Recently, the Court of Appeals was asked by a Father to overturn an Order for Protection, which the child’s Mother obtained against him, on behalf of the parties’ child.
In seeking the Order for Protection, Mother told the court that, while on a video call with the child, she saw Father drunkenly grab the child, frighten the child, and cause the child to drop the phone. The child had initially called Mother because Father was drunk and fighting with his girlfriend.
Mother told the court of another incident where the child called Mother from Father’s house, because the child was frightened by Father, who was drunk, throwing items around the house, and punched a hole in the wall.
A Minnesota Court can issue an Order for Protection if it finds that domestic abuse happened. Minn. Stat. §518B.01 subds. 4, 6(a). Minnesota’s domestic abuse law defines domestic abuse as:
Physical harm, bodily injury or assault; or
Infliction of fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury, or assault;
When it is committed against a family or household member by a family for household member
Minn. Stat. §518B.01 subd. 2(a)(1)-(2)
After finding that domestic abuse happened, a court may also consider “all of the relevant circumstances” when deciding whether to grant an Order for Protection. Thompson ex rel. Minor Child v. Schrimsher.
When Mother credibly explained to the Court that, during her phone call with the child, she saw Father drunkenly grab the child and cause the child to drop the phone, the court had enough evidence of domestic abuse. Though it certainly helped Mother’s case to bring up the drunken wall-punching incident as well.
Of note, it was hearsay for Mother to testify about Father’s drunken object-throwing and wall-punching incident, as Mother learned of this incident from the child’s description provided to her over the phone; Mother was not there to witness the incident herself. The court should not have heard about this, as hearsay cannot not be used as evidence. Hearsay is defined as:
A statement made by someone other than the declarant [the person testifying]
Minn. R. Evid. 801(c)
At trial Father failed to object to the hearsay evidence, allowing it to be considered by the court. Failing to object to this hearsay evidence, may have hurt Father’s case, though the Court of Appeals pointed out that the “dropped phone incident” could have been enough for an Order for Protection to issue.
Whether it was Father’s tactical error at trial, or, his judgment error in grabbing and frightening his child while intoxicated, his conduct allowed the court to grant Mother an Order for Protection on behalf of the child, and protect the child from the threat of further domestic abuse.
Using Minnesota law to protect family members from domestic abuse, or defending against a claim of domestic abuse, is something that should be done with proper legal advice. If you have questions about a Minnesota Order for Protection, please contact us at Beyer & Simonson.
Contact Beyer & Simonson
If you are facing divorce and any of the divorce-related issues such as spousal maintenance, child support, child custody, property division, or domestic abuse matters, you need our experienced Minneapolis divorce attorneys to help you. Contact Beyer & Simonson in Edina, Minnesota today at (952) 303-6007.