It is not unusual to hear people refer to divorce as a game – most often a chess game. That’s not to say that anyone thinks the stakes in divorce aren’t real. They are more real than in any “game” people play. But, just as in the game of chess, getting a divorce (particularly for those who consider divorce to be a game) requires strategy. Unfortunately, for some people, part of that strategy includes getting a questionable Orders of Protection and/or having their spouse arrested for little, or no, reason.
Domestic Violence Exists
Before we go any farther, understand that I am not saying that domestic violence isn’t real, or that all Orders of Protection are shams. Not by a long shot!. Domestic violence is real, dangerous, and should not be condoned in any situation. Period! But, what I’m talking about here are the situations in which people exaggerate or fabricate charges of domestic violence as a strategy to gain an advantage in their divorce case.
Not only is this type of strategy wrong in the case in which it occurs, but it actually hurts everyone who is a legitimate victim of domestic violence. It makes people question whether real victims are telling the truth.
What an Order of Protection Is, and What it Does
An Order of Protection (also called a Protective Order or a Restraining Order) is a court order, signed by a judge, that prevents one family/household member (the abuser) from abusing another family/ household member (the victim). It also prevents the abuser from entering your home or workplace for a specific period of time.
In addition to getting an Order of Protection against him, if your spouse has abused you or your children, it may be possible for you to press criminal charges against him. While you can do both, it is possible to get an Order of Protection without having your spouse prosecuted for a crime.
Why People Use Arrests and Orders of Protection in Divorce
The most obvious reason that women get Orders of Protection or have their spouse arrested when they are going through a divorce is that divorce tends to bring out the worst in people. Sometimes divorce spurs a normally well-behaved person into engaging in violent or abusive behavior. Other times one spouse’s abusive behavior is the very reason for the divorce. Either way, using criminal charges and Orders of Protection to stop domestic violence is exactly what those tools were created for. What causes problems is when people use trumped up criminal charges and sketchy Orders of Protection simply to harass, embarrass, or harm their spouses in a divorce case.
Of course, not everyone who pursues a questionable Order of Protection against their spouse does so just to be vindictive. Some people do it in order to get their spouse kicked out of the house when he refuses to leave any other way. Others do it to make their spouse look bad to their family, friends, or their kids. Regardless of the strategy, using criminal charges and Orders of Protection for any reason other than to stop real domestic violence is a dangerous thing to do.
7 Reasons Why Using Unfounded Criminal Charges and Baseless Orders of Protection as A Tool in Your Divorce is a REALLY BAD idea:
1. Doing this escalates the conflict in your case one thousand fold. You might as well throw gasoline on a fire. After you have your spouse arrested and/or thrown out of the house for no reason you can pretty much kiss your hope of amicably settling your case goodbye.
2. If it comes out that you lied to the authorities, YOU can get prosecuted. Enough said.
3. Once you lie to the court on one issue, you destroy your credibility on all issues. Judges realize that emotions run high in divorce. They will overlook a fair amount of “bad behavior.” But, lying to the court never goes down well – and judges have long memories!
4. Your spouse can’t pay support while he is in jail. If you are relying on your spouse to support you and the kids while the divorce is pending, getting him locked up will wreak financial havoc on you.
5. Growing the court fight costs you money. All of the extra court hearings this kind of activity causes takes time and costs money. If your spouse has to hire a criminal attorney, that costs even more money. While you may think that paying all those attorneys is your spouse’s problem, if the money is coming from the marital estate, that means that you are paying for it too.
6. If you did all this to make your spouse look bad to the kids, you might end up with the kids taken away from you. If your spouse is a real danger to the kids then, YES!, you need to keep him away. Absolutely! But, if your spouse is not abusive, and you just don’t agree with his parenting style, separating him from the kids by fabricating charges against him can give a judge grounds to take the kids away from you. Plus, legalities aside, this is just a horrible thing do to your children.
7. Karma happens. Your divorce will pass. Even if it doesn’t seem like it right now, your case will end someday. But what you do in your divorce, how you act and react, will follow you for a long time. You can choose to believe that or not. I’ve seen karma in action. What goes around, comes around.
Domestic Violence v. Divorce Tactic
Domestic violence is horribly real. Getting an Order of Protection against an abuser can literally save your life. Prosecuting an abuser for their crime not only acts as punishment for their actions, but it (hopefully) can deter future abuse as well. Yet, there is an enormous difference between taking these measures stop your spouse’s domestic violence, and doing either of those things as a way to get one up on him in your divorce case.
No matter what you are trying to accomplish, no matter how much you want to “win” your case, using the criminal or domestic violence courts as a sword, rather than as a shield, is never a good way to get through your divorce.
For more divorce advice and information from Karen Covy, go to http://karencovy.com
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