Domestic Violence and Defining Who Is A Household Member

Domestic Violence
Domestic Violence

When most people think about the issue of domestic violence, they first think in terms of acts against a wife, a husband, a boyfriend or a girlfriend.  People with a little more knowledge of this area of law will also know that it includes family members living with the perpetrator of the domestic violence.  These blood-related family members include a mother, father, sister, brother, cousin and so on.  So this second category includes relatives in a non-sexual and non-dating relationship.

Even broader, the household relationships that may be included in a domestic violence scenario also include non-blood relatives who are also not romantically involved.  So for example, the brother-in-law who lives with his wife’s family may be a victim or perpetrator of domestic violence.  You may find yourself a victim of your live-in mother-in-law’s aggression.

Even a non-relative can be a party in a domestic violence matter.  Therefore, if a friend lives with you, that situation can qualify.  The cast of “friends” living together, even when not romantically involved, can qualify.  But it gets even broader.

Case law tells us that college roommates, living together in a dorm room, may qualify as parties in a domestic violence matter.  That relationship lasts one year or less, but still satisfies the “household” requirement of domestic violence law.  But a 2011 Appellate decision further expands the definition of “household member”.  In the case S.Z. v. M.C., the appellate court afforded protection against someone who was only a temporary guest in the victim’s home and that temporary guest did not even reside in the victim’s home at the time that the alleged conduct occurred.

It is clear that the definition of who precisely is a “household member” has been greatly expanded over the course of time.  The serious implications as to the heightened behavioral caution that must be adhered to between people who even temporarily reside together cannot be ignored.


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