The latest development in the ongoing custody dispute between Robin Thicke and his ex-wife Paula Patton could seriously damage the “Blurred Lines” singer’s case for custody, a legal expert tells PEOPLE.
On Thursday, a Los Angeles judge granted the 41-year-old actress’ request for a temporary restraining order and temporarily stripped him of shared legal and physical custody – giving him supervised visitation instead after ruling that Thicke has a history of domestic violence.
Though family law specialist Stephanie Blum tells PEOPLE Patton had to meet a “low standard” of evidence to obtain the temporary restraining order against Thicke, the court ruling came after Patton accused her ex of physical and emotional abuse, cheating and drug and alcohol addiction in a shocking 52-page request which detailed a number of alleged abusive episodes.
Per court documents obtained by PEOPLE, the restraining order means that Thicke, 39, has to stay at least 100 yards away from Patton, their 6-year-old son Julian and her mother, Joyce Patton. The actress was also granted sole legal and physical custody of Julian until the next hearing on Feb. 24.
“[Patton] is in reasonable apprehension of imminent serious bodily injury to herself and the child,” the actress’ attorney — Larry Bakman — wrote in the request, filed Wednesday.
Thicke’s lawyer, Angela Pierce di Donato, responded to the allegations in a statement to PEOPLE: “Paula never reported any domestic violence until she was in a position of contempt by violating the custody orders. DCFS asked both Paula and Robin to drug test. Robin agreed and submitted to his test, but Paula refused to test. Infidelity has nothing to do with custody. She is attempting to throw anything at him to hurt him, but Robin’s focus is their son.”
Blum, a lawyer who is not connected with Thicke and Patton’s case but has handled similar situations in the past, tells PEOPLE that Patton’s legal victory on Thursday means that Thicke now has an uphill battle in the custody dispute.
The domestic violence allegations could have major consequences for Thicke in the custody battle. “Domestic violence restraining orders are serious because they create a presumption against joint legal and/or joint physical custody, which means that a parent loses the right to make decisions about their child and likely will lose time with their child,” Blum said.
Blum said rulings like the one the judge made on Thursday are becoming more common.
“I am seeing the issuance of orders like this a lot lately,” she said. “It’s a surprisingly low standard that a party has to meet to obtain a restraining order of this type. The court can make these orders if it finds any past act or acts of abuse. The abuse doesn’t even have to be recent.”
According to Blum, Patton’s allegations of infidelity “are of no import” because California is a no-fault state. “That means that by law, it should not matter if one spouse cheated on the other spouse once or on multiple occasions,” she explains.
However, substance use “could potentially matter to the court,” she adds. “The court is charged with determining the best interests of the child and the court must weight all the relevant facts.”
With temporary sole legal custody and physical custody of Julian, Patton will have the right to make decisions about Julian’s medical care and schooling and other matters without Thicke’s input.
“Robin will likely have no say in those decisions,” Blum said.
Thicke was granted supervised visitation for a few hours, three days a week, at a neutral location selected by a monitor.
Previously, he had custody of Julian every Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
Thicke and Patton finalized their divorce in 2015, and according to Patton, were co-parenting amicably until recently. Earlier this month, she filed documents in which she said at the time she had “become concerned about [Robin]’s drinking and drug use, as well as the forms of punishment he is using to discipline Julian” over the past year — specifically, spankings that Patton believes were too hard and made Julian “scared” of his dad. A school mediator and principal said in court papers that they had called L.A.’s Department of Children & Family Services after speaking to Julian.
“The Court issued temporary orders today based solely on paperwork,” Thicke’s lawyer told PEOPLE on Thursday. “[DCFS] will be closing the physical abuse allegation against Robin as ‘Unfounded,’ but has added an emotional abuse allegation against Paula, which remains under investigation. We believe that DCFS sees the damage that Paula has done to Julian and will take appropriate action to protect him.”
However, a source close to the situation maintained to PEOPLE Thursday that the DCFS investigation is ongoing, and any reports to the contrary are false. “The DCFS doesn’t close an investigation into one parent and open one on another,” the source said. “There is no new investigation into Paula.” DCFS declined to comment citing confidentiality laws but said any investigation includes an assessment of the entire family.