Family Courts Have Jurisdiction to Renew Restraining Orders Issued by Juvenile Courts

Maria Garcia (“Appellant”) and Gilbert Escobar (“Respondent”) dated for seven years before separating. Appellant and Respondent had one child. Appellant’s family law attorney filed a request for a restraining order against Respondent in family law court. The case was eventually transferred to juvenile court. The juvenile court issued a restraining order protecting Appellant from Respondent. The order was on a form mandated by the Judicial Council, which referenced both the Welfare and Institutions Code and the Family Code. Prior to the expiration of the restraining order, Appellant’s family law attorney filed a request for a domestic violence restraining order in family law court. A copy of the juvenile court’s restraining order was attached to Appellant’s declaration. At the outset of the hearing concerning Appellant’s requested restraining order, the family law court indicated that it understood Appellant’s application as a request for a restraining order, and not a request for the renewal of a restraining order. The family law court ultimately concluded that it did not have jurisdiction to renew the restraining order because it was issued by the juvenile court. Thus, the family law court issued a one-year restraining order, which protected both Appellant and Respondent.

The Court of Appeal held that the family law court erroneously concluded that it lacked jurisdiction to renew Appellant’s restraining order. Family Code section 6345 provides: “In the discretion of the court, the personal conduct, stay-away, and residence exclusion orders contained in a court order issued after notice and a hearing under this article may have a duration of not more than five years, 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. These orders 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 Court of Appeal noted that section 6345 applied not only to restraining orders issued by the family law court, but also to restraining orders issued by the juvenile court. When a Welfare and Institutions Code section 300 petition is filed in juvenile court, the juvenile court has jurisdiction to issue restraining orders until the petition is dismissed or the dependency is terminated. The jurisdiction of the juvenile court is not affected by the jurisdiction of the family law court. However, once the juvenile court terminates jurisdiction, the family law court assumes jurisdiction over restraining orders issued in juvenile court. Even when the juvenile court has jurisdiction, the Family Code applies to protective orders issued by the juvenile court. Both courts apply the same definitions of abuse when issuing restraining orders.

Based on the foregoing, the Court of Appeal reasoned that, by its plain language, Family Code section 6345 is not limited to restraining orders originating in family law court. Section 6345 requires that the order sought to be renewed was issued “after notice and a hearing under this article.” Here, the juvenile court’s order was an “order after hearing.” Thus, the conduct restrained was identical to conduct described in the Family Code warranting protection. The Court of Appeal agreed with Appellant’s divorce lawyer and ordered that the restraining order issued by the juvenile court was subject to renewal by the family law court. Accordingly, the Court of Appeal held that the family law court erred in concluding that it lacked jurisdiction to renew the restraining order issued by the juvenile court.

Garcia v. Escobar (2017) 17 Cal. App. 5th 267