Domestic Violence Law Changes in California: Is Mediation warranted?

domestic violence law changesOne of the few instances when divorce mediation is done cautiously is when there has been a pattern of domestic violence in the relationship. Mediation is based upon the notion that both parties come to a neutral, even table. Domestic violence creates a power imbalance in the relationship that makes mediation problematic, but not impossible. Recent updates in domestic violence law make it easier for the battered party to get and retain a restraining order, primarily because of this power imbalance. In a mediation setting, domestic violence of all sorts is needs to be guarded against. There is no room for belittling, intimidation, or coercion either within the mediation or behind the scenes. When you mediate your divorce, Pacific Coast Mediation  wants you to feel safe and  feel as if you both have equal power to form your future.

California Domestic Violence Law Changes

The appellate court, in California, handed down a couple decisions making it easier for victims of domestic violence to get and retain restraining orders. Domestic violence law recognizes that the stakes are high when a person is the victim of domestic violence. Two cases modified domestic violence law, in subtle yet important, ways.

  • Cueto v. Dozier: The facts are that Annette got a 2 year restraining order against Mike. Mike was prosecuted but acquitted for battery. Annette wanted to renew the restraining order, making it permanent. She said that Mike drove past her house on two occasions in violation of the restraining order. It scared her. The trial court judge wouldn’t do it. Annette appealed and the decision was reversed. The appellate court said that a restraining order could be renewed despite that there was no new evidence of abuse. The standard for judges for restraining order renewal is: “if, and only if, it finds by a preponderance of the evidence that the protected party entertains a ‘reasonable apprehension’ of future abuse.”
  • Rodriguez v. Menjivar: When Beverly and Randy were dating, Beverly claimed Randy beat her when she was pregnant and was extremely controlling. Two times she sought counselling and ultimately got a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO). However, at the hearing, the judge did not grant a restraining order and dissolved the TRO. The judge said that testimony about Randy’s control over Beverly was irrelevant. The appellate court disagreed. They said that abuse included mental abuse and this evidence ought to have been considered.

In both instances of Domestic Violence Law updates, the court is recognizing the power imbalance created by domestic violence. In one, the court interpreted the law to allow the fear of the abuser to be the guiding factor in extending a restraining order. In the other, mental abuse was reaffirmed as actual abuse. An impressive set of decisions, to be sure. They display, perfectly, why you need to approach divorce mediation carefully. Pacific Coast Mediation has a system in place that takes this care. Contact them today to discuss if mediation is appropriate in your case.