When a family is marred by actual physical violence or threats of physical violence that make the threatened party fear for her or his safety and/or the safety of other family members, the court system can provide the victims of violence or threatened violence with various forms of protection. In the civil court, the remedy is called a restraining order. In the criminal court, the remedy is called a protective order.
Restraining and protective orders are intended to accomplish very similar tasks: protect a family member from abuse and violence. A protective order can be issued after an arrest. A restraining order does not require an arrest.
Both protective and restraining orders are official court orders that must be obeyed. Violating a restraining or protective order is a felony. Among other things a court may order the offending spouse to stay away from the marital home and victim’s place of work, to refrain from threatening or contacting the victim or children of the marriage, from harassing the victim through verbal or written communications or by following them.
For more than 35 years I have worked with families impacted by different types of domestic abuse. My years in the criminal justice system, first as a prosecutor and then as a defense attorney, my work as a family law attorney and my affiliation with various domestic violence agencies have all helped me develop insights into the often hidden problem of domestic abuse and how to deal with it.
Although restraining and protective orders often go hand-in-hand with divorce actions, restraining orders and domestic violence complaints should not be used as weapons in a divorce action; they are serious remedies for a serious problem. Unfortunately, in some situations a spouse will use the court system to try to gain an advantage in a divorce or post-dissolution situation. This misuse of the court system hurts both the real victims of domestic abuse and those who are falsely accused of such abuse. When confronted with this situation I have used my criminal and family law experience to help the wrongly-accused partner level the playing field.
If you are honestly afraid of your partner and believe you need protection from physical harm or continuous threats of such harm, the first thing you need to do is protect yourself. If the threat is imminent or you are being hurt, call 911. Then call me and let me help.