Physical Violence is Not Necessary to Obtain a Restraining Order

R and M began dating in June of 2013, but R ended their relationship the first time six months later. However, two months later, R discovered she was pregnant and resumed her relationship with M.

R originally ended their relationship because M had been mentally and emotionally abusive to her. According to R, M exhibited controlling behavior toward her. He accused R of cheating on him. He called her many times during the day, and he tried to isolate her from her any other relationships and social interactions.

When R and M resumed their relationship, M became even more controlling. He enrolled in her college classes to watch her and, when he wasn’t physically present, he made her keep her phone line open so he could listen in and monitor her behavior. He also became physically violent by pulling her hair, slapping her, and punching her. (In one instance, M drove his car with R as a passenger erratically threatening to drive the car into the path of an oncoming train.) Again, R severed her relationship with M, but he kept threatening her by phone and other forms of social media. In July of 2014, R went to court and sought a restraining order against M.

The court granted R a temporary restraining order against M and set a court date to determine whether to make the restraining order against him permanent. (During the time of the temporary restraining order, R gave birth to their son.)

At the hearing for a permanent restraining order, the court concluded that M had, in fact, been physically violent toward R, but that it had ended six months prior to the hearing, so it was too remote in time to grant a permanent restraining order. Further, regarding M’s mental abuse and controlling and threatening behavior toward R, the court stated, “If you happen to be controlling, I don’t think that’s a good thing to do. It’s unpleasant. But it’s not something that this court is going to sanction.” Therefore, the court denied R’s request to make the restraining order permanent and dissolved the temporary restraining order.

R appealed.

The Appellate Court overturned the trial court. Citing the Domestic Violence Protection Act (DVPA), the Court stated the Family Code permits the trial court to issue a protective order “to restrain any person for the purpose of preventing a recurrence of domestic violence and ensuring a period of separation of the persons involved; the petitioner must present reasonable proof of a past act or acts of abuse.” The abuse that provides a basis for the findings includes bodily injury, as well as acts that destroy the mental or emotional calm of the other party.

M’s behavior toward R, clearly was within the definition of Family Code’s intention.

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