Domestic Violence: The “We both were fighting” Defense

A question on the website AVVO caught my attention as a Maryland Domestic Violence Attorney.

“How can my wife be filing a Domestic Violence petition against me, when we were both fighting?”

If two people, in marriage or other relationships, are “fighting”, one, both or none of them may be committing Domestic Violence.

This is not an uncommon situation and can be confusing. If two people in marriage or other relationship covered by the Domestic Violence Laws are “fighting”, one, both or none of them may be committing Domestic Violence. One or both parties can file a petition for relief under the act. Relief can only be granted to a party who has filed a petition alleging that the he or she has been a victim of Domestic Violence.

Sometimes, when both parties have been fighting, a careful comparison is required of what has occurred with the definition of Domestic Violence under Section 4-501 Family Law Article. In the context of the question posed on AVVO, any act that causes serious bodily harm, places a person in fear of imminent serious bodily harm or that constitutes assault under the criminal code can constitute Domestic Violence.

Let me offer two simple rules of thumb.

First, as your grandmother told you, “two wrongs don’t make a right.” In other words, the fact that one person is a victim of Domestic Violence does not mean that that same person did not also commit Domestic Violence.

Second, “size [sometimes] matters.” If the parties in a fight consist of a healthy 200 pound male and a 97 pound female, this may (but not necessarily) be significant on the issue of who was and who was not “in fear of imminent serious bodily harm”. For an overview of Domestic Violence proceedings you may review my prior post on the subject.