Family Courts Have Jurisdiction to Renew Domestic Violence Restraining Orders Under the Domestic Violence Prevention Act Initially Granted by Juvenile Courts

Priscila N. (“Appellant”) and Leonardo G. (“Respondent”) married in 2008. The couple separated in 2011. Their relationship involved repeated incidents of domestic violence against Appellant. The couple’s separation was followed by the initiation of a dependency proceeding in August 2013. During the pendency of the juvenile case, Respondent committed acts of domestic violence against Appellant. Appellant’s family law attorney filed a request for relief. As a result, the juvenile court issued a temporary restraining order (“TRO”) against Respondent. Respondent ultimately violated the TRO, and the juvenile court issued a domestic violence restraining order (“DVRO”) against Respondent.

The couple ultimately divorced in September 2014. In August 2016, Appellant’s divorce attorney filed a request to renew the DVRO in family court. At the hearing on the request for renewal, Respondent’s divorce lawyer asked that Appellant’s request be denied insofar as it would limit Respondent’s contact with the children. The family court eventually issued an order vacating its permanent renewal order. Appellant’s divorce attorney then moved to vacate this order. However, the motion was denied. The family court judge explained that he did not believe that he had the power to renew a DVRO originally issued by the juvenile court. Appellant’s divorce lawyer then appealed the denial of her request for a renewal of the DVRO.

On appeal, Appellant’s divorce attorney argued that the family court erred when it concluded that it lacked the authority to renew a DVRO granted by the juvenile court. The Court of Appeal agreed with Appellant’s divorce lawyer. The Court of Appeal reasoned that, when looking to the plain language of the Family Code and Welfare and Institutions Code, the statutes should be construed to work together to provide the best protection for domestic violence victims. The Court of Appeal agreed with Appellant’s divorce lawyer and ruled that the DVRO issued under the Welfare and Institutions Code should have been considered to have been issued under the Domestic Violence Prevention Act under the Family Code. The Court of Appeal noted that it was not reasonable to conclude that juvenile court orders should end while family law court orders granted under the same standards could be easily renewed. Therefore, the Court of Appeal directed the family law court to renew the DVRO.

Priscilla N. v. Leonardo G. (2017) 17 Cal. App. 5th 1208