Domestic Assault - Defining "Significant Romantic or Sexual Relationship"

A domestic assault is an assault – either physical or through fear – against a family or household member. Family or household members include many of who you’d expect – parents, children, blood relatives, spouses, and ex-spouses. It also extends to individuals who live together or have lived together, have a child in common, and then the vague phrase: persons involved in a “significant romantic or sexual relationship.”

Sometimes, this type of relationship may be obvious and easy to prove, such as when a couple have been together for years. But, what about those new relationships. Can it qualify as a significant romantic or sexual relationship? More importantly, can you fight a prosecutor that wants to call your relationship a significant one? Yes, but it takes a talented team that knows the nuance of this law and how cases have analyzed this phrase.

According to appellate court decisions, in considering whether a “significant romantic or sexual relationship” exists, the Court and/or jury must consider the length of time of the relationship; type of relationship; frequency of interaction between the parties; and, if the relationship has terminated, length of time since the termination.

This requires a case-by-case analysis, as no two relationships are the same in determining what is or is not significant. But, courts look to surrounding facts when analyzing these factors. They look to how the couple terms their relationship, whether families know about the relationship and have met the significant other, whether they are exclusively seeing each other, etc. It gets difficult when one party to the relationship deems it more significant than the other. You can envision a scenario where one party is falling in love while the other isn’t.

The bottom line – the State is often not worried about whether a relationship truly fits the term, but rather is worried if it can justify the charge. At that point, it’s up to the Defendant to prove otherwise, which is an unfair system, but often the reality. And the domestic charge, compared to an assault, carries far more consequences – gun rights are in play, the stigma of being an alleged domestic abuser, and job consequences.

If you are facing domestic assault charges, you need a team of domestic assault attorneys that know how to fight for you and know the nuance of the law. North Star has the team of attorneys you need.