Harassment Has To Be a Knowing and Willful Course or Pattern of Conduct
Video Transcribed: Harassment in Oklahoma is one of several specific statutory grounds when a court can enter a protective order. And in my experience, this is one of the most common reasons you see protective orders being sought is on allegations of harassment. This is a really common thing you see. But what does that actually mean legally speaking?
Well, we can go to Title 22, section 60.1 that gives you the legal definition for the purpose of the statute. Under this statute, it’s defined as “a knowing and willful course or pattern of conduct by a family or household member, or an individual who is or has been involved in a dating relationship with the person, directed at a specific person, which seriously harms or annoys the person and in which serves no legitimate purpose.”
It goes on to say that “the course of conduct must be such as would cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress, and must actually cause substantial emotional distress to the person.”
Let’s unpack that real quick. Harassment has to be a knowing and willful course or pattern of conduct. So, the first thing that’s an obvious thing with harassment is for it to be harassment, it has to be more than a one-off incident.
For example, you make a phone call to somebody and get into a heated argument with them on a one-off basis, and they go in and try to file a protective order under the grounds of harassment, should it be granted? No. It doesn’t matter what you said to them. If it’s a one-off incident, it is not harassment because it’s not a course or pattern of conduct.
Now, the next thing is it has to be a family, household member, or an individual who is or has been involved in a dating relationship with the person. So, in other words, you have to have one of those specific statutory relationships. You got to be family. You got to live together. You got to be involved in a dating relationship for it to constitute harassment in order to come in under this particular statute.
Now one of the things you run into from time to time in domestic litigation in situations where you have one parent who is non-communicative, and the other parent’s repeatedly attempting to contact them to get information about the child. Then the parent who is non-communicative will eventually come back and say, “Well, you’re harassing me.” Well, statutorily speaking, as long as the purpose of the conduct is for obtaining information about your child, it’s not harassment.
Now, that being said, if you are dealing with this kind of a situation, and it goes on to a severe degree, it’s probably not advisable to just continue down the same course without seeking out legal assistance or taking some other steps. But strictly speaking, that’s not harassment. Also, the statute goes on and talks about the fact there has to conduct that would cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress and actually causes the alleged victim to suffer substantial distress.
You have both an objective and subjective standard there. Objectively, it has to be something that a reasonable person would find harassing. Again, going back to trying to get information about your children, a reasonable person in that situation, number one, would not be withholding that information.
And number two, if they knew they had withheld that information, shouldn’t be experiencing significant distress from being contacted about that information because it’s information a parent would want, and you would expect that phone call.
So again, that’s the object of standard. Now the subject of standard and it goes to it has to actually cause them distress. So, for example, if it is conduct that under most circumstances would be meeting the first prong of that test and a reasonable person would find it distressing, but the person actually receiving the call didn’t, then it still would not meet that standard.
That’s how harassment is defined. If you have questions about harassment, or if you are accused of harassment, or if you’re experiencing harassment, you should go to dads.law right away where fathers are not disposable.