Possible Future Abuse to Issue Restraining Orders

Mother and Father lived together for 11 years and were the parents of a son. In 2012, after breaking up, Mother filed a domestic restraining order preventing Father from contacting, abusing, or coming within 100 yards of her, her mother, or Son, as well as their homes, workplaces, schools, and vehicles. She contended that during their relationship Father had been physically, emotionally, and mentally abusive toward her. Father’s abusive behavior culminated during one of Son’s sports events when Father punched Mother, threatened Son, and assaulted Son’s coach. The Court granted her request ordering Father to comply for the next two years.

In 2014, Mother attempted to renew her restraining order stating that Father had abused the order twice by driving past her home. She advised the court that she was terrified of Father, and that if the restraining order were lifted, he would begin terrorizing her again. Father opposed the request stating that he had never driven past Mother’s home nor had he violated any other portion of the order. He also stated that there were no domestic violence incidents while he and Mother were together. Therefore, he was entitled to have the order removed and allowed to visit his son.

The court read the history of the parties noting that there was no documentation prior to the sporting event of domestic violence and Father had not been convicted of criminal behavior at the sporting event. The court also noted that Father was ordered to attend anger management courses, but he failed to do so. (Father stated that he didn’t know he was supposed to go.)

After reviewing the case the court denied Mother’s request to renew the restraining order stating, “…at this point, there is just insufficient evidence to go forward with a permanent restraining order given that ... there would be any future threats of harm.” The court also stated that if evidence of future bad behavior by father arose, the court would reconsider and possibly issue a permanent restraining order.

Mother appealed.

The Appellate Court agreed with Mother. Mother did not have to show that Father violated his restraining order to have it renewed, but whether a reasonable person in Mother’s situation would find that violations would occur if the restraining order were no longer in place. Here, there was no indication that Father had moved forward with his life, and that it was reasonable to assume he may become violent again.

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