In Arnold v. Arnold, A14-1097 (Minn. Ct. App. Apr. 27, 2015), the Court of Appeals upheld an order for protection (OFP) although the husband argued that the wife was not presently being harmed, finding that the district court could infer a present intent to commit domestic abuse based on the totality of the circumstances. The abuser’s past behavior may be considered, but it is not dispositive.
The Family Law Case
Minnesota’s Domestic Abuse Act, Minn. Stat. Section 518B.01, allows a family member to petition for an OFP in case of domestic abuse. The statute defines domestic abuse as: “(1) physical harm, bodily injury, or assault; (2) the infliction of fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury, or assault; or (3) terroristic threats, criminal sexual conduct, or interference with an emergency call.” 518B.01, subd. 2(a). To find domestic abuse, there must be a showing of present harm or an intention to do present harm. The Act is remedial and, therefore, intended to protect domestic abuse victims, not to punish the abusers.
In Arnold, the court found three separate abusive acts occurred on the same day, December 21st. First, he put his hand in the shape of a gun against her temple, making the sound of the gun and yelling a curse at her, and poked her with his fingertips and caused pain which the court found was both (1) physical harm, bodily injury or assault and (2) the infliction of fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury or assault. Second, he threw a vase at her although it hit the wall; the court found that was (2) the infliction of fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury, or assault. Third, when his wife tried to call 911, he grabbed the phone out of her hands; the court found that was (3) interference with an emergency call.
The husband argued that subsequent events showed she was not afraid of him and, even if she was afraid, her fear was unreasonable. He noted that he had petitioned for divorce, and they exchanged text messages. The Minnesota Court of Appeals noted that it accords great deference to the district court’s determinations regarding credibility, and the district court had found the wife’s testimony credible, noting text messages with her mother from the time in question.
The court also found that the four-month span between the events in question and the wife’s filing for the order of protection was an insufficient gap to weigh against an OFP. The court noted that a two-year gap between an incident of domestic abuse and filing for an order for protection is a long passage of time that may weigh against an order of protection, a four-month span of time is not so remote. Therefore, the court upheld the order for protection.
This case does suggest that it is a good idea to pursue an order for protection quickly. It is always best to promptly petition for an order of protection rather than waiting months or years to file. As in most legal arenas, timeliness is in your best interests.
If you need an order for protection or someone has sought an order of protection against you in our area, you may want to consider consulting an experienced Woodbury family law attorney today.