Spousal Abuse/TRO

Temporary Restraining Orders (TROs) And Domestic Abuse Cases

Temporary restraining orders (TROs) and domestic abuse cases are on a rapid rise here in Hawaii. The increase in the number of temporary restraining orders filed during the last couple of years has been exponential. Some judges have even described the temporary restraining order calendar as "totally out-of-control".

  • Unfortunately, one of the keys in determining who gets awarded the temporary restraining order (TRO) is simply whoever gets to apply for it.
  • Personal service of the TRO by the Honolulu Police Department (HPD) or a sheriff is generally required. TROs cannot be served on or by the parties' attorneys.
  • Ironically, in TRO cases the petitioner can still contact the respondent, but the respondent cannot contact the petitioner (i.e., most restraining orders are).
  • Violations of restraining orders by the respondent will generally trigger even more draconian criminal charges (i.e., domestic abuse — see below).
  • Hearings on TROs are generally held within 15 days.
  • Most hearings take place at 7:45 a.m. at the family court in Kapolei and it is essential that the parties be prompt.
  • In child custody cases, attorneys will often advise respondents to just agree to a stipulated restraining order without any actual "on the record" findings of abuse.
  • Oddly enough, about 30 percent of the time petitioners later want to "drop" the TROs which they have filed against their respondent (but they will not be allowed to do so).
  • TROs are generally valid for six months — even without any actual finding of abuse.
  • If children are included on the restraining orders, the respondent will not be able to see the children, nor return home, during the period of the TRO.
  • You cannot drop a TRO once it is being filed unless there is a "material change in circumstances".
  • The Child Protective Services (CPS), and/or the Child Welfare Services (CWS) will almost always become involved if the children are included on the restraining order.
  • The children will be added on to the restraining order if they themselves have been hit, or if a parent was hit in the physical presence of their children.
  • Judges can (and generally will) order CPS involvement if they think the situation affects the children.
  • If the respondent is lucky, sometimes he/she may be referred only to a "parenting class" rather than directly to CPS or CWS; but if CPS becomes involved it becomes extremely difficult to break free from their ongoing "supervision".
  • No child visitation orders will be made as part of TROs. Instead, as a general rule child visitation schedules must be secured on the family court's domestic calendar (usually as part of a motion for pre-decree relief).
  • If TROs are violated, the next stage is for an actual criminal charge for domestic abuse to automatically be filed. This will usually include charges if the children were "present".
  • Hearings on domestic cases are generally held on the 8th floor of the district court on Alakea Street.
  • Judges will usually impose a minimum of $1,000 bail in these domestic abuse situations.