(ordered published 6/2/2023)
The court erred in denying a request for renewal of a Domestic Violence Restraining Order (DVRO) where the party seeking the order had demonstrated a reasonable apprehension of future abuse. Robin J. was granted a three-year DVRO protecting her from Michael M., the father of their two children, after a domestic violence incident in 2018. About six months later, Michael M. was arrested after strangling Robin and holding a knife to her neck while their children were present. In 2021, Robin requested renewal of the DVRO. The court denied her request, finding that the request for renewal was retribution against Michael for seeking custody of the minors, that Robin’s fear of Michael was unreasonable, and that a recent disparaging text message from Michael to Robin was not really a violation of the existing court order. Robin appealed and the reviewing court reversed and remanded with instructions to grant the renewal request and decide whether the DVRO should be renewed for five more years, or permanently. The legal standard for renewal of a DVRO is whether the protected party entertains a reasonable apprehension of future abuse, which need not be physical abuse. An imminent and present danger is not required. In evaluating whether the requesting party has a reasonable apprehension of future abuse, the trial court should consider the evidence and findings on which the initial DVRO was based, the extent of the burden on the restrained person, and any significant changes in the circumstances surrounding the events justifying the initial protective orders. Here, the court erred when it required Robin show recent abuse or a recent violation of the DVRO as these are not required to make a showing of reasonable apprehension of future abuse. The incident where Michael held a knife to Robin’s throat was of such a nature that it could be reasonably expected to give rise to a long-lasting fear. Further, the text message Michael sent to Robin was a violation of the DVRO because it was a non-emergency communication outside of the allowed platforms. Even if Robin’s motives in requesting the renewal were retaliatory, her motive would still not negate the evidence that she had a reasonable fear of Michael. Robin established a reasonable apprehension of future abuse and is therefore entitled to a renewal of the DVRO.
The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: https://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/D080707.PDF