While many divorces and child custody cases are amicable (or at least civil), others simply are not. If you have been the victim of abuse, if your spouse has threatened you or your child, or if you are otherwise in some type of danger, a restraining order can be used to help you stay safe. Read on to find out more about why you might need a restraining order, what a restraining order does, how to file one, and what comes next.
Why You Might Need a Restraining Order
One of the most common reasons a spouse might file a restraining order is to prevent further physical abuse. If you or your children have been abused by your spouse or ex-spouse, a restraining order can prevent it from happening again. Psychological abuse is another reason to ask for a restraining order.
Another less common reason to get a restraining order when a spouse is using up all of your shared money, selling properties that you both own, or otherwise depleting your assets in an effort to not let you have your share. A restraining order can also be placed against a bank to prevent it from allowing your spouse to deplete the funds or sell the assets before the divorce is finalized.
What a Restraining Order Does (and Does Not)
A restraining order can prevent your spouse from living in the marital home, going to the home, visiting your workplace, approaching you in public, and otherwise trying to use his or her physical presence to intimidate or harm you. Some restraining orders also prevent contact via telephone, email, and other methods. The communication between the two of you, in that case, would need to go through an approved third party, such as through your attorneys or legal resource group.
Be sure to read the order carefully, because it is going to be specific in scope. If it says that your spouse cannot physically approach you, that doesn’t extend to telephone calls, for example. Also, it is important to remember that even though the order is forbidding your spouse from contacting you in the ways specified by the order, that doesn’t necessarily mean that he or she will abide by it. Someone who breaks the law to abuse you might also break the law by ignoring a restraining order, so it is important to have a plan to stay safe regardless.
How to File a Restraining Order
The exact process for filing a restraining order will vary by your state and by your specific circumstances. If you are being abused or harmed and the police are called, you can ask the police to help you file an emergency restraining order. When this is done, a judge can grant you an emergency motion that will be reassessed in a certain time period. This is a good option if you are in acute danger.
Otherwise, you will need to go through the court system. The process will start with you filing the appropriate paperwork with your county or city. Once those are submitted, you will receive a hearing date. At that point, you’ll need to ensure that the hearing information is served to your spouse. On the date of the hearing, you’ll be able to present your evidence and receive a judgment. A legal resource group like National Family Solutions can help you find out the exact process in your state.
What If The Restraining Order Is Ignored
Approximately half of the restraining orders filed for physical abuse are violated, so it is important to have a plan in place to stay safe. Your safety and the safety of your child are most important, so do what you need to do to stay safe. That might mean moving out of the marital home, going to a shelter for battered individuals, or otherwise finding a way to protect yourself. If your spouse approaches your home despite being ordered not to, you can call the police; ignoring a restraining order is a criminal offense.
Of course, not all restraining orders are in place due to a physically abusive spouse. Whether or not your physical safety is at risk, you should always document any instances of your spouse defying the court order. Write down the date, time, and what the infraction was. Talk to your legal advocate or attorney about the steps to take to report the incident to the court, which might prevent it from happening again.
What Your Restraining Order Means for Your Case
If you have received a temporary restraining order, it is important to know that there will need to be a hearing to determine whether the order will become permanent. If you have kept records of any proof of abuse or financial mistreatment, compile them and have them ready for your hearing date.
If your spouse has been violent toward you or your child, it is possible that he or she might receive supervised visitation with the child. This means that all visits will need to take place under the watchful eye of a third party. This is often a social worker or another person assigned by the court. In some cases, it might be a grandparent or another relative. If your spouse has abused your child, be sure to write down as many details as you can remember. If there were physical injuries or the need for therapy, the doctor or mental health professional will have notes that can be included in your case.
Going through a divorce is difficult under the best of circumstances, and going through a divorce where there is the need for a restraining order can be extremely stressful and overwhelming. National Family Solutions works with men and women who are experiencing the abuse (physical, psychological, or financial) of a spouse. We can help you get through this trying time and stay safe in the process. Contact us today to find out whether our services are right for you and your unique circumstances.