When faced with allegations of domestic violence in family law cases, the San Diego Superior Court Judge’s will assess numerous factors to determine if a domestic violence restraining order (DVRO) is necessary and, if so, for how long. While many DVROs are limited in duration, in some instances, they may be extended. If the Courts fail to apply the correct standard of review when evaluating requests to renew DVROs, however, it may constitute grounds for review. In a recent California ruling, the Court clarified what a party must demonstrate for the Courts to grant a DVRO renewal request. If you have questions about how domestic violence claims may impact your family law case, it is advisable to confer with a dedicated San Diego family law attorney as soon as possible.
Factual and Procedural History
It is reported that the mother and the father were involved in a romantic relationship and had a one-month-old baby together when they had an argument. The father grabbed the mother and bit her ear, after which the mother called the police. The father was arrested for domestic violence. The following year, when the parties were separated, and the mother was pregnant with the couple’s second child, the father forcibly shoved the mother, grabbed the couple’s child, and walked away with her.
Allegedly, police arrested the father for domestic violence a second time. The mother then filed a request for a DVRO in their pending family law case. The Court granted a three-year DVRO. The following year, a third incident occurred, during which the father strangled the mother, ran a knife across her neck, and threatened to kill her. Four days before the DVRO expired, the mother filed a request to renew the DVRO. The Court denied the request, and the mother appealed.
Standard of Review for DVRO Renewal Requests
The standard for renewing a DVRO is based on whether the protected party has a reasonable fear of future abuse. It is not necessary for the Court to determine that abuse is more likely than not to occur if the order is not renewed. The evidence only needs to show that there is a sufficient risk of future abuse, making the protected party’s fear genuine and reasonable. The requirement is not for an immediate or present danger of abuse, but rather a reasonable apprehension that abuse may occur at some point in the future if the protective order expires.
When seeking a renewal of a DVRO, the protected party does not have to demonstrate a reasonable fear of physical abuse specifically. The definition of “abuse” in the statute is broad and includes behaviors that can be restrained under Family Code section 6320, such as harassment or disturbing the peace of the other party. This definition covers a wide range of behaviors that do not necessarily involve physical injury or assault. Therefore, there is no requirement for the requesting party to have a fear of physical abuse when seeking a renewal of the order.
In the subject case, the Court found that the Trial Court erred in denying the mother’s request for renewal based on the fact that she failed to present evidence of domestic violence, noting it applied the incorrect standard. Thus, it reversed the Trial Court ruling.
Talk to a Knowledgeable California Family Law Attorney
The San Diego Courts typically treat domestic violence allegations very seriously, but if they fail to apply the proper standard for evaluating such allegations, it may result in an unjust ruling. If you need assistance contending with a domestic violence issue, it is in your best interest to talk to an attorney about your rights. The knowledgeable San Diego domestic violence attorneys of Doppelt and Forney APLC have ample experience handling complex family law disputes, and if you hire us, we will advocate zealously on your behalf. You can reach us through our online form or call us at 800-769-4748 to set up a free and confidential conference.