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The Effectiveness of a Domestic Violence Restraining Order Under the Domestic Violence Prevention Act is a Satisfactory Reason to Permit its Renewal

Annette S. Cueto (“Appellant”) obtained a two-year domestic violence restraining order (“DVRO”) against the father of her son, Michael Anthony Dozier (“Respondent”). Shortly before the order was set to expire, Appellant sought a permanent renewal of that order. Following a hearing, the divorce court denied Appellant’s request, finding that she had not established an objectively reasonable fear of future abuse by Respondent.

The Domestic Violence Prevention Act (“DVPA”) exists “to prevent acts of domestic violence, abuse, and sexual abuse and to provide for a separation of the persons involved in the domestic violence for a period sufficient to enable these persons to seek a resolution of the causes of the violence.” As provided in Family Code section 6345, a DVRO “may be renewed upon the request of a party, either for five years or permanently, without a showing of any further abuse since the issuance of the original order, subject to termination or modification by further order of the court either on written stipulation filed with the court or on the motion of a party. The request for renewal may be brought at any time within the three months before the expiration of the orders.” The standard governing this statute is that a family law court “should renew the protective order if, and only if, it finds by a preponderance of the evidence that the protected party entertains a reasonable apprehension of future abuse.” In evaluating whether the requesting party has a “reasonable apprehension of future abuse,” “the existence of the initial order certainly is relevant and the underlying findings and facts supporting that order often will be enough in themselves to provide the necessary proof to satisfy that test.” Also potentially relevant are any significant changes in the circumstances surrounding the events justifying the initial protective order. Also relevant are the seriousness and degree of risk, such as whether it involves potential physical abuse, and the burdens the protective order imposes on the restrained person, such as interference with job opportunities.

On appeal, Appellant argued that the family law court erred in finding that she did not demonstrate a reasonable apprehension of future abuse, as required for the renewal of a restraining order. The Court of Appeal agreed, finding that the family law court abused its discretion in determining that Appellant had not demonstrated a reasonable apprehension of future abuse. In denying Appellant’s request for a restraining order, the divorce court relied largely on the lack of any violation of the restraining order. Based on the facts of this case, however, that the initial restraining order proved effective was “a good reason for seeking its renewal.”

Cueto v. Dozier (2015) 241 Cal. App. 4th 550