Renewal of Domestic Violence Restraining Orders

Irvine Divorce Attorneys – Specializing in Domestic Violence

The California Domestic Violence Prevention Act is one of the most commonly used legal functions in Family Court.  Thousands of domestic violence (DV) restraining orders are filed every day across the state, including many within Orange County family courts.  DV can be one of the most agonizingly difficult issues involved in family law, especially when children are involved.  For cases where domestic violence occurred, it is dreadfully painful for the victim and children involved.  Unfortunately, on the other hand, DV cases involving false allegations can also be extremely painful and difficult for the accused.

Click the following link for more information about Orange County domestic violence cases in family court.

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In the recent decision of Eneaji v. Ubboe (2014, CA 2/2- Opinion filed March 18, 2014), the California Court of Appeal reversed a family court judge’s denial of the renewal of a domestic violence restraining order because there were no new facts of abuse.  In Eneaji, the wife had filed for a DV restraining order in 2009 based on a history of verbal and physical abuse, including a choking incident.  The court issued an emergency, temporary restraining order and after notice to the husband and a hearing, the court granted the wife a three year, “permanent” restraining order.

In July 2012, the wife requested to renew the RO (i.e. she requested the court “extend” the permanent restraining order for a longer period of time.)  She claimed she was still fearful of the husband and she suspected he was stalking her.  After a contested hearing, the court denied the wife’s request to renew the RO.  The husband had claimed he moved back to Nigeria, remarried, and had a child there.  In the trial court’s decision, the judge relied on the Ritchie standard, which requires “a reasonable apprehension of future physical abuse”.  The court said that the last incident of abuse occurred 18 months earlier and only had involved the husband speaking to the wife at a store.

In reversing the trial court, the Court of Appeal reasoned that Cal. Family Code 6345(a) provides a mandate for the trial court, which is that a RO, “may be renewed…without a showing of any further abuse since the issuance of the original order.”  Further, a trial court should renew a RO if, and only if, it finds by a preponderance of the evidence that the protected party entertains a “reasonable apprehension of future abuse.”  The appeals court stated that the underlying facts of the original DV finding should provide the court with a roadmap to determine whether a protected party should have any reasonable apprehension of future harm.

Here, the Court of Appeal dictated that the trial court made a mistake in finding that “if nothing happened in three years, I don’t see how there could be reasonable apprehension.”  This was the wrong standard to apply, because the protected party here still had fear from the original DV incidents.  Moreover, the Court of Appeal said that the trial court incorrectly concluded that the law requires a reasonable apprehension of physical harm.  The domestic violence prevention laws do not limit the definition of “abuse” to physical violence, and as such a DV RO can be renewed upon a showing of reasonable apprehension of any domestic violence abuse, including mental and emotional abuse.