By statute, district courts must act quickly by limiting or removing contact between the couple through the HRO process. But judges generally do not like to rush to judgment, nor deal with the messiness that transpires when two people are in a toxic relationship. And some partners ask for an HRO mainly to gain quick custody of children, claiming to be fearful of their partner’s actions without any real evidence.
Christopher Cadem, who owns Cadem Law Group, said district judges often deny HROs and hearings on HROs when there is a family court file already open, preferring that the parties seek relief in that court file instead. But family court judges are not bound by any laws to make quick decisions, and a violation of a family court order is not criminal like a violation of a harassment restraining order.
Cadem’s wife, Carolyn, was representing a woman in divorce proceedings against her abusive husband. Carolyn Cadem filed twice for an HRO against the husband, and each time a judge summarily denied the petition and a hearing, telling them the matter would be better handled in the family court file.
Cadem won at the Court of Appeals, which published a precidential opinion holding that district court judges do not have the ability to “kick the case down the hall to family court” and must grant hearings when HRO cases have merit. The case has begun to have an impact, he said.
Christopher Cadem took the case pro bono because he saw a way to change the system. “As a justice partner, we have an obligation to fix a problem when we come upon one,” he said, “and this one was never going to get fixed if somebody didn’t do it for free.”
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