By Pamela Edwards-Swift, CFLS
There are so many sides to domestic violence. Currently, our system is set up to allow the family law court to make temporary domestic violence restraining orders just upon allegations, without proof. The orders are temporary (less than 25 days) and then there is a full hearing at which time the abused person sets forth the evidence to prove the allegations of domestic violence occurred. The court then decides whether the orders should become permanent, and if so, how long the orders will last. Even if the permanent restraining orders are never issued, while the temporary orders are in place, they strip the person of certain rights, can threaten their job, and places them into a system with law enforcement, which labels them as a violent person. The issuance of these orders is serious and should not be treated lightly.
The system was originally put into place because there was a need to protect the abused person on an emergency basis, to keep the couple apart so that no further violence could occur. In some cases that is truly necessary. However, it can become a “he said, she said” situation and sometimes the allegations are completely false. Allegations of domestic violence, when there has been no real domestic violence, can be devastating to a person, especially if that person is a man. Unfortunately, there are women who will use the system to their advantage. They may make the allegation because they think it will give them an advantage in a child custody dispute, or as I saw recently, just because she was a woman scorned. As a woman, I find it insulting to the female gender for a woman to be so vindictive and manipulative so as to ruin a man’s life, or attempt to do so. Women should not be allowed to make things up, just because they are angry and hurt. But sometimes they do.
Our system is currently broken. If there truly is domestic violence, as a society, we should be making certain the violent person gets the help they need so that the violence stops. However, if the accuser is making false allegations and is manipulating the system just because “they can,” then that person should be the one to get help. The current system does not allow for that, nor does it follow the law of the land, “innocent until proven guilty.” It is just the opposite, “guilty until proven innocent.” Unfortunately, because a domestic violence restraining order does not mean jail time (unless there are separate criminal charges), the family law courts have the ability to strip someone of certain rights, and place them in the position of being labeled violent, without any proof of the same. It needs to change.
If you are truly the victim of abuse, get out. If you are the perpetrator of violence, get help. Just don’t abuse the system.
Pamela Edwards-Swift, Certified Family Law Specialist, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 & 2014; Southern California Super Lawyer