One Court is Needed for Filing Domestic Violence Restraining Orders

Wife [W] and Husband [H] were married in 2008 but separated in 2011. Their relationship including numerous accounts of domestic violence by H against W and were often witnessed by the couple’s three minor children.

In 2013, divorce proceedings were initiated and shortly thereafter, dependency proceedings were initiated in juvenile court. The juvenile court issued a restraining order against H ordering him to stay 100 yards away from W unless contact was necessary for his court-ordered monitored visitation.

Sadly, H violated his restraining order numerous times in 2013, until the juvenile court finally issued a Domestic Violence Restraining Order (DVRO) against him ordering him to have no contact with either W or their children for three years. In 2014, the juvenile court terminated its jurisdiction over the children and issued an exit order transferring jurisdiction of the DVRO to family court where the divorce action continued.

Although, the three-year DVRO was made a part of the exit order, H violated the order in July 2014 by showing up uninvited at W’s home. H tried to beat up W’s new boyfriend, causing police intervention. Later that year, the divorce became final and included the three-year DVRO. Unfortunately, H violated it again and again.

In 2016, shortly before the DVRO was about to expire, W went back into family court and requested that the DVRO be extended. This time, however, she requested that the DVRO be made permanent because of H’s continued violations of the orders. H argued against the permanent DVRO because it would deny him access to his children.

After numerous procedural interventions, the family court trial judge denied the permanent DVRO request stating, “Because the original restraining order was issued in the juvenile court, this court doesn’t have the power to renew that restraining order… [under the current Domestic Violence Protection Act].” The judge informed W that she could reapply for a temporary or a three-year DVRO. He also told her she could request appellate review to determine whether the court’s interpretation of the code was correct.

W decided to request appellate review, and the appellate court granted her request.

The appellate court disagreed with the trial court, stating:

“We conclude, that the legislative history of the Family Code and the Welfare and Institutions Code indicates the Legislature intended juvenile and family courts to work together to protect victims of domestic violence. In order to effectuate this intent, we construe both statutes broadly, avoiding a formalistic reading that would require domestic violence victims who receive a DVRO from the juvenile court to repeat the process in family court.”

The court further stated, “We conclude that the [California State] Legislature has indicated its intention that the Family Code and Welfare and Institutions Code be construed to work together to provide the best protection for domestic violence victims.”

Finally, the appellate court held that it was the intent of the state legislature to prevent victims from being re-victimized by having to continuously go from court to court to get the protection they need from domestic violence.

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