Jan F. v. Natalie F.

January 20, 2024

Natalie sought a DVRO against her children's father, Jan. In her request, Natalie provided evidence that Jan, in a short time frame, made multiple calls for police welfare checks when Natalie had custody of the children. Natalie stated that Jan provided false information to the police and the welfare checks were intended to harass her. The family court denied Natalie’s DVRO request because it did not believe Jan’s actions were abuse under the DVPA and did not want to restrain Jan from contacting the police in the future because he might have sincere concerns about the children’s welfare.

The Court of Appeal disagreed, explaining that calls to law enforcement for welfare checks can be abuse under the DVPA if the calls are not made for a legitimate reason. To determine if calls to the police for welfare checks are legitimate or intended to harass someone, the Court considered several factors – such as the frequency and timing of the calls to the police, and whether a parent immediately contacts law enforcement instead of first contacting the other parent to check on the children’s welfare.

Also, the Court held that Jan had no First Amendment right to call the police to conduct welfare checks if his calls were without a legitimate basis and for the purpose of harassing Natalie. If done to harass her, making law enforcement calls was abuse under the DVPA and abuse is not protected speech. The Court sent the case back to family court for an evidentiary hearing so Jan could offer evidence if he had legitimate concerns when he made multiple requests for police welfare checks.


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