Disturbing the Peace of the Other Party Constitutes Abuse Under the Domestic Violence Prevention Act

Pursuant to the Domestic Violence Protection Act (“DVPA”), Amy Lee Phillips (“Respondent”) applied to the Superior Court for a domestic violence restraining order against James Eugene Campbell (“Appellant”) through her Orange County family law attorney. Respondent, a professional cyclist, declared that she had been friends with Appellant for several months. Respondent claimed that Appellant expressed an interest in moving forward with their relationship, but Respondent informed him that she was not interested in moving forward. Thereafter, Appellant repeatedly harassed Respondent by sending text messages to her, posting her personal information on Facebook, posting videos of her on YouTube, and sending private messages to individuals about her. The Orange County Superior Court ultimately found that a relationship existed between the parties that qualified as a dating relationship, and that the communications from Appellant to Respondent qualified the domestic violence restraining order protecting Respondent.

In the appeal, Appellant’s Orange County family law attorney claimed that the family law court erroneously found that the parties had a “dating relationship.” Under the DVPA, a restraining order may be granted where the parties are “having or [have] had a dating…relationship.” “Dating relationship” means “frequent, intimate associations primarily characterized by the expectation of affection or sexual involvement independent of financial considerations.” The Court of Appeal found that substantial evidence supported the Orange County family court’s finding that a dating relationship existed, as the parties were friends for several months, dined out on occasion, kissed, hugged, stayed at each other’s homes for several days, and discussed the possibility of dating.

In addition, on appeal Appellant’s Orange County family law attorney argued that he could not be subject to a domestic violence restraining order because his conduct was nonviolent. In response, the Court of Appeal reasoned that there was no DVPA requirement of a physical threat, and that “violence” was not a prerequisite for obtaining a restraining order under the DVPA. Although the DVPA defines “domestic violence” as “abuse,” abuse is not limited to the actual infliction of physical injury or assault. For purposes of the DVPA, “abuse” means, “to engage in any behavior that has been or could be enjoined pursuant to section 6320.” California Family Code section 6320(a) permits the family law court to enjoin a party from “harassing … or disturbing the peace of the other party.” The plain meaning of the phrase “disturbing the peace of the other party” in section 6320 may be properly understood as conduct that destroys the mental or emotional calm of the other party. Here, the Court of Appeal agreed with Respondent’s Orange County family law attorney and found that there was substantial evidence to support the Orange County divorce court’s finding that the Appellant disturbed the peace of Respondent, an act of “abuse” under the DVPA. The Court of Appeal agreed with Respondent’s Orange County divorce attorney and ruled that the divorce court’s issuance of the domestic violence restraining order was affirmed.

Phillips v. Campbell (2016) 2 Cal. App. 5th 844