A restraining order is typically issued when a situation escalates or becomes unsafe for the person asking for the protection. However, even this protective legal action can be misused, creating new legal trouble for the person being restrained. It can also interfere with your right to child custody or visitation, which is especially hurtful if the restraining order is based on false accusations.
However frustrating and unjust it may be, a restraining order is something to take very seriously. Failure to do so can result in serious criminal charges. You have the right to a hearing, an attorney, and for your defense argument to be heard. These are the tools you should focus on, while respecting the order so long as it’s in effect.
Here are a few important things you should know if you’ve had a restraining order petitioned against you:
- Trying to contact or talk to the petitioner about it can backfire. This will count as a violation of the order, and you can have charges pressed against you for it. Instead, focus on building your own defense case, including securing your attorney and gathering evidence, documentation, and witnesses as necessary.
- Not knowing you’re in violation can still result in consequences. In one case in Minnesota, a man was accused of violating a restraining order when he walked in front of the apartment of the woman who petitioned the restraint against him. Although a Court of Appeals ruled that he couldn’t have known he was violating the order since the woman’s address wasn’t specified, he still faced jail time and a fine.
- The evidence you provide matters. The more thorough you are, the better. Meticulous documentation, including phone records, receipts, GPS data, and anyone who can testify as a witness on your behalf is highly recommended. However, don’t make the mistake of destroying evidence, which is likely to be discovered and hurt your case.
- The restraining order may or may not extend to your children. In cases where an ex-spouse files a restraining order to gain leverage in a divorce case, it’s not uncommon to include the children, meaning the other parent will be barred from any custody or visitation rights until the order is either lifted or revised. In cases where you’re still allowed contact with your children, any custody or visitation drop-offs and pick-ups will have to involve a third party to avoid violating the restraining order.
Having a restraining order petitioned against you can be jarring, especially when they’re based on false allegations. In the interim between the initial order and your hearing, you’ll enter what’s called a Temporary Restraining Order.
It’s during this period when you should focus on hiring an experienced attorney and gathering your evidence, while respecting the order itself.