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Renewal of protective order not dependent on new abuse

Law enforcement officers in California respond to domestic violence calls by the thousands. To aid people and families affected by domestic abuse, the Family Violence Appellate Project appeals court decisions that fail to protect victims. The nonprofit victim advocacy group won an appeal for a woman who had been denied a renewal of a three-year restraining order against an ex-boyfriend.

Although she had claimed that he had attacked her children and threatened her on a cellphone since the first restraining order had been in place, the trial court did not renew the restraining order. The trial commissioner did not consider abuse to be harassment via telephone and disregarded her allegations that the children had been bruised in the attack.

The California Family Code contradicts this opinion. The definition of abuse includes annoying phone communications. When the trial court ruling was appealed, the appellate court concluded that the renewal of a protective order did not require new evidence of abuse. Furthermore, abuse does not have to be physical in nature, and the trial court should have considered any evidence of abuse against the children.

A person threatened by a family member or former partner might want to have the representation of an attorney. After an episode of domestic violence, an attorney could inform the victim about procedures for gaining protection from law enforcement. An attorney could prepare evidence to illustrate the danger threatening the victim and other family members. Police reports, medical records, cellphone records and witness testimony could be presented in court by the attorney to urge a judge to issue a restraining order or enforce an existing one.

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