NY Family Court Protection Order, Clarified

A 2010 change in New York’s Family Court Act allowing a petitioner to seek an extension to orders of protection upon a showing of “good cause” was clarified in Matter of Molloy v. Molloy 2014-07966.

In this case, Jennifer and William Molloy were married in 2002 and had one child together. In 2010, Jennifer Molloy filed a family offense petition against her husband in family court, which was granted. Prior to the expiration date of this two-year order of protection, Jennifer Molloy filed for an extension (until December 1, 2018) arguing that there was “good cause” as defined by the Family Court Act. She did so after reporting that her husband had violated the order by showing up at her apartment, banging on the door, and driving his vehicle too closely to her while she was en route to a police station for a custody exchange. She was granted an additional two-year order of protection through the Queens Criminal Court when her ex-husband pleaded guilty to violations and disorderly conduct.

On July 21, 2014, Queens Family Court Judge Dennis Lebwohl denied her request for an additional extension, ruling that since the Criminal Court had already provided her with a protection order, the goal of the Family Court Act had been accomplished. A concerned Jennifer Molloy appealed and a decision handed down on January 20 reversed Lebwohl’s ruling. Justice Cheryl Chambers, writing for the court, said Criminal Court’s decision to grant an order of protection did not negate or “otherwise render superfluous” the request to extend the Family Court order.

The critical element of this case is whether or not Jennifer Molloy met the “good cause” standard under the Family Court Act §842.

When enacted in 1962, the Family Court Act §842 gave Family Courts the authority to grant orders of protection, but did not empower them to grant extensions. The law was modified ten years later to grant courts the authority to extend orders “upon showing special circumstances.” Unfortunately, this discouraged victims from applying until abuse occurred again. Domestic violence groups fought for further remedy and the law was amended in 2010 thus lowering the standard from “special circumstances” to “good cause.”

To determine what defines “good cause,” Justice Chambers said courts should consider the nature of the relationship between parties, the circumstances leading up to the entry of the order of protection, the state of the relationship between the parties when an extension is requested, how frequently the parties interact, instances of domestic violence or violations of the original order and whether there is a reasonable concern for the safety of the petitioner.

In Molloy, Justice Chambers said “it is clear from the record that the petitioner’s fear that the respondent may stalk, harass, or attack her is well-founded and that the unavailable interactions between the parties (as they share custody of their one child) may subject her to a reoccurrence of violence” which in her opinion, establishes “good cause” for an extension of the order.

*The information contained in this blog is presented as general information and is not to be construed as legal advice to apply to any person or particular situation. Please keep in mind that the law is constantly changing and therefore you should always consult an attorney for legal advice based on the individual circumstances of your situation.*