Domestic violence law and the term "domestic violence" usually refers to crimes involving domestic abuse, such as child abuse and child neglect, spousal abuse or domestic-partner abuse, and elder abuse. Domestic abuse isn't just physical; it also covers the threats, emotional abuse, harassment, and stalking that a spouse, partner, or date uses to control someone else's behavior. The abuse can be directed against anyone: children, former partners, roommates, and parents, but it is most typically directed against women. Domestic violence is a crime in all 50 states. However, in addition to cooperating with the prosecution of criminal charges, the victim of domestic violence can file civil charges.

The courts frown upon any abusive situation in a household and often the penalties are harsh. The severity of the penalties would depend on the degree of abuse. A domestic violence charge, such as that of threats & intimidation, is serious and can have life changing effects for the offender that may cause difficulties in obtaining employment, loss of friends and family - even if they are not guilty and have been wrongfully accused. A felony criminal record can bar offenders from obtaining certain professional licenses and disqualify one from jobs requiring security clearance. A domestic abuse charge can affect a child custody award following a divorce.

Domestic abuse charges are serious and remain in place even if the victim recants. Penalties for domestic violence convictions can include incarceration, fines, probation, community service, and court-ordered counseling programs.