Charlie Sheen: the Drama Continues...

Anyone who has read, watched or heard the news in the past few weeks knows that Charlie Sheen has been very busy lately. In the midst of his feud with the producers of his hit TV show, "Two and a Half Men", he has also now dealing with the continuation of his feud with his ex-wife, Brooke Mueller. On Wednesday, March 2, 2011, Brooke went to the Los Angeles County Court House and obtained a restraining order against Charlie which forced him to hand over his two twin boys to the police when they arrived at his home that same day.

Brooke told the Court that he was worried about the safety of the boys not only because of Charlie's now very public drug and alcohol abuse, but also because he had threatened to stab her in the eye with a pen knife, and told her that he would cut her head off, put it in a box and send it to her mom. While the totality of Brooke's pleadings are not known, she was successful in obtaining a Restraining Order against Charlie which states that he must not come within 100 feet of her or their children until a March 22, 2011 Court date.

Restraining Orders in Ontario

In Family Courts, requests for Restraining Orders are taken very seriously as such Orders carry criminal sanctions with them. The Family Law Act and the Children's Law Reform Act allows a party to make an application for an interim or final restraining order against a spouse or former spouse or a person other than the former spouse if the person is cohabiting with the individual for any period of time. In order to obtain a restraining order, a party must show that they have reasonable grounds to fear his or her own safety or the safety of any child in his or her lawful custody.

A breach of a Restraining Order can result in a fine of $5,000.00 and/or three months imprisonment on a first offence and a fine of up to $10,000.00 and up to two years imprisonment on each subsequent offence. Therefore, when a party makes a claim that a Restraining Order is required, the Court will have to be satisfied that the situation warrants it.

From the facts as we know them, and if what has been reported is true, it is likely that an Ontario Court would take Brooke's claims quite seriously. Charlie has been in the media very frequently bragging about his partying and drug and alcohol use and because of this, it would be difficult for any Court to state unequivocally that the children would not be in harm's way with this type of behaviour. In addition, the claims that Brooke has made that Charlie has threatened her life are also quite serious and a Court would likely take these seriously as well. The Court's decision would come down to whether they believed that Brooke reasonably believed that her safety and that of her twins were at risk. Charlie's very public and erratic behaviour may be reason enough for a Court to believe that his partying ways would be a risk to the children when they were in his care and that Brooke is reasonable in believing that he may act on his verbal threats. Also, while we cannot say what the terms of the restraining order would be if Charlie and Brooke lived in Ontario, the Court has the liberty to issue an order preventing the spouse or former spouse from "molesting, annoying or harassing" the applicant or the children. This can include all forms of contact including direct or indirect communication.

In this case, it also appears as though Brooke attended at Court and filed the materials supporting her position without Charlie's knowledge. If the two lived in Ontario, Brooke would have been able to do this under what's called an ex parte Motion, or a Motion without notice. This means that if there is an emergency, a party can attend at the Court, without notifying the other party that they are doing so, and make submissions to the Court as to why they should be granted the award that he/she is seeking without first notifying the other party. Where this is the case and an Order is made against the other party, the Court will order that the matter be brought back before the Court in order to allow the party that had the Order made against him or her to have an opportunity to be heard and to dispute the Order. The March 22, 2011 Court date currently scheduled for Charlie and Brooke is likely the date on which Charlie will be given the opportunity to dispute the Order and make his own submissions as to why the Order should not be in place and show why his twins are not in danger when they are in his care.

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