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Cueto v. Dozier Summary

 

Opinion published on October 20, 2015

 

Factual Background

 

Mother filed an ex parte request for a DVRO against the father of her son.  Two days earlier Father assaulted Mother at her son’s baseball game.  Father grabbed Mother, hit her in the nose, and threw her to the ground.  Aside from that incident, there was a long history of abuse and their son was afraid of Father.  Three witnesses corroborated Mother’s account.  The court issued a temporary order and later a two-year order.

 

Mother sought to renew the DV order two years later.  Father violated the restraining order when he twice drove by her home in his Lexus.  She

did not see who drove the car.  Mother also dreamt in nightmares Father attempted to hurt her.  The court was skeptical of whether under a reasonable person standard someone would fear Father.

 

Trial Court’s Decision

 

The court denied Mother’s renewal request.  It was unreasonable for Mother to fear Father drove every white Lexus.  Mother appealed.  The court of appeal reversed.

 

Decision on Appeal

 

 Wife argued on appeal that the trial court utilized the wrong legal standard.  In the alternative, the court abused its discretion when it denied her renewal request.  The Court of Appeal found the trial court did not use the wrong legal standard.  A woman in the same circumstance must have a reasonable fear that future acts will occur in the future.  The trial court did not use those exact words, but it was clear elsewhere in the record the court understood and applied the correct legal standard.  The court also understood it could renew the order even if no violations occurred.

 

The trial court erred however when it found Mother was not in reasonable apprehension of future abuse.  The record showed future violations were likely to occur.  The first incident was violent, Father did not take court ordered anger management classes, and he did not show he had moved on with his life.  Finally, the trial court’s comment after it denied Mother’s request troubled the Court of Appeal.  The trial court admonished Father to stay away from Mother’s house and if he failed to do so, Mother could seek her restraining order.  That comment indicated the trial court believed Mother was in reasonable fear.  The above resulted in the reversal  

 

Note:

 

This case is an example of the appellate principle that inferences are made by a reviewing court in support of the judgment and the presumption the trial court knew and applied the law correctly.  The court stated the standard incorrectly but comments elsewhere raised the inference the court understood the law’s application despite its misstatement.  The mere misstatement did not dispel the presumption the court knew and understood the law.

 

 

 

 

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