Family Law Corner: “Modern Family's” Modern Drama

“Modern Family” might be on the top of the ratings, but its younger stars are in the dumps. The latest star in trouble is Sarah Hyland, who plays the eldest Dunphy daughter on the show. Hyland recently received a restraining order against her ex-boyfriend, Matthew Prokop which requires him to stay 100 yards away from her and her dog.
Hyland previously made news when she had a kidney transplant in 2012.  At that time, she credited Prokop, her then live-in boyfriend, with helping her through the transplant recovery.  However, she now states that he was verbally and physically abusive during the relationship.  Her “Modern Family” mom Julie Bowen and other co-stars tried to stage an intervention for Prokep, but he allegedly continued to threaten her and to threaten suicide until he entered a rehab facility. Apparently a doctor treating Prokop contacted Hyland and advised her to get a temporary restraining order, which Hyland did September. In early October, this temporary order was turned into a permanent three year stay away order.
Domestic violence restraining orders are not just for spouses, but are available for people in many kinds of relationships. Family Code §6211 states that domestic violence is abuse perpetrated against A) spouses/former spouses, B) a cohabitant/former cohabitant, C) a person in a dating or former dating relationship, D) a co-parent, E) a child of a parent, or F) any other person related by consanguinity (blood or adoption) or affinity (marriage) with the second degree. Since Prokep and Hyland dated, Hyland could file for a domestic violence restraining order. Unsurprisingly, the definition of a dating relationship has been the subject of litigation. After multiple cases struggled with the definition of a dating relationship, including Oriola v. Thaler (2000) 84 Cal.App.4th 397 which defined a dating relationship as a “non-casual, serious courtship, continuing and mutually committed emotional relationship,” the legislature stepped in with Family Code §6210 which defines a dating relationship as “frequent, intimate associations primarily characterized by the expectation of affection or sexual involvement independent of financial considerations.” This definition removed the necessity of proving the ‘commitment’ of the relationship, which can differ for each member of the relationship.
Under Family Code §6320, Hyland’s request should be granted if she can show good cause to turn her temporary order into a permanent one. Given Hyland’s allegations, which was likely supported by the testimony of the people mentioned in Hyland’s request, it is unsurprising that Hyland’s request was granted.