The fact remains that divorces have the potential to get nasty. While the unpleasantness commonly amounts to tension, spiteful conversations, and difficulty reaching agreements on custody and asset division, some situations can escalate to the point where one spouse feels unsafe.
If you find your well-being threatened during the separation process, it is important to be aware of your options so you can quickly take the right actions to protect yourself.
Restraining Orders and/or Protection Orders are orders handed down by the court, intended to protect you and your properties from someone before something happens.
In general, there are three types of restraining orders: emergency, which goes into effect immediately to prevent imminent harm, temporary, which lasts for a short period of time – usually to cover the time between filing and when a permanent order can be obtained – and permanent, which is held after a hearing and is typically referred to as a “Restraining Order.” In some jurisdictions, emergency and temporary orders are synonymous.
The laws around obtaining a Restraining Order differ from state to state. However, as a general rule you must be able to prove that the order is necessary for your safety. There must be evidence of an imminent threat or prior acts to support your claim. A practicing family law or domestic relations attorney can help you file a claim to obtain a Restraining Order.
A Restraining Order states that the defendant must do, or not do, certain things to avoid endangering the other party. If the defendant defies any parts of the order, there are legal consequences. At the most basic level, Restraining Orders keep the defendant away from you to eliminate the opportunity for violence to occur.
With a Restraining Orders and Orders of Protection, a person can be ordered not to have any contact with you; contact can include texting, phone calls, emails and traditional mail. The defendant can also be ordered against contacting any member of your family – including your children. If you are still living with your spouse, the order can force them to leave the residence, regardless of their level of ownership. Typically, the court will grant custody of minors to the parent being protected. Some states may require the defendant to pay support or to pay court fees associated with the protection, and to pay any damages you incurred as a result of their actions. Ultimately, orders can be customized to fit the particular needs of each unique situation as long as the terms are reasonable.
Once the order is granted, establish a thorough understanding of the terms so you can easily recognize if it is in danger of being violated. It is also best practice to keep a hard copy of the order with you as much as possible. If a need to contact the authorities arises, this will help them be able to quickly understand your situation.
It is imperative that if you feel you are in any type of danger you reach out to the police or to an attorney, depending on the urgency. Remember, laws, law enforcement and officers of the Court are in place to help you, and they have the expertise to do so.
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