LAW REVIEW: Date ends with a court order | SierraSun.com
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LAW REVIEW: Date ends with a court order

Jim Porter, Sierra Sun

When is a date a date? Does a kiss make a date? Is intimacy required? Is exclusivity or duration of a relationship the key?

Those questions were recently answered in a bizarre case coming out of San Francisco. Where else?

Adam Thaler and Joy Oriola kind of went out, sort of “courted.” They were together on four occasions, only one time exclusively. Nothing happened.

They belonged to the same gym and exchanged e-mails. Initially they were attracted to one another. Joy invited Adam over for Thanksgiving but kept her distance.

Adam always complained about “how alone he felt.” Joy began to feel pressure from Adam. She had consistently told him she was not interested in a romantic relationship. She did not want to “hang out” anymore. Finally, she gave him the boot. Adam cried for several days. (I don’t make this stuff up, I just report it.)

Adam wouldn’t take no for an answer, and Joy received between 25 and 40 “crank calls and hang up calls” a day, mostly after he saw her at the gym. It was the testosterone talking. Finally, he started “stalking” Joy and sent her an “e-mail bomb” with hundreds of USDA crop and livestock reports from all 50 states. That’s as mean as Adam could get.

Finally Joy had enough and filed an application for a restraining order under the Domestic Violence Prevention Act (DVPA) in the Family Code. The DVPA provides for restraining orders for domestic violence cases and applies to spouses, co-habitants, family members, and a person with whom one is “having or has had a dating or engagement relationship.”

That was the key to this case: did Adam and Joy have a “dating relationship,” which, as the court put it, “is considerably more difficult to determine than it may first appear.” Without a dating relationship, Joy gets no restraining order under the DVPA.

The court traced the history of dating which, I was surprised to learn, “evolved in this nation during the 1920s.” Dating is a twentieth-century term for “courting.”

“In twentieth-century America, the new system of dating added new stages to courtship and multiplied the number of partners (from serious to casual) an individual was likely to have before marriage. All this premarital experience necessarily had an impact on the final stages of mate selection. Thus, the unattached flirt, the engaged college seniors, the eighth-grade ‘steadies’ and the mismatched couple on a blind date are all engaged in courtship.”

In trying to define a “dating relationship,” the court considered linking sexual intimacy with a romantic interest, citing Huxley:

“He had such a pure, childlike and platonic way of going to bed with women, that neither they nor he ever considered that the process fully counted as going to bed.”

Court’s conclusion: Sex isn’t always romantic (duh), and neither is required for “dating.”

The court looked at dozens of other states whose laws define dating and a dating relationship. Remember, a dating relationship is required for her DVPA order.

The court finally concluded that:

“a ‘dating relationship’ refers to serious courtship. It is a social relationship between two individuals who have or have had a reciprocally amorous and increasingly exclusive interest in one another, and shared expectations of the growth of that mutual interest, that has endured for such a length of time and stimulated such frequent interactions that the relationship cannot be deemed to have been casual.”

There you have it. Joy and Adam didn’t make the cut. Even Joy had described their relationship as “platonic.”

The court declined to give Joy a restraining order under the DVPA, but she obtained an order under a different and more customary restraining order code that doesn’t apply to domestic cases, Code of Civil Procedure section 527.6. Under 527.6, however, Joy could not get back her loss of earnings and out of pocket expenses caused by Adam’s harassment.

Joy lost. She and Adam didn’t go far enough for a “dating relationship,” but she got her man, rather her platonic friend, restrained. No more pork belly futures.

Have a terrific New Year.

Jim Porter is an attorney with Porter/Simon, with offices in Truckee and Reno. He is a mediator and was the governor’s appointee to the Bipartisan McPherson Commission and the California Fair Political Practices Commission. He may be reached at porter@portersimon.com or at the firm’s web site http://www.portersimon.com.


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