Domestic Violence

The term "domestic violence" is a very broad term--used to mean so many different things to so many people. For some, it is a family member who physically abuses another family member, for others, it's a person with a bad temper who raises his or her on at least one occasion. The spectrum is very broad.

The Petitioner

A person filing a Petition for Domestic Orders (also known as CLETs orders) is known as the Petitioner. A petitioner files a petition for CLETs orders for various reasons, to include disingenuous reasons, such as, retaliation for the ex-boyfriend (or girlfriend) breaking up with them; to create ways to prevent another parent from having any access to their child.

For the majority of cases, a petitioner's request for domestic-violence restraining orders (CLETs orders) are based on good cause. From professional experience, at least 60% of the petitions are approved. To increase Petitioner's changes of procuring CLETs orders, it is important to prepare a thorough and complete petition, as well as to be well-prepared for the hearing. Many times, "Murphy's Law" is in effect--the person needing CLETs orders is denied their request; and, the person non-deserving of CLETs orders is issued such orders.

The Respondent

Regardless of the reason for a person filing restraining orders, it's important for the Respondent (the person accused of domestic violence) to challenge the petitioner--even if there is some level of guilt on their part. Many years ago, I asked a well-known San Francisco District Attorney how he could represent guilty defendants. His answer surprised me. He stated that even if they were guilty, they were entitled to a defense that created a "just outcome." When asked to explain, the attorney stated that an attorney was needed to ensure that the "punishment met the crime." So, if, for example, someone accidentally killed someone--the punishment should be a few years in prison, not the death penalty. Family Law CLETs orders are similar to the example I just illustrated. If the person being accused of committing domestic violence doesn't properly defend themselves in court (or fails to show up to court), there is a strong likelihood that the judge will, if requested by the Petitioner, grant CLETs orders lasting up to 5 years! Based on the facts of the case, the court could issue CLETS orders for 3 months, instead of 5 years. This, of course, would depend on whether or not the Respondent showed up in court.

Another reason it is important for the Respondent to defend against the issuance of CLETs orders is the long-term effects caused by the issuance of CLETs orders. Below is a list of a few situations that would be adversely affected by CLETs orders:

  1. Custody
  2. Visitation
  3. Spousal support
  4. Procurement of employment
  5. Jobs having a certain level of security clearance required to maintain the position
  6. Fiduciary positions: conservator, guardian, trustee
  7. Positions of public trust: policeman, sheriff, fireman, etc.

Finally, CLETs orders can show up on a person's public record for up to ten years. A few years back, I represented an individual who wished to petition the S.F. Probate Court for guardianship of his niece. After a background check was done on my client, my client was declined guardianship of his niece because a background check on this individual showed that he had restraining orders (issued six years prior) in connection with a neighbor dispute. (During the initial consultation and on his petition for guardianship, my client had denied that any restraining orders were issued against him. It was when the probate examiner identified the 2001 restraining orders that my client realized that they stayed on his record for 10 years.)

The Judge

The judge assigned to the matter has broad discretion to approve or disapprove a request for CLETS orders. The personality of the judge assigned to the matter is a very important factor to the legal process. Specifically, the judge is human, not a computer; thus, his/her temperament, age, biases, fatigue level (and many other factors) affect his or her decision-making process. While every judge swears to be unbiased, he/she can't help it when their biases take the better of them. For example, not knowing anything about the case--the parties, the facts, the evidence, the judge looks at the two parties has made his decision based on the following: the female petitioner is petite, quiet-spoken, professionally dressed and groomed--speaking gracefully, politely and graceful. Respondent is large, rude (interrupting the judge, interrupting the petitione)r, dressed in dirty/disheveled clothes, and so on. In all likelihood, the judge, after seeing the parties, will have his/her mind made up regarding guilt or innocence of the Respondent. In this scenario, the female has little work to prove Respondent is violent; and, Respondent has much work to prove Petitioner is lying to the Court.

Whether you are a petitioner or respondent, all you can do is put your best foot forward and do everything possible to prepare your case and prepare for your hearing. Ideally, parties should be presented by legal counsel. For most, however, this is not financially practical.

How I can help:
  • Provide a free 30-minute consultation to assist with identifying major issues and problems;
  • Provide a one-hour consultation to provide legal assistance in connection with the legal matter.
  • Provide legal coaching that includes answering any and all questions related to legal matter, to include, tips and strategies. Coaching also includes explaining procedural law and assessing facts, information and evidence needed to support (or defend) the petition for CLETs orders.
  • If local, provide legal representation on the day of the court hearing.

For further information on this topic, please visit and subscribe to Ms. Garrett’s California Family Law and Divorce Blog

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