Rivera v. Hillard

February 20, 2024

The trial court issued mutual restraining orders against Wife and Husband. The trial court also scheduled a hearing on restitution because it found that Wife had obtained a temporary order excluding Husband from his residence by falsely representing that she had the right to the home and, while living there, Wife damaged or took a lot of Husband’s property. After the restitution hearing, the trial court ordered Wife to return certain property to Husband and to pay Husband restitution for out-of-pocket loses related to the abuse.

Wife sought to appeal both the mutual restraining order and the restitution order. The Court of Appeal first found that Wife’s appeal of the restraining order was untimely. In doing so, it rejected Wife’s argument that the restraining order “was not final for the purposes of appeal until restitution was finally determined.”  Rather, the Court of Appeal noted that the restraining order dealt with a different issue than restitution—whether the wife committed abuse—and that the restraining order was an injunction directly appealable under Code of Civil Procedure section 901.4, subdivision (a)(6). That the subsequent restitution order addressed a related issue—whether husband should be compensated for wife’s abuse—did not “extend the time to appeal the separately appealable, earlier [restraining order].”  Because wife untimely appealed from the restraining order issued against her, the appellate court held that she could not challenge that order.

Second, the appellate court held that it was proper for the trial court to grant restitution under Family Code section 6342, subdivision (a)(1) because it found wife “violated the DVPA by taking money and personal property from husband’s residence” and that husband’s losses were “incurred as a direct result of the abuse.” Examining the statutory language, legislative intent, and policies underlying the DVPA, the appellate court liberally construed the text of subdivision (a)(1) of section 6432 which allows trial courts to award restitution for “loss of earnings and out-of-pocket expenses . . . incurred as a direct result of the abuse.” Here, the appellate court explained that “out of pocket expenses” can include property damage and loss resulting from the restrained party’s abuse.

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