Will I have to see my abuser in court?

In working with survivors of domestic violence, clients often wonder if they will have to confront their abuser in court.  As of January 1, 2022, survivors of domestic violence may appear remotely at the hearing on a petition for a domestic violence restraining order per Family Code § 6308.  Out of necessity, during the pandemic, courts had to implement procedures for remote video appearances.  The legislature realized the benefits of allowing survivors of domestic violence to appear remotely and extended the right to remote appearance for parties seeking a domestic violence restraining order when they codified § 6308. 

The legislative history of this statute reveals that the law was intended to protect survivors who may feel intimidated or harassed when they see their abuser in person at the courthouse.  The California State Senate found that this sort of intimidation may, “deprive domestic violence victims and families in crisis access to justice and the safe they seek and deserve.” (2021 California Senate Bill No. 538, California 2021-2022 Regular Session.)  In allowing remote appearances, the legislature aimed to remove barriers and establish additional protection for victims.  (California Bill Analysis, S.B. 538 Sen., 6/29/2021).  Supporters of this law realized that survivors often have difficulty getting to court on account of the inability to take time off work, get child care, or on account of personal safety concerns. (2021 California Senate Bill No. 538, California 2021-2022 Regular Session.)  The ability to appear remotely alleviated some of these barriers to individuals seeking protective orders.  

Many survivors feel more comfortable making remote appearances for hearings and it is important for survivors to know that this is an option.  While the law now allows survivors to appear remotely there may still be reasons to attend a hearing in person.  If you have concerns about seeing your abuser in court, and want to know if a remote appearance is possible you may want to speak with an attorney to understand the pros and cons of making a remote appearance in this type of proceeding.