R&B Singer Rihanna's Restraining Order Against Chris Brown Modified: An Overview of the DVPA

April 1, 2011

This month's edition of Rolling Stone magazine features a cover story on R&B singer Rihanna, in which she opens up about why she agreed to a modification of her restraining order against ex-boyfriend and fellow R&B singer, Chris Brown. The restraining order stems from an assault that occurred on the then couple's way to the 2009 Grammy Awards.

Discussing her decision, Rihanna explained:

"It doesn't mean we're gonna make up, or even talk again. It just means I didn't want to object to the judge."

She continued:

"We don't have to talk ever again in my life."

"I just didn't want to make it more difficult for him professionally."

"What he did was a personal thing -- it had nothing to do with his career."

"Saying he has to be a hundred feet away from me, he can't perform at awards shows -- that definitely made it difficult for him."

According to US Weekly.com, the original restraining order required that Brown stay 50 yards from Rihanna, unless they were both attending an "industry event", in which case Brown was permitted to be within 10 yards of Rihanna. The modified restraining order now permits Brown to have contact with Rihanna, provided he does not harass, annoy or molest her.

Although in this case the restraining order was issued as part of a criminal case, Rihanna could have pursued a restraining order in family court as well. The Domestic Violence Prevention Act authorizes the family court to issue a restraining order for certain acts of abuse perpetrated against certain individuals with whom the respondent has a domestic relationship. Those relationships include, among others, a spouse, a cohabitant or former cohabitant, and a person with whom the respondent is having or has had a dating or engagement relationship (as was the case with Rihanna and Brown).

Importantly, the remedies provided in the DVPA are not exclusive, meaning that they are in addition to any other civil or criminal remedies that may be available such as a criminal complaint or a civil tort action. Thus, had Rihanna pursued a restraining order in family court, it would not have precluded the filing of the criminal complaint against Brown.