Expatriate Owl

A politically-incorrect perspective that does not necessarily tow the party line, on various matters including but not limited to taxation, academia, government and religion.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

They All Deserve One Another

Some people just don't interact well with one another. Some people have relationships even more contentious than the one between me and my mother-in-law (which is very, very highly contentious). And then, there are those whose super-contentious relationships place one or more parties in physical danger.

The law has a mechanism, sometimes but not 100% of the time effective, for protecting those in physical danger from contentious interpersonal relationships. It is called an Order of Protection.

The typical Order of Protection is issued by a court with jurisdiction over criminal matters, and stigmatizes the respondent accordingly. But in New York, the Family Court can, within the confines of its limited jurisdiction, issue Orders of Protection for those in "intimate" relationships that have grown contentious. Family Court OPs do not carry quite the same stigma as ones issued by criminal courts (provided that they are adhered to). After all, most people can understand, if not justify, intimate relationships going askew and boiling over.

Recently, the New York State Legislature expanded the Family Court's jurisdiction to issue OPs. An OP can issue to someone who is not a family member, but who has an intimate relationship with the protectee. This removed much reluctance on the part of abused people in boyfriend/girlfriend relationships to stigmatize their significant other with a criminal court OP, and has, no doubt, saved many a woman (and probably a few milquetoast males) from a battering.

Jessica's complex situation involves various contentious relationships. When Jessica "grows weary of her husband, which seems to occur with some frequency, she rekindles her relationship with [Jeremy]. Eventually, she either tires of him or finds renewed interest in [Jeremy] (or both) and a new cycle begins."

After a 10-day stint with Jeremy, culminating in Jeremy's threat to shoot Jessica and her husband, Jessica came to the Madison County Family Court for an OP. Judge McDermott found that Jessica's relationship with Jeremy was "intimate" enough to fall within the scope of the revised Family Court Act, but declined to issue an OP for " public policy" reasons, namely, the law's interest in preserving the marital relationship. Judge McDermott told Jessica that she was free to obtain the OP in criminal court.

Jessica's attorney appealed. On appeal, the Appellate Division, 3rd Department called Judge McDermott to Captain's Mast for declining to issue the OP.

It is tempting to say that Jessica deserves whatever she gets. It is difficult to sympathize with Jessica's shmendrick of a husband for tolerating Jessica's modus operandi. And Jeremy isn't anything to write home about either, at least until he completes some anger management courses (and the simplest way for him to manage his anger would be to find someone better than Jessica to be intimate with).

But the law would lose the popular respect it now commands if it did nothing to prevent violence.

This case is a "damned if they do and damned if they don't" situation for advocates against domestic violence, for the sanctity of marriage, and for the rule of law.

Meanwhile, Jessica will remain in the driver's seat unless and until the two poor excuses for men in her life get up on their hind legs and say, "Enough!"

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