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N.T. v. H.T. Summary

 

N.T. v. H.T. published April 22, 2019

 

 

Factual Background

A California appellate court recently handed a big win to domestic violence victims when it decided that any acts that violate a temporary restraining order (TRO) — even those that do not cause physical injury — are enough to secure a domestic violence restraining order (DVRO).

 

In N.T. v. H.T., the wife (N) had a TRO against her husband (H) to protect herself and her two children, one of whom she shared with H. The TRO provided that the husband was not to “[h]arass, attack, strike, threaten, assault (sexually or otherwise), hit, follow, stalk, molest, destroy personal property, disturb the peace, keep under surveillance, impersonate (on the Internet, electronically or otherwise), or block movements” of N.

 

N alleged that H did various things that violated the order, including refusing to hand over their daughter at custody exchanges unless N interacted with H, followed her after an exchange, entered her apartment complex, and gave her a letter with various Bible verses referencing N’s “dirtiness.”

Trial Court's Order

 

On the basis of these alleged violations, N sought a DRVO. The trial court declined to enter one, ruling that because all of the acts alleged were only “technical” violations of the TRO, they did not rise to the level of “domestic violence.”

Decision on Appeal 

N appealed the decision, and California’s 4th District Court of Appeal sided with her, ruling that the acts she described, if established as true, would be sufficient for the court to enter a DRVO in her favor.

 

The appellate court turned to the definition of “abuse” under California’s Domestic Violence Prevention Act, which states that “[a]buse is not limited to the actual infliction of physical injury or assault.” The court specifically found that H’s alleged acts would constitute “disturbing the peace of the other party” under California law.

 

The court noted that H didn’t deny any of the allegations but rather “minimized them or attempted to justify them” and concluded that the acts described, if they occurred as alleged by N, “would have been acts of abuse without the existence of the TRO.”

 

Accordingly, the appellate court sent the case back down to the trial level for a ruling on whether the acts occurred as alleged by N, and, if they did, the court must enter the DVRO as she requested.

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