Online Harassment and Domestic Violence Restraining Orders

Whether you are considering hiring a San Jose family law attorney to assist with filing for divorce or are in a tumultuous relationship that ended, often spouses and partners turn to social media to vent and seek support. However, in some cases the information posted on social media can lead to a request for a Domestic Violence Restraining Order. If you are a victim of online harassment or have been accused of online harassment, it is imperative that you utilize an experienced family law firm to guide you through the ever-evolving Domestic Violence Prevention Act.

Recent case law has clarified the definition of “disturbing the peace” as it pertains to the Domestic Violence Prevention Act. In the case of Marriage of Nadkarni, the parties were separated when husband accessed wife’s emails without her permission and distributed them. See Marriage of Nadkarni (2009) 173 Cal.App.4th 1483, 1489. The Court not only found that “disturbing the peace of the other party” was defined as conduct that destroys their “mental or emotional calm”, but also found that husband’s actions destroyed the mental or emotional calm of his former wife by accessing, reading and publicly disclosing her confidential emails. Id. at 1498. The opinion underlying Nadkarni made clear that that confidential information obtained without consent and later shared with another can constitute abuse under Cal. Fam. Code § 6320.

The Nadkarni line of cases also included the decision in Curcio v. Pels, 47 Cal. App. 5th 1 (2020). There, Petitioner accused the Respondent of being “severely and disturbingly abusive.” Specifically, Respondent posted on Facebook and stated that if someone employed Petitioner, “you are enabling an abuser. It is like supporting a rapist.” The Court of Appeals eventually declined to find that violence occurred because the Facebook post settings were “private” meaning only the friends of Respondent could view the post. The Court reasoned “The DVPA was not enacted to address all disputes between former couples, or to create an alternative forum for resolution of every dispute between such individuals” and encouraged parties in similar situations to seek recourse by other means if the conduct is libelous.

The takeaway from Curcio v. Pels, in light of the reasoning of Marriage of Nadkarni, is that confidential information accessed and distributed to others can serve as a basis to request a domestic violence restraining order in family court. If you believe your spouse or former partner accessed confidential information and disclosed those contents on social media (or to any other person) without your consent, you may be entitled to protection under the Domestic Violence Prevention Act. If you are considering filing a request for a Domestic Violence Restraining Order, it is important to take action as soon as possible and contact an experienced San Jose family law attorney to assist you with the same. Similarly, if you have been accused of domestic violence, hiring an experienced attorney to help defend you is equally important. If your case involves matters related to custody and visitation, a family law lawyer can also explain to you the impact that a Domestic Violence Restraining Order can have on the outcome of your custody and visitation rights.

The attorneys at Mello & Pickering are experienced San Jose family law attorneys who have knowledge and skills to help you resolve your domestic violence matter. We are committed to protecting your rights —whether you are the victim of domestic violence or someone who has been wrongfully charged with harassing another. Mello & Pickering, LLP are experienced litigators who have appeared before the California courts and successfully argued their clients’ cases. For your consultation, call (408) 288-7800 or email

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