Quite often I am asked to obtain restraining orders against a husband, or wife, due to domestic violence. Depending upon the facts, I will make the decision of whether or not to go forward. On occasion I will hear disturbing facts which indicate domestic violence and I will suggest that we get restraining orders against the other party. Sometimes the abused person, usually the wife, does not want to get restraining orders. Such was the case with Iman Wahid.
Mr. and Mrs. Wahid were divorcing, and Iman’s attorney learned of an incident which had occurred recently in which Mr. Wahid had left Mrs. Wahid black and blue from head to toe. Mrs. Wahid’s attorney advised her to get restraining orders, but she refused to do so. As you know, if you live in the community, Mrs. Wahid was recently stabbed to death by her husband. The question becomes, would restraining orders have prevented the killing? I think not.
The reason I do not believe restraining orders would have made a difference is because Mr. Wahid was determined to kill his wife. Restraining orders would not have saved her. He had moved out. She had changed the locks on the door. However, somehow he got a key and let himself in. From all accounts he was waiting for her. He was waiting to kill her, which he did when she returned home from the grocery store. The first strike occurred when she entered the house with groceries in her arms. She had no opportunity to prevent him from doing what he was determined to do.
Approximately four years ago, Rancho Cucamonga resident Michael Burton killed his wife, Otilia. He had also moved out of the residence, but then moved back in. Her attorney tried to prevent him from moving back into the family home, but did not ask for restraining orders. The Judge denied the request to prevent the husband from moving back in because there were no domestic violence restraining orders requested. Would the restraining orders have made a difference? Maybe, maybe not. If there were restraining orders, the husband would not have been able to move back into the house.
That may have been enough to prevent the killing, but we’ll never know for certain. As with Iman Wahid, if Otilia Burton’s husband was determined to kill her, a piece of paper would not have stopped him.
The point of me writing this, is that for the basically good law abiding citizens, a restraining order is useful to prevent that person from acting poorly, given a certain situation. But, for a non-law abiding citizen, or for someone who is mentally ill, a restraining order is worth nothing more than the paper it was written on. So, should you get a restraining order if there is domestic violence? Yes, absolutely! Just don’t rely solely on that piece of paper to save your life.
Pamela Edwards-Swift, Certified Family Law Specialist, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 & 2014; Southern California Super Lawyer