, which she argued had been improperly interpreted by the trial court. The Court of Appeals disagreed.

The Court of Appeals held that the domestic violence statute “envisions a situation, among others, where individuals are (or were) involved in an ongoing relationship and cohabiting”. The Court held that “being married does not shield the defendant from the domestic battery statute if he or she batters another person with whom he or she has shared a domestic relationship.

Within the realm of family law and related areas of law, the definitions of family and relationship are well-defined and differ throughout related areas of law. Complex relationships often lead to complex matters, which must be thoroughly explored.

We hope that this blog post has been helpful in exploring a distinction in defining relationships between the civil and criminal law realms. Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. practices throughout the state of Indiana. This blog post was written by attorney, Jessica Keyes.

  1. See Ind. Code 34-26-5-2
  2. See generally,
  3. See Ind. Code 35-42-2-1.3

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Dixon & Moseley, P.C., is a law firm located in Indianapolis, Indiana. We serve clients in six core practice areas: family lawappellate practicefirearms lawgeneral practicepersonal injury and criminal law.

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