The definition of domestic violence covers a lot of ground. Here are the basics from the California Domestic Violence Prevention statute: intentionally or recklessly causing or attempting to cause bodily injury, sexual assault, placing a person in reasonable apprehension of immanent serious bodily injury, molesting, attacking, striking, stalking, threatening, battering, falsely impersonating, harassing, making annoying telephone calls, destroying personal property, contacting directly or indirectly by mail or otherwise, coming within a specified distance, and disturbing the peace. The military definition of domestic violence is similarly broad.
Who can be protected? Again the list is inclusive: spouses, people who have lived together, and people who have merely had romantic relationships.
In the civilian world in California, the victim fills out forms and submits them to the clerk's office. The forms identify the victim as the "protected person." The perpetrator is blandly identified as the person from whom protection is sought. The forms list the orders the protected person can request. The usual orders are referred to generally as "stay away" orders and "no contact" orders. The typical stay away order is 100 yards. No contact orders typically prohibit contact of any kind, direct or indirect. The orders typically last three years. If the parties are living together, the perpetrator is ordered to move out.
The clerk takes the forms to a judge, who decides whether to issue the requested orders on a temporary basis. If the judge decides to issue them, he sets a hearing within two or three weeks. Whenever Temporary Restraining Orders ("TRO's") are issued, they include an order to turn in or sell any firearms the perpetrator owns or controls.
All of the above happens without any notice to the perpetrator, who gets served afterward with a notice of the hearing along with the temporary restraining orders themselves.
The hearings are typically "he said, she said." In the vast majority of cases, a wife or girlfriend is the protected person. Although many of the alleged incidents tend to be embellished and some may be entirely fabricated, something has usually happened that falls within the draconian definition recited above, so a "permanent" order is typically issued.
Under Military Law, the sequence of events is similar. The victim complains to the service member's command, and the command issues the Military Protective Order. However, there is (as far as I can tell) no hearing where both parties are present to give their sides of the story. Given the zero tolerance policy of the military with domestic violence, it appears that the military order may be just as easy to come by as civilian protective orders, if not easier.
Permanent domestic violence protective orders can be devastating for the perpetrator. The military domestic violence prevention order, can end the prospects of promotion and perhaps lead to separation with an administrative discharge, hampering the service member's job prospects in the civilian world. In the civilian world the consequences are similar. Any position requiring an employee to carry firearms, or obtain a security clearance, is likely to be unobtainable.
A permanent domestic violence protective order in the context of a married couple is likely to be the opening salvo of a divorce proceeding. It also bears mentioning that serious domestic violence can lead to criminal charges both under civil law and military law.
Lastly, if children are involved, either as victims or as bystanders, the perpetrator parent can look forward to losing custody and being consigned to supervised visitation only, for a lengthy period. Domestic violence is serious business. Taking behavioral cues from video games, action movies, and out of control celebrities is not smart.
Military Divorce lawyer Stanley D. Prowse is a California Certified Family Law Specialist. We specialize in handling the difficulties military families encounter when facing a divorce.