Is Coercive Control Grounds for a NY Restraining Order?

Coercive control is a form of domestic violence and grounds for a restraining order in some states. The application is more limited in New York restraining orders (RO).

Hawaii became the first state in 2020 to pass legislation that includes coercive control in its definition of domestic abuse. Emotional abuse between family members can be grounds for domestic abuse protective orders.

California followed with its own law two weeks later. Coercive control is not only grounds for a domestic violence restraining order, but it is also a factor in determining child custody.

Connecticut added coercive control to its definition of domestic violence in June 2021. Controlling behaviors can be used in divorce, custody, and protection order hearings.

Coercion Has Narrow Applicability in NY Protective Orders

New York has not yet expanded the use of coercive control to include its non-physical tactics. Coercive control has more limited application in domestic violence protection orders.

Coercion can only be used as grounds if the abuser instills fear that the following will occur if their demand isn’t obeyed (§ 135.60 (1), (2), and (3)):

  • They will physically injure the person.
  • They will damage their property.
  • They will engage in some other conduct constituting a crime.

To better put this limitation in context, below is how Connecticut defines coercive control:

  • Isolating the family or household member from friends, relatives, or other sources of support
  • Depriving the family or household member of basic necessities
  • Controlling, regulating, or monitoring the family or household member's movements, communications, daily behavior, finances, economic resources, or access to services
  • Compelling the family or household member by force, threat, or intimidation, including, but not limited to, threats based on actual or suspected immigration status, to engage in conduct from which such family or household member has a right to abstain, or abstain from conduct that such family or household member has a right to pursue
  • Committing or threatening to commit cruelty to animals that intimidates the family or household member
  • Forced sex acts, or threats of a sexual nature, including, but not limited to, threatened acts of sexual conduct, threats based on a person's sexuality, or threats to release sexual images

The Connecticut law notes the list is not exhaustive but provides a spectrum of behaviors that can be considered coercive.

Recognized Grounds for ROs in New York

In addition to the limited use of coercion in petitioning for a restraining order, New York also includes the following crimes as a legal basis for a domestic violence ROS:

  • Disorderly Conduct
  • Harassment
  • Stalking
  • Reckless Endangerment
  • Assault
  • Sexual abuse
  • Strangulation
  • Criminal Mischief

To petition for an order of protection through Family Court, at least one of the following must be true:

  • You are related to the other person by blood or marriage.
  • You are or were legally married to the other person.
  • You have a child with the other person.
  • You have or have had an intimate relationship with the other person, such as a dating or other relationship. An intimate relationship does not require having ever lived together or having a sexual relationship.

If the individual is arrested for domestic violence, the Integrated Domestic Violence Court will hear the case. The same judge will hear both Criminal Court and Family Court cases. The criminal matter is still prosecuted by the district attorney.

Stalled New York Legislation Targets Coercive Control

New York was the first state in 2019 to introduce legislation making coercive control a crime. It did not become law. Another similar bill was introduced in New York Senate in 2021, making the crime a Class E felony.

Our team at the Law Office of Dennis R. Vetrano, Jr., LLC continues to watch for this and other legislation that can impact our clients.

Talk to Us About DV Protective Orders

If you are being abused in any fashion by an intimate partner or family member, contact our office to understand your rights and options. Don’t assume that you have no way out of your situation.

Reach out to us online or call (845) 605-4330.

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