Restraining Orders: A Twisted Divorce Tactic

Restraining orders exist to protect victims against an alleged abuser by keeping the abuser from engaging in activities in or near the victim's home, workplace, or other frequently visited places. A restraining order can also give a victim temporary custody of children, in an effort to keep the children out of harm's way.

There are two steps in establishing a restraining order. The first, known as a temporary or ex parte order, can be obtained by a supposed victim without the presence or knowledge of the alleged abuser. This temporary order lasts up to ten days. Within that time frame, a second hearing occurs, at which the supposed victim and alleged abuser present their evidence that abuse has or has not occurred, which may or may not necessitate a restraining order.

Restraining Order Abuse in Divorce Cases

Unfortunately, some people are abusing Massachusetts' restraining order laws and using them as a divorce tactic. An individual involved in divorce proceedings may file a temporary restraining order against their spouse, alleging abuse of him or herself or of the couple's children. This would prevent the alleged abuser from having contact with his or her children during the ten-day temporary order, and if the allegations stick, the restraining order would last up to a year after the accusations were made. Often, such allegations are false, and only a way to put a wrench in the divorce proceedings and for the accusing spouse to gain custody of the children involved.

To prevent the restraining order from being extended, it is imperative that the alleged abuser present evidence of the second hearing that the allegations made against him or her are false. This is the first and only time an alleged abuser can present his or her case. If he or she fails to appear, chances are that the restraining order will be extended, and the accusing spouse will gain custody of the children.

A restraining order can have disastrous effects on the alleged abuser. The order is put on his or her criminal record, and any violation of the order results in criminal charges. The alleged abuser is also listed in the statewide Domestic Violence Registry, a record that never goes away. All of these actions greatly impact an alleged abuser's ability to secure new employment, especially jobs for the government or jobs that involve working with children.

Massachusetts' courts issue restraining orders to protect victims, not so the orders can be used as frivolous tactics to gain the upper hand in a divorce or a child custody matter. Restraining orders have serious consequences for the alleged abuser, and also for the relationship between the alleged abuser and his or her children, since the order could put strain on the parent-child relationship. A restraining order is something no one should consider obtaining without a serious, truthful cause.