Family Law Keyed to Weisbergback
Brief Fact Summary. A same-sex couple became involved in a domestic dispute, and appellant was found guilty of violation of a domestic violence statute. Appellant claimed that the statute was inapplicable because the same-sex relationship does not fall within the statutory definition of living with a spouse.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. The court examined the definitions of cohabitation in various jurisdictions to determine that cohabitation requires financial support and consortium.
Facts. Joe Fields and appellant Ronnie Yaden had lived together as a same-sex couple for approximately four years, and then broke up. Appellant continued to keep his personal belongings at Fields’ apartment and would stay there when he had no other place to stay. Shortly after the break-up Fields and appellant were involved in an argument at a flea market. After returning to Fields’ apartment the argument escalated, and appellant allegedly threw a phone at appellant, striking him in the forehead, and punched him in the stomach. The trial court found appellant guilty of violating a domestic violence statute. Appellant appealed, claiming that the court erred by finding that a same-sex relationship falls within the statutory definition of living with a spouse.
Issue. Can a person living in a same-sex relationship be guilty of domestic violence against the other person in violation of Ohio domestic violence law?
Held. Same-sex couples fall under the domestic violence law so long as they meet the definition of cohabitation.
Under the applicable statute, a person living as a spouse falls under the statute. A person living as a spouse includes a person who is living or has lived with the offender in a common law marital relationship, who otherwise is cohabiting with the offender, or who otherwise has cohabited with the offender within one year prior to the date of the alleged act in question.
Appellant claims that people who are not legally permitted to marry cannot live as though marriage has occurred. However, the common thread amongst the jurisdictions’ various definitions of cohabitation is living together in an intimate relationship. This contains two fact-specific prongs: financial support and consortium. Same-sex couples are capable of meeting both prongs, and if they do should be determined on a case-by-case basis.
Discussion. The court determined the statutory meaning of cohabitation by examining the definitions of various jurisdictions and previous precedent to determine the common themes applicable to cohabitation.