Repeated Reports to Police, If False, Were Ground for Granting DVRO—C.A.
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Court of Appeal for this district said in an opinion certified for publication yesterday that a father’s repeated reports to police that his six-year-old girl and three-year-old boy, who were in their mother’s care, were in peril, if untrue, constituted sufficient harassment to warrant the granting of a restraining order.
The opinion, initially filed Sept. 20 and not certified for publication, reverses, with directions, an order by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Scully denying a domestic violence restraining order (“DVRO”) under the Domestic Violence Prevention Act (“DVPA”).
Justice Gregory Weingart wrote:
“We conclude that based on the limited evidence before it, the family court erred in denying the DVRO. Mother adduced evidence that Father made multiple requests for police welfare checks not for any legitimate reason but based on false information to harass her. If fully credited, that evidence alone was sufficient to demonstrate abuse under the DVPA and to require the issuance of a DVRO, and the court erred in finding otherwise.”
“We say if fully credited, because the court did not permit Father to offer testimony or evidence that he had legitimate concerns when he made these calls, or any other evidence for that matter. In fact, when Father began to attempt setting forth such evidence, the court advised Father that it had already ruled in his favor and did not need to hear his reasons for calling the police. Accordingly, we reverse and remand the matter for an evidentiary hearing where the court can hear from both parties.”
The mother contended that the father called the Santa Monica Police Department, seeking “welfare checks” on the children, on Dec. 9, 15, 21, 23, 25, 28, and 30, 2021, that the police phoned her and asked for her address which she declined to provide, fearing that the father would learn her whereabouts as a result. She declared that since Nov. 23, 2021, the father “sent well over 100 emails” and 37 messages over an app used by parents to coordinate custody scheduling, all of which were “accusatory, argumentative, and abusive towards me and/or my attorney.”
Scully said of the father’s alleged activities:
“I understand that they’re annoying. I think they may be counterproductive. I think that may have other consequences that may be disadvantageous, but they’re not domestic violence.”
Disagreeing, Weingart wrote:
“[T]he trial court impliedly found that even if it took all of Mother’s statements and evidence as true, Mother did not carry her burden to demonstrate abuse by a preponderance of the evidence.
“That was error. If one accepts Mother’s evidence at face value, and does not consider any potential countervailing evidence, her evidence would compel a finding in her favor.”
But because the father had not been heard from, a new hearing was ordered.
The case is Jan F. v. Natalie F., B322439.
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