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January 2012 Verve: The Need to Overhaul Connecticut’s Civil Restraining Order

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When Connecticut’s 2012 Legislative Session begins in February, DVCC360, along with the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence and its member programs, will seek to have Connecticut’s restraining order statute (C.G.S  § 46b-15) amended to permit judges to issue civil restraining orders for up to one year, instead of limiting these orders to a mere six months.

EXTENDING THE PERMISSIBLE LENTH OF RESTRAINING ORDERS IS LONG OVERDUE

Every state across the country has a law that allows a victim of domestic violence to apply for an emergency/ex parte order of protection through the civil court and then to have that emergency/ex parte order extended for a longer term. Connecticut is one of only four states that limit this longer term to less than a one year period.(1) Every other state allows for a period of at least one year.(2) In fact, more than half of the states expressly authorize a civil court to issue a restraining order for up to two or more years.(3)

Under C.G.S. § 46b-15, Connecticut judges are currently limited to issuing an order that lasts for 180 days (effectively 6 months). To obtain an extension, the victim must file an application and serve the abuser before the original order expires. This means that, in Connecticut, a victim must start the re-application process only five months after the hearing at which it was originally granted, and must confront their abuser every six months. This is incredibly burdensome for victims, both emotionally and logistically, as well as for our civil court system.

By issuing restraining orders for a full one year term, the civil court is likely to see a decrease in motions to extend these orders, which translates to fewer court hearings and less paperwork for our civil clerks to process. Not only does the proposed change decrease the burden on victims of domestic violence, it also has fiscal relevance to a State system currently burdened with budget concerns. Connecticut must join the rest of the country and permit the civil courts to issue restraining orders for at least a one year period.

As we look forward to the coming months and a robust dialogue about Connecticut’s restraining order statute, DVCC360 believes we need to not only examine the merit of extending the length of time for which these orders can be granted, but also our current restraining order statute in its entirety, both the processes and available protections, as well highlight best practice strategies that can be easily implemented by our community partners under the current statutory scheme in order to improve the overall experience for victims.

EXPAND THE SCOPE OF RESTRAINING ORDER PROTECTIONS

When looking at the types of available protections available to victims of domestic violence across the country, Connecticut appears to be extraordinarily conservative. The protections available under C.G.S. § 46b-15 include only the basic universal protections available in every state.[4 ]While Connecticut, like most other states, also expressly permits the court to additionally “make any such orders it deems appropriate for the protection of the applicant and such dependent children ...,” such provisions are widely underutilized.

While, of course, physical safety will continue to be the primary concern with respect to establishing the need for a restraining order, other states have, for quite some time, also been cognizant of the extreme financial and economic abuse and retaliation victims of domestic violence experience before, during and after the restraining order is granted. Almost every state in the nation has crafted legislation which provides for more expansive protections aimed at addressing these issues. According to the Battered Women’s Justice Project,(5) the civil restraining order statutes in 35 states expressly entertain the provision of temporary child support. Thirty-three of these states also expressly allow for orders of temporary spousal support. These types of orders are just the tip of the iceberg. DVCC360 has highlighted other highly relevant protections and their prevalence in the “Thinking Outside the Box” Sidebar on page 2, and we strongly encourage our community partners to consider that effective community strategies to keep women and families safe from abuse must include measures, such as these outlined, which not only provide for restitution, but also promote critical economic independence.

WHAT CAN WE DO RIGHT NOW?

Even with our limited Connecticut statute, there are ways that we can work within the current statutory scheme to promote a better and more coordinated approach to the civil restraining order process. Many of these have been compiled and published by The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFJ) in Civil Protection Orders: A Guide for Improving Practice, more commonly referred to as “The Burgundy Book.” The goal of this publication was to promote effective issuance, service and enforcement of protection orders nationwide. It highlights six universal strategies which speak to overarching values that must be fully embraced by each professional in the civil restraining order system in order for the system to function effectively, and then goes on to provide recommendations from the NCJFCJ that are specific to advocates, civil attorneys, courts and the judiciary, law enforcement, and prosecutors in turn. DVCC360 highly encourages everyone who comes into contact with families affected by victims of domestic violence to access this document and use it as a reference tool, not only to inform your own particular area of practice, but to also more broadly inform as to how a community can come together and “ensure that the promise of the civil protection order system is realized.”(6)

The Burgundy Book can be found in electronic form at: http://www.ncjfcj.org/images/stories/dept/fvd/pdf/cpo_guide.pdf.

Civil restraining orders will continue to be a critical safety planning tool for victims of domestic violence. Because of this, we, as a community, have a responsibility to ensure that the process of obtaining a civil restraining order, and the protections available to victims through such orders, exemplify Connecticut’s commitment to help victims of domestic violence keep themselves and their children safe from abuse. DVCC360 looks forward to working with all of you as we continue to examine potential improvements to this essential process.

 NOTES

 1. Connecticut, see C.G.S. § 46b-15; Hawaii, see H.R.S. §§ 586-5, 586-5.5; New Mexico, see N.M.S.A § 40-13-6; and West Virginia, see W. Va. Code § 48-27-403. 

2. Alaska, see A.S. § 18.66.100(b); Arizona, see A.R.S. § 13-3602(k); District of Columbia, see D.C. Code § 16-1005(d); Georgia, see O.C.G.A. § 19-13-4(c); Idaho, see I.C. § 36-6306(1); Iowa, see I.A. St. § 236.5(2); Kansas, see Kansas Code § 60-3107(6); Louisiana, see L.A.R.S. § 2136(F); Maryland, see M.D. Code § 4-506; Massachusetts, see M.G.L.A. 209A § 3; Missouri, see Mo. St. § 455.050; Nebraska, see Neb. Rev. St. § 42-925(4); Nevada, see N.R.S. § 33.080; New Hampshire, see N.H. Rev. Stat. § 173-B:5; North Carolina, see N.C.G.S. § 50B-3; Oregon, see O.R.S. § 107.700, et. seq.; South Carolina, see Code 1976 § 20-4-70; Tennessee, see Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-3-605; Vermont, see 15 V.S.A. § 1103; Wyoming, see WY Stat. § 35-21-106(b). 

3. Alabama, see Ala. Code § 30-5-7(d)(2); Arkansas, see A.C.A. § 9-15-205(b); California, see California Family Code § 6345(a); Colorado, see Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-14-102; Delaware, see 10 Del. C. 1041(b); Florida, see Fla. Stat. § 741.30; Illinois, see 750 I.L.C.S. § 60/220(b); Indiana, see I.C. § 34-26-5-9(e); Kentucky, see K.R.S. § 403.750(2); Maine, see M.R.S. 19-A § 4007; Michigan, see M.C.L.A. § 600.2950a; Minnesota, see Minn. Stat. § 518B.01(6)(b); Mississippi, see M.S. Code § 93-21-17(2); Montana, see Mont. Code Ann. § 40-15-204; New Jersey, see N.J.S.A. § 2C:25-29; New York, see NY Fam. Ct. Act § 842; North Dakota, see N.D.C.C. § 14-07.1; Ohio, see Ohio Rev. Code § 3113.31; Oklahoma, see 22 O.S. § 60.4; Pennsylvania, see 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 6108; Rhode Island, see R.I. Gen. Laws § 8-8.1; South Dakota, S.D.C.L. § 25-10-5; Texas, see Tex. Fam. Code § 85.025; Utah, see U.C.A. 1953 § 78B-7-106; Virginia, see Va. Stat. § 16.1-279.1; Washington, see R.C.W. § 26.50.060; Wisconsin, see Wis. Stat. § 813.12(4).

 4. C.G.S. § 46b-15 provides, in substantive part: The court, in its discretion, may make such orders as it deems appropriate for the protection of the applicant and such dependent children or other persons as the court sees fit …. Such orders may include temporary child custody or visitation rights, and such relief may include, but is not limited to, an order enjoining the respondent from (1) imposing any restraint upon the person or liberty of the applicant; (2) threatening, harassing, assaulting, molesting, sexually assaulting or attacking the applicant; or (3) entering the family dwelling or the dwelling of the applicant. Such order may include provisions necessary to protect any animal owned or kept by the applicant including, but not limited to, an order enjoining the respondent from injuring or threatening to injure such animal.

5. “Economic Relief Available in Protection Orders,” compiled by the Battered Women’s Justice Project, and found at: http://www.jwi.org/Document.Doc?id=130. 

6. Maureen Sheeran, et al. Civil Protection Orders: A Guide for Improving Practice, pg. 2. National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) (2010)


A NATIONAL PERPSECTIVE:

 

Connecticut is one of only four states that does not permit civil court judges to issue an initial restraining order for at least a one year period.

 

Less than 1 Yr:        4 states

Connecticut, Hawaii, New Mexico, W. Virginia.

 

Up to 1 Yr:               19 states

Alaska, Arizona, District of Columbia, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, Wyoming.

 

Up to 2 Yrs:             7 states

Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Minnesota, Texas, Virginia.

 

Up to 3 Yrs:             6 states

Kentucky, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Wisconsin.

 

Up to 5 Yrs:             4 states

California, New York, Ohio, South Dakota.

 

More than 5 Yrs:     10 states

Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Montana, New Jersey, North Dakota, Utah, Washington


THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX:

WHAT OTHER PROTECTIONS CAN WE OFFER VICTIMS THROUGH A RESTRAINING ORDER?

Restitution: 18 states expressly authorize the restraining order court to order restitution for out of pocket expenses, such as medical expenses, relocation costs and lost wages.*

Intervention Services: 31 states expressly authorize the restraining order court to order an offender to some sort of counseling, substance abuse treatment and/or batterer intervention services to attempt to prevent future abuse.*

Stop Financial Retaliation: 20 states expressly authorize a restraining order court to order an offender to continue to make any rent/mortgage payments on the common dwelling and/or provide suitable alternative housing for the victim to ward of financial abuse as retaliation for a victim pursuing the restraining order.**

Possession/use of a vehicle or other personal property: 27 states expressly authorize a restraining order court to order exclusive possession of a vehicle and/or to not destroy and/or dispose of any personal or joint property.**

*According to state by state summaries of civil protection order provisions compiled by WomensLaw.org.

**According to “Economic Relief Available in Protection Orders,” a compilation by the Battered Women’s Justice Project, found at: http://www.jwi.org/Document.Doc?id=130.

 

Universal Strategies for Safety:

  1.  Determine dangerousness and lethality in each case.
  2.  Facilitate issuance of protection orders that provide the broadest relief allowable under state law, as requested by the petitioner
  3. Facilitate prompt service & enforcement of those orders.
  4. Consider the impact of child custody
  5. Maintain victim confidentiality throughout the process.
  6. Consider safety concerns from a broad perspective that includes victims, communities, and system professionals.

Civil Protection Orders: A Guide for Improving Practice, pgs 2-4.