Adrienne Maloof and Paul Nassif's October 9, 2012 Court Date May Have Consequences Far Greater Than Just a Restraining Order

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Adrienne Maloof’s October 9 court date is more than a restraining order hearing. California divorce attorney, B. Robert Farzad, explains why a loss could mean the end of Paul Nassif’s hope for joint custody of his three children.

If Paul Nassif loses on October 9, that means any hope he has to get shared custody of his children will start with a presumption against him. It’s like trying to fight with one arm tied behind your back.

Adrienne Maloof and Paul Nassif’s divorce has quickly become contentious and complex.

"With the tone of the allegations, it was only a matter of time before one of them filed a domestic violence restraining order request. The way Paul and Adrienne were going, you could have practically written a script to the events before they happened," Orange County divorce lawyer, B. Robert Farzad states.

After Paul Nassif tried and failed on September 7, 2012 to obtain an emergency custody order from Judge Ralph Hofer, Adrienne filed her own emergency domestic violence prevention request and sought a restraining order against Paul.

According to court documents filed on September 19, 2012 in Los Angeles Superior Court, Beverly Hills Division (case number BD568198), Adrienne sought a restraining order, requested to have Paul excluded from the Beverly Hills residence, to turn in his firearms and not possess any, and for the right to be able to record any unlawful communications by Paul. Most importantly, she asked the court to deny Paul Nassif, a Beverly Hills plastic surgeon and her husband of ten years, any visitation with the children.

The Court granted all of Adrienne’s requests on a temporary basis and until the hearing on October 9, 2012.

How important is the October 9 hearing to Paul Nassif’s goal to obtain joint legal and physical custody of the children and an equally shared visitation plan with Adrienne? “It may be the most important day of the divorce on the custody issues,” Mr. Farzad, states.

“This isn’t just a hearing to determine whether or not Paul Nassif should be restrained from harassing or contacting his wife. If the Court makes a finding that he perpetrated domestic violence, then California Family Code section 3044(c) kicks in. That section states there is a rebuttable presumption against an award of sole or joint physical or legal custody of children to a person found to have committed domestic violence. If Paul Nassif loses on October 9, that means any hope he has to get shared custody of his children will start with a presumption against him. It’s like trying to fight with one arm tied behind your back,” Mr. Farzad explains.

The law is designed to protect children. It presumes a detriment to a child’s best interest for a person who has committed domestic violence to obtain joint custody. The perpetrator has to “rebut” the presumption.

Mr. Farzad explains a couple of scenarios that may play out at the October 9 hearing. “Judge Hofer has options. He could hold a full hearing and take testimony. He could order a child custody investigation which would likely include an interview of both parties, each of their witnesses and the children. The court investigator would then report his or her findings to the court for consideration. Whatever the judge decides, it could have a long-term impact on the custody issues.”

How serious are the allegations? “When you read the court documents Adrienne and her lawyers filed, she paints the picture that Paul has allegedly been violent toward her, the children, allegedly has anger management issues and, according to one witness’ declaration, has behaved strangely and drinks excessively. That is the summary of her claims when you combine her declaration and that of her witnesses, which include a psychiatrist who claims to have worked with the couple to reach a custody arrangement, a security advisor, the family’s alleged former executive chef and Adrienne’s mother,” Mr. Farzad states from his review of the court documents. “If the court believes Adrienne and she can prove her allegations by a preponderance of the evidence, she will likely get a restraining order against Paul and a finding of domestic violence will be made against him.”

What about Paul Nassif’s defenses to the allegations? Mr. Farzad discusses the importance of his strategy and preparation. “Paul needs witnesses, those who have personal knowledge of his relationship with his children and have seen him with the kids. He and his lawyers may decide to attack the allegations head on and cross-examine the witnesses to attempt to discredit their credibility and the foundation for their claims but I believe he needs more than that. He needs independent witnesses who can testify that he has not been violent with the children or Adrienne and the opposite is true, if he intends to claim she has been violent with him. These are some of the keys to prevailing at the hearing.”

Could Paul Nassif try to settle? "Very possible," Mr. Farzad opines. "He has a lot to lose. He needs to decide whether or not he will take less time with the children now in exchange for not having a finding of domestic violence against him and, perhaps, fight this fight for equal time another day. A good divorce lawyer will spend a lot of time with his or her client on these issues before a decision is made."

Domestic violence hearings can come fast, as Paul Nassif has learned. His hearing was set within three weeks of the temporary restraining order. “That is typical for domestic violence cases,” Mr. Farzad states. “The court is required to set the hearing within a statutory time. That is why Paul’s lawyers have to work hard and get witnesses and admissible evidence ready for the hearing, if they intend to defend these allegations and have a reasonable chance of prevailing.”

About B. Robert Farzad: Mr. Farzad is a divorce and family law attorney in Orange County, California. He is a partner at the law firm of Farzad & Mazarei. The firm represents clients in both Los Angeles and Orange County.

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