Gary Dourdan and Domestic Violence

Back in the 80's, Gary Dourdan played Shazza Zulu on A Different World. The papers often reported him assaulting his girlfriends and fighting with paparazzi.

Now, Gary is known for his role as Warwick on CSI. The media reports that he was recently assaulted by his girlfriend, Maria Asis del Alamo. It is reported that Maria was arrested for misdemeanour domestic battery after police found Gary "scratched up". Maria was released on bail and the criminal trial is scheduled for April 6, 2010.

What would happen to this couple if Gary and Maria lived in Ontario?

This depends on several factors. This first of which is whether Ontario family law applies. Ontario family law does not apply to every couple. For the most part, it only applies if (i) the parties are married, (ii) the parties have children, or (iii) the parties cohabited (which means lived together in a conjugal relationship) for three years or more. However, there is one provision that applies to couples who do not meet these criteria. Pursuant to the Ontario Family Law Act, the courts can make a Restraining Order against someone if they have lived with the other party for any period of time. This Restraining Order can ban someone from contacting the other party, coming within a certain distance of certain places, and anything else that the court considers appropriate.

Reports of this domestic violence incident state that Maria was arrested outside a home in Venice, California, but do not state whether Maria and Gary lived together in this home, or elsewhere. This means that Ontario family law may not apply to this couple at all, although criminal law clearly would.

As explained above, if Maria and Gary lived together for any period of time, an Ontario family court judge could make an Order restraining Maria from communicating with Gary and even restraining her from going within a certain distance of his home, his place of work, or any other place the court feels is appropriate.

Had Maria and Gary been married, this incident of domestic violence might have affected:

  1. their right to occupy the Matrimonial Home
    • The term 'Matrimonial Home' is no misnomer. You must be married in order for the home you live in to be considered a Matrimonial Home.
    • Maria and Gary are not married so they have no Matrimonial Home, even if they did live together.
  2. their grounds for Divorce
    • Cruelty is a ground for Divorce in Canada. In order for cruelty to be used as the grounds for divorce, the cruelty must be grave, weighty, and so intolerable that the parties are no longer able to cohabit.
    • If this incident of domestic violence was grave, weighty, and made it intolerable for Maria and Gary to live together, it could be their ground for Divorce if they were married. They are not married, so they obviously cannot get divorced.
  3. AND their entitlement to an Equalization Payment
    • An Equalization Payments is the payment that one spouse can be required to make to the other spouse in order to equalize their assets acquired during the marriage
    • There is no Equalization Payment if the parties are not married, so this does not apply to Gary and Maria.

Had Maria and Gary had children, this incident of domestic violence would likely have affected who had custody of and access with the children. But, since Gary and Maria have no children, custody and access are clearly not relevant.

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