In the recent case of In re Marriage of Nadkarni (173 Cal. App. 4th 1483), Husband accessed Wife’s private email account during a custody proceeding to find out information about her whereabouts; he then attached emails to pleadings filed with the court and alleged that he obtained other information that was inflammatory and sensitive that he planned to use in future litigation. Wife filed a request for a Domestic Violence Temporary Restraining Order under the Domestic Violence Prevention Act (DVPA), asserting that Husband had improperly accessed her private email account without her authorization and was threatening to use inflammatory material to detrimentally affect her business relationships and embarrass her in court. She also alleged that Husband used information from her email account to monitor her social calendar, and that his knowledge of her activities, coupled with his history of spousal abuse, made her fear for her safety. While the trial court initially granted a Temporary Restraining Order, it subsequently determined that Husband’s conduct did not rise to the level necessary for an extended DVPA restraining order and dismissed her application.
On appeal, the court determined that a restraining order could be issued to prevent someone from, among other things, stalking, threatening, harassing, making annoying phone calls, or disturbing the peace of the person making the application or his or her family members; violent conduct or actual physical harm is not necessarily required. It then defined “disturbing the peace” to include “conduct that destroys the mental or emotional calm of the other party.” Therefore, the court reasoned that Husband could certainly have disturbed Wife’s mental and emotional calm by accessing her email account, reading her emails, and publicizing their contents, and her application sufficiently alleged conduct that could be threatening and injurious to her mental and emotional well-being. Therefore, the trial court should have held a hearing on the issue.
This case is important because it clarifies that the statutes pertaining to domestic violence should be interpreted broadly and that the court should focus on the big picture and the context of victimizers’ acts when addressing domestic violence related matters to ensure that they are handled fairly and appropriately.
Excerpted from California Family Law Report July 2009 at http://www.cflr.com/com/2009_07.php