One of the most serious issues that faces people that are dating, engaged, or married is that of domestic violence. Pursuant to studies conducted by the Center for Disease Control, one in four women (25%) and one in seven men (14%) have been the victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime; and even more disturbing, two-thirds (66%) of female victims of stalking were stalked by a current or former intimate partner. Bringing this closer to home – San Diego County - in 2017, there were 17,306 domestic violence incidents reported to law enforcement in which was a four percent increase from the prior year. While the statistics are not yet available for 2018 it is likely that such numbers will be at the same level or a slight increase. As always when discussing domestic violence, it is important to note that if you are being abused by a partner of any sort, you should stop reading this blog and contact the appropriate authorities.
With respect to remedies for domestic violence, the first and most important remedy is as listed above to contact the authorities, file a police report, and wait for the District Attorney to take action under the appropriate provisions of the penal code. The second – or equally important remedy is to obtain a Domestic Violence Restraining Order (“DVRO”) from the Family Court. DVRO’s are governed by the Domestic Violence Protection Act, which defines abuse as: 1) intentionally or recklessly causing or attempting to cause bodily injury; 2) sexual assault.; 3) placing a person in reasonable apprehension of imminent serious bodily injury to that person or to another; and 4) engaging in any behavior that has been or could be illegal such as molesting, attacking, striking, stalking, threatening, battering, harassing, destroying personal property, contacting the other by mail, telephone, or otherwise, disturbing the peace of the other party.
In addition to the abuse component, one must prove that an intimate or familial relationship exists between the parties, or else the relief requested is more appropriately a Civil Harassment Restraining Order (“CHRO”). It is always worth noting that the party requesting the restraining order bears the burden of proof, meaning that they must prove that the abuse occurred. Under the DVPA, restraining orders can be granted on a permanent basis for a term between a number of months and five years. This order can later be renewed, depending on whether there has been additional or continuing conduct after the initial order has been granted.
Like many things in the realm of Family Law, a number of rumors continue to exist about domestic violence restraining orders. The first and most prevalent rumor is that a restraining order will only be granted if there is physical violence between the parties. While the element of physical violence is one that likely ensures that a protective order will be granted, it does not need to occur for an order to be granted. As discussed above, a party need only demonstrate that they have been harassed, or that their peace has been disturbed by a number of means, including that of verbal or online abuse. The second and most prevalent rumor is that restraining orders are not granted for men against women, or in same sex relationships. In 2019, a restraining order may be granted to protect any party irrespective of race, gender, age, or any other factor as long as they meet the legal requirements under the law.
Given the nature of the relief requested, Domestic Violence Restraining Orders are serious business, and a serious matter that one needs to be prepared for to obtain the relief that they want. There also can be many forms, depending on what type of relief one is seeking for themselves, and potentially their children. If you have questions about Domestic Violence Restraining Orders, don’t just trust what advice you receive from family and friends, or the internet, but contact an attorney who can guide you between what is real – and what is a dead end, and who will advocate for you to get the protection you need. Contact our office today with any DVRO questions you may have to protect your personal safety.
Christopher Sunnen, Esq. is a San Diego, CA based attorney specializing in family law and bankruptcy law.