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A Renewal of a Domestic Violence Restraining Order Must be Predicated on the Protected Party’s “Reasonable Apprehension” of Future Abuse

Rebecca Ritchie (“Respondent”) and Mark Konrad (“Appellant”) were engaged in 1995. During the final stages of their engagement, there were frequent arguments and altercations between the couple. In 1999, Respondent petitioned for a protective order against Appellant. The family law court ultimately issued the protective order against Appellant for a duration of three years. During the following three years, Appellant made no attempt to contact Respondent. In 2002, Respondent filed a request that the three-year protective order be made permanent, pursuant to Family Code section 6345. At the hearing on Respondent’s request, the family law court noted that the renewal statute did not have a specific criterion. Thus, after much deliberation, the family law court granted the permanent renewal. Appellant’s family law attorney then filed a timely appeal.  

The Court of Appeal found that the renewal of a domestic violence protective order required a finding that there was a “reasonable apprehension of future abuse.” The Court of Appeal reasoned that this was an objective standard that must be satisfied before a protective order is renewed. In determining whether the requesting party has a “reasonable apprehension” of future abuse, courts may consider a variety of different factors. For instance, courts may consider the existence of the protective order and the factual predicate for its issuance. Courts may also consider any significant changes in the circumstances surrounding the events justifying the initial protective order. Furthermore, the “burdens” the protective order imposes on the restrained party may or may not be a relevant factor in the family law court’s consideration of a contested request for renewal of a protective order. Those burdens would never justify a denial of a renewed protective order where the “reasonable apprehension” is of future acts of physical violence.

Moreover, where children are involved, a protective order designed to prohibit access to an abused spouse may have the effect of limiting the restrained party’s access to his or her children even when they are not potential targets of abuse. However, the physical security of the protected party trumps all of these burdens the original or renewed protective order may impose on the restrained party. Thus, where the protected party has a “reasonable apprehension” of future physical abuse if the current protective order expires, that order should be renewed despite any burdens this inflicts on the restrained party. The burdens the restrained party suffers from a renewed protective order may become relevant, however, where the existing order focuses not on the threat of physical violence, but lesser forms of abuse.

Based on the foregoing, the Court of Appeal agreed with Appellant’s family law attorney and reversed the order renewing the protective order, and remanded it for reconsideration of Respondent’s request.

Ritchie v. Konrad (2004) 115 Cal. App. 4th 1275