Tag: divorce and domestic violence

Caring is Creepy

In family law, after a relationship ends, caring can be creepy. But is creepy behavior stalking? One Florida man – a father’s former boyfriend when the father’s child was born – recently found out.

caring is creepy

Gone for Good

Santiago had a long-distance relationship with the child’s father, Leon. The relationship took place at the same time the father’s child, M.L., was born through a surrogate. But Santiago and the father never resided together with the child. Their relationship ended after M.L. was about one and a half years old.

But Santiago was not gone for good. Leon sensed Santiago was following them like a phantom limb. Leon filed a petition on behalf of his child to stop Santiago from allegedly stalking the child. The father argued Santiago was engaging in some creepy obsessive behavior, including:

  1. getting a tattoo of M.L.’s name on his body;
  2. posting images of M.L. on Facebook and Instagram, representing that M.L. was his son;
  3. mailing him packages; (iv) emailing the father to express his love for M.L.;
  4. contacting the surrogate for info on them;
  5. appearing outside their home; and
  6. driving by a restaurant the father and child were eating at and making eye contact with them.

The trial court entered a final judgment preventing Santiago from having any contact with M.L. and from posting any images or comments about M.L. on all social media.

Santiago appealed.

Florida Stalking Injunctions

I’ve written about family law injunctions before, especially when free speech is impacted. Family courts have a lot of power to protect children, and that can involve restraints on free speech, such as posting on social media. That’s because speech can be enjoined under our domestic violence laws.

Domestic violence injunctions prohibiting free speech are subject to constitutional challenge because they put the government’s weight behind that prohibition: a judge orders it, and the police enforce it.

In Florida, the term “domestic violence” has a very specific meaning, and it is more inclusive than most people realize. It means any assault, aggravated assault, battery, aggravated battery, sexual assault, sexual battery, stalking, aggravated stalking, kidnapping, false imprisonment, or any criminal offense resulting in physical injury or death of one family or household member by another family or household member.

Domestic violence can also include cyberstalking. Cyberstalking is harassment via electronic communications. A person who willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows, harasses, or cyberstalks another person and makes a credible threat to that person commits the offense of aggravated stalking, a felony of the third degree.

A credible threat means a verbal or nonverbal threat, or a combination of the two, including threats delivered by electronic communication or implied by a pattern of conduct, which places the person who is the target of the threat in reasonable fear for his or her safety or the safety of his or her family members or individuals closely associated with the person, and which is made with the apparent ability to carry out the threat to cause such harm.

New Slang

The appellate court held that Florida authorizes injunctions against stalking.

“Stalking” is when “[a] person . . . willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows, harasses, or cyberstalks another person.”

However, aside from finding that Santiago had engaged in “stalking-like” and “creepy” behavior, the trial court did not make any express findings with respect to any of the statutory elements for stalking.

For example, “follows” means to tail, shadow, or pursue someone. In Santiago’s case, the father established, at most, that Santiago had appeared outside the father and M.L.’s and ate at the same restaurants as the father and M.L., but Santiago was never asked to explain any of these occurrences. The court simply found Santiago’s conduct, was not an example of “following” and even if it was, it wasn’t willful and malicious.

Also, the child was “totally unaware” of Santiago’s conduct, there was no evidence that Santiago’s conduct had caused “substantial emotional distress” to the child so as to constitute “harassment.”

In the inverted world of stalking law, getting a tattoo of someone else’s child, emailing the father, mailing packages to that child, contacting the surrogate to gather intel, showing up uninvited outside the child’s home, showing up at the same restaurants at the same time, making eye contact with the child, and social media posts, didn’t amount to “harassing.”

The court found that Santiago’s online postings referenced the child, but didn’t constitute “cyberstalking” because Florida requires social media threats be directed to the individual — not by content, but by delivery.

Since social media posts are generally delivered to the world at large, Florida courts have interpreted a course of conduct directed at a specific person to exempt social media messages from qualifying as the type of conduct, and Santiago never delivered his social media posts to the child.

The court agreed Santiago’s conduct might have been “creepy”, but the to impose a permanent stalking injunction against Santiago, there must be evidence that Santiago “willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly followed, harassed, or cyberstalked.”

The opinion is here.

 

Divorce and Domestic Violence

Police in California are investigating whether a “tumultuous divorce” was the reason a father is accused of murdering his still-missing 5-year-old son. What is the link between divorce domestic violence?

Aramazd Andressian Sr. was arrested on Friday and set to be arraigned this week — allegedly executed a “pre-planned” killing of little Aramazd Andressian Jr., investigators said in a news conference. The boy was last seen after midnight April 21 at Disneyland in Anaheim with his dad, prompting an ongoing months-long search.

Andressian had intended to take his own life before he was found hours later passed out in South Pasadena’s Arroyo Park, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department officials said.

Police initially charged him with child endangerment and child abduction, but a lack of evidence allowed him to walk free from jail a few days later. Authorities arrested Andressian in Las Vegas Friday because they feared he would flee the country, they said Monday.

Florida Domestic Violence

Injunctions for protection against domestic violence are critical to the safety of many. I’ve written about domestic violence before. Anyone scanning the headlines in the Miami Herald knows that the horrors of domestic violence are all too real:

“Dania Beach man arrested in fatal shooting of girlfriend”

Miami Herald, Aug. 12, 2015

“Miami Gardens man held in fatal shooting of ex-girlfriend”

Miami Herald, June 25, 2015

“Man Charged with Murder After Killing Girlfriend . . .”

Miami Herald, May 17, 2015

In Florida, the term “domestic violence” has a very specific meaning, and it is more inclusive than most people realize. It means any assault, aggravated assault, battery, aggravated battery, sexual assault, sexual battery, stalking, aggravated stalking, kidnapping, false imprisonment, or any criminal offense resulting in physical injury or death of one family or household member by another family or household member.

When discussing family or household members, Florida law defines these to mean spouses, former spouses, persons related by blood or marriage, persons who are presently residing together as if a family or who have resided together in the past as if a family, and persons who are parents of a child in common regardless of whether they have been married.

In Florida, individuals who have experienced domestic violence have civil and criminal remedies to protect themselves from further abuse. Protection orders may include the victim’s children, other family members, roommates, or current romantic partner. This means the same no-contact and stay-away rules apply to the other listed individuals, even if the direct harm was to the victim.

Signs of Domestic Violence

While there are many signs, you may be experiencing domestic violence and not even realize it. For example, if your partner is doing any of these or other unwanted behaviors, you may be a victim of domestic violence:

  • Using your children against you
  • Calling you names and hurting you emotionally
  • Harming your pets
  • Acting with extreme jealousy and possessiveness
  • Isolating you from family and friends
  • Threatening to commit suicide or to kill you
  • Controlling your money
  • Withholding medical help
  • Stalking you
  • Hiding assistive devices
  • Minimizing the destructive behavior

Is there a link between divorce and domestic violence? Many believe that divorce can be a triggering event for domestic violence.

In fact, the danger of serious violence may be at its highest point when a person acts on a decision to leave an abusive relationship.

The California Case

The man, who’d dyed his hair and shaved his beard, was exhibiting behavior inconsistent with that of a grieving parent, police said. A detective cited “a tumultuous divorce that they were going through at the time” as a potential motive for the apparent killing.

“My heart is shattered and I will miss my son immensely each and every second of every day for the rest of my life,” Aramazd’s mother, Ana Estevez, said in a statement.

The grieving mom went on to use the little boy’s nickname: “Picqui was everything great in my life, and I cannot imagine the emptiness and the void that I will bear until we are together again someday,” she said. If convicted, Andressian faces 25 years to life behind bars.

The CNN story is here.