Vinson v. Kinsey

February 15, 2024

Mother asked for a Domestic Violence Restraining Order (DVRO) against Father in April 2020, after more than a decade of physical and verbal abuse by Father.  While they were not dating anymore, Mother and Father had ongoing contact because they had children together. In Mother’s request, the most recent incident of abuse was in March 2020 when Father took Mother to the grocery store to buy food for the kids.  Father became “irate,” “began threatening to beat [her] face in,” and said he would kill her.  Mother submitted as evidence pages of text messages showing Father’s many threats to harm or kill her.  She also submitted sworn statements from family and friends describing incidents of Kinsey physically injuring and verbally attacking Vinson. They described Father punching holes in the wall of Mother’s home. The trial court denied Mother’s request for the DVRO.  The trial court found that Mother did not “act like” Father’s threats of violence were real threats because she continued to have contact with him, even driving him to the grocery store in March despite his past behavior. The trial court also said Mother waited too long to file her request. She filed about 5 weeks after the most recent incident. The trial court said this suggested that Mother was “not particularly concerned” about Father’s threats.  The trial court cited unspecific “issues of credibility” as another reason for denying Mother’s DVRO request.

The Court of Appeal disagreed and sent the case back to the trial court with instructions to have a new hearing. The Court said a person requesting a DVRO does not have to be afraid of actual physical injury. DVROs only require the person asking for protection to show that the other person more likely than not committed an act of abuse. Father’s threats were abuse. The trial court was wrong to require Mother to show she was afraid and to say that Mother could only show her fear by acting in certain ways, including having no contact with Father. The trial court was also wrong to find that Mother’s ongoing contact with Father meant she was not believable when she said she feared Father because all women exposed to violence do not react to abuse in the same way. Here, there was clear evidence that Father threatened to harm Mother. The fact that she was communicating with Father did not make Father’s threats less serious, mean that they were not abuse or that Mother was not afraid Father would hurt her. Finally, the Court said that the trial court’s focus on the timing of Mother’s filing of the DVRO request following the most recent incident of abuse was too narrow and ignored “the parties’ overall history over the course of a decade-long relationship and the recognized difficulty of leaving an abusive relationship.”


The opinion also talks about the trial court’s failure to look at other pieces of evidence, including the text messages and other documents which showed Kinsey’s history of “physical abuse, verbal abuse and destruction of property.” The Court of Appeal said it was “difficult to see” how the trial court considered the totality of the circumstances which it must do by law.

The opinion also explains that a declaration included with a request for a DVRO is admitted as evidence unless there is an objection by the other side.

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