Restraining Order Q&A

DISCLAIMER: This page, which attempts to answer frequently asked questions (FAQ), is intended as a resource to those bewildered by the restraining order process and offered because attorneys rarely dispense information or counsel freely that they could bill for. The replies below are those of this blog’s author, whose knowledge of restraining orders and restraining order abuses is grudging and unqualified by any formal education in the law. I’m a writer, not an attorney. If in doubt, consult a licensed professional.

If you are the defendant in a restraining order case (that is, if you are the recipient of a restraining order), especially one based on false/fraudulent allegations:

  1. Read the court’s order front to back so that you understand its restrictions and expectations to the letter. Be able to quote it from memory.
  2. Immediately apply to the court for an appeals hearing if you haven’t already been assigned one. This will provide you with an opportunity to contest the restraining order applicant’s allegations and have the order quashed (that is, negated, nullified, canceled). You can do this by mail, by phone, or by visiting the courthouse.
  3. File a motion for continuance with the court to request a postponement of your appeals hearing to provide you with additional time to find and consult with an attorney (if within your means), gather evidence (which may include affidavits from witnesses), and prepare your defense. This is just a matter of going to the courthouse, explaining to the clerk what you’re after, and filling in a few lines on a form. You may even be able to do this by phone. Have your case number handy. The worst that can happen is that your motion is denied.
  4. Request a copy of the restraining order applicant’s affidavit to the court. This is his or her written narrative explaining why s/he “needs” a restraining order. If you’re assertive, a clerk at the courthouse should provide you with a copy with some information redacted (crossed out), such as the applicant’s address. Knowing what the plaintiff has alleged against you is both your constitutional right and essential to your defense.
  5. Exploit any and all available resources to obtain the services of a qualified attorney, that is, an attorney both experienced with representing restraining order defendants and one you feel confident will represent your interests without reservation. Call around. Having an attorney speak on your behalf is your best bet of arresting a biased process that stands to exert a very detrimental influence on your future. Some respondents to this blog have reported paying thousands to attorneys who they felt ultimately sided with the restraining order applicant. So choose an attorney you feel certain will have your back. A lawyer is no different from anyone else you employ to do a job for you: get one you have faith in.

*Readers may perform a keyword search of this FAQ page (or any other) by pressing Ctrl + F or ⌘ Cmd + F. A dialogue box will appear.

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A judge contacted my job and is trying to get me fired. [What to do?]”

A judge’s contacting your employer is way out of line. You can report this misbehavior to the police, apply for a restraining order against the judge for harassment, and/or report his or her actions to your state’s judicial oversight commission. If the judge succeeded in costing you your job, you would also have grounds to sue him/her for damages. The system protects its own, so you would have to substantiate (document/prove) your case very thoroughly. Your best avenue of recourse (if it’s financially feasible) would be to hire an attorney.

A person filed a restraining order, which a judge denied. Now the person is telling everyone they have a gun to use against the other party. [What to do?]”

If the other party feels his or her life is in danger, s/he shouldn’t hesitate to report these threats to the police and/or apply to the court for a restraining order him- or herself (which can require that the person be prohibited from possessing firearms or ammunition). The other party can obtain affidavits (sworn statements) from witnesses to support his or her allegations to a judge. Bear in mind, however, that a restraining order is just a piece of paper. If this person is psychotic, the threatened party should consider a more certain deterrent like relocating.

A police officer called and informed me of a PPO [protection order]. Is a phone call effective without personal service upon me?”

In some jurisdictions, astonishingly, this is satisfactory, yes.

Am I a criminal if I have a restraining order?”

Though the court and others may well treat you like a criminal or make you feel like one, no. A restraining order is a civil misdemeanor.

“Am I breaking the law if I posted a comment on Facebook about my ex-girlfriend who got a restraining order against me…?”

Restraining orders are public record, so no. You would only have made yourself liable to police interference if your comment was threatening or to civil litigation if your comment was libelous—in other words, if you lied about your ex-girlfriend in a defamatory way. Truth is an absolute defense against allegations of libel or slander. Fact is fact. Opinion is also protected under the Constitution. Care should be taken, though, if you’re commenting on a restraining order that’s still in effect that you don’t make yourself vulnerable to allegations of harassment. A good rule of thumb is to imagine that everything you write will be read by a judge. A single comment isn’t harassment.

Are charges filed against me public record?”

Yes. The plaintiff’s affidavit (written narrative to the court) is often concealed—even from the defendant; but the restraining order itself is publicly accessible, along with any allegations that appear on it (whether true or false).

“Are narcissists con artists?”

Yes, they’re consummate manipulators and frauds who don’t scruple about lying to realize their own ends, including to police officers and judges.

Are no-contact orders public knowledge and if so where do you locate them?”

Records of restraining orders are public, yes. A courthouse website will usually have a database that you can search by name or case number. Note that restraining orders can issue from county or city courthouses. Note also that accessibility of restraining order records by Internet can vary state-to-state. (Here, for example, is the public index for Charleston County, South Carolina.)

“Are restraining orders being issued too freely?”

Yes, in all senses: they’re issued casually, and they cost their applicants little or nothing.

“Are restraining orders constitutional?”

There are certainly grounds for questioning their constitutionality. Provisions of the United States Constitution and state constitutions require that all citizens be given equal recognition under the law and that no group of citizens be shown special consideration, and preferential treatment both of women generally and plaintiffs specifically is not only prevalent but often mandated (for example, courts may be given grant monies in return for consenting to unquestioningly accept allegations of fear or violence from women as true). Restraining orders also deny recipients due process, a constitutional privilege guaranteed by the Fifth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendments. They furthermore enable the courts to criminally sanction defendants (imprison them) without first affording them their constitutional entitlement to a trial by a jury of their peers. And almost all if not all restraining orders are issued ex parte, which means defendants are deprived of liberty (and often property) prior to being heard by the court. Some defendants, in fact, are never heard. Restraining orders are issued against them without the court’s ever knowing anything about them but their names.

Are restraining orders hard to beat?”

Yes, because they can be based on testimony that’s impossible to discredit, for example, an emotional state. An allegation of fear, which may be all a plaintiff needs to persuade a judge to approve a restraining order, can’t be disproved. The only defense is to discredit the plaintiff by convincingly showing there are no objective grounds for fear or that s/he has an ulterior motive for alleging it. As painful as it may be, no matter how strained your finances, securing the representation of an attorney is critical to balancing the scales and insuring you at least get a fair shake in a restraining order appeal. Since restraining orders are obtained ex parte—that is, based solely on the word of the plaintiff—the notion that the scales of justice are balanced to begin with is ridiculous.

“Are you notified if a person you have a restraining order against moves?”

No. Unless the person were for some reason required to inform authorities of a change of address, neither the police nor the court would even know, and a restraining order doesn’t prohibit a person from moving (except, perhaps, within the vicinity of the petitioner).

“Can a CPO be verbal, or does it have to be written?”

To the best of my knowledge, a criminal protection order would necessarily have to be in print so that its recipient were duly apprised of its prohibitions. Mere communication of an order would seem to be insufficient (unless it were directly communicated by a judge). Orders issuing from the court, even if they’re verbally pronounced by judges, are typically “written” and mailed to or served on the parties at whom they’re directed. That notwithstanding, if you believe you’ve been ordered by the court not to approach or contact another person, you should refrain accordingly.

“Can a defendant vacate an order of protection?”

A defendant can contest the preliminary/temporary order prior to its being finalized. Either a date will be scheduled automatically, or one will be assigned subsequent to the defendant’s applying to the court for the opportunity to defend. Protocols vary from state to state. In Arizona, for example, defendants must request hearings. Filing a motion like this one from Maine, “Defendant’s Motion to Dissolve Temporary Order for Protection,” may or may not be necessary. A defendant’s appearance in court to challenge a restraining order is essentially understood as a motion to the court to dismiss/vacate the preliminary judgment, but there’s no harm in a defendant’s filing a motion and/or pronouncing in court, “Defendant moves to have the plaintiff’s order dismissed, because its allegations are false [or “baseless,” “frivolous,” etc.].” Dismissed, vacated, dissolved, terminated, or a similar word will be used, depending on the jurisdiction, to mean canceled, “dropped,” or “tossed.” Grounds for moving to have an order vacated after it has been finalized might be that the defendant was never served with the preliminary order and summons or that the order was otherwise “void.” If this doesn’t apply, and a ruling to finalize a restraining order goes against a defendant, s/he may appeal the ruling to a higher court. These are the only ways to vacate a restraining order without its petitioner’s cooperation. With the petitioner’s cooperation and an attorney’s assistance, an expired restraining order may be vacated even years later by filing a nunc pro tunc motion with the court (nunc pro tunc means “now for then”). Exceptions like this option available in Colorado may exist in other states: “JDF 395 Instructions for Restrained Person to Modify/Dismiss PO R3-12.”

Can a felon have a restraining order against somebody?”

Yes. See this post for an example case: “Restraining Orders and the First Amendment: A Female Blogger’s Successful Appeal of a Restraining Order That Labeled Her a ‘Cyber-Stalker’.”

Can a future employer see if you have a restraining order?”

Yes, if s/he endeavors to find out. Restraining orders are public record. In some regions, moreover, restraining order registries have been established like those for sex offenders, making access by the public not only convenient but enticing.

“Can a governor remove a restraining order?”

A governor can pardon (or commute) a crime. To the best of my knowledge, a governor cannot vacate/expunge a restraining order, which represents a civil misdemeanor. If you learn otherwise, please let me know. You have nothing to lose, of course, by writing or calling the governor’s office and asking.

Can a judge dismiss a cease-and-desist harassment order at a hearing?”

Yes, presuming the purpose of the hearing is to hear the defendant’s arguments for the order’s being quashed/vacated (voided).

“Can a judge give a restraining order keeping my child in the hands of strangers?”

If anecdotal reports to this blog are reliable, yes. One respondent reported that a judge awarded custody of his son to one of his wife’s former boyfriends, who falsely claimed to be the boy’s father. Another respondent, whose son’s baby was placed in the custody of his maternal grandmother, reported that the grandmother refused to return the baby after the restraining order was dismissed, and authorities refused to intervene.

Can a lover sue on behalf of someone else?”

Possibly. If the other person were incapacitated, for example, or otherwise deemed unfit to represent him- or herself, or if the injury complained of to the court was one the lover also suffered from.

“Can a no-contact order get dropped without consent from the person [who] put it up?”

A defendant/respondent can appeal the order (through multiple tiers of the court system if s/he has the stamina and financial resource). If appeals have been exhausted, though, or the window to file has closed, the answer to the question is probably no. Some respondents to this blog have sued and had restraining orders vacated that way (either the judge rules to “drop” them, or the sued parties consent to cooperate in their vacation in out-of-court settlements). A plaintiff/petitioner (“the person who put it up”) can file a motion to dismiss (vacate, withdraw, dissolve, terminate) a restraining order while it’s in effect, or the plaintiff and defendant can cooperatively file a nunc pro tunc motion with the court through an attorney to vacate it after its expiration.

Can a person be coerced to file a fraudulent restraining order?”

Definitely. Particularly abominable is when a person (woman) is coerced to file a false restraining order by a police officer or agent of Child Protective Services (CPS) or by a judge.

Can a person who doesn’t own the house file a restraining order and make the person who owns the house move out?”

Yes. It’s a common motive among restraining order applicants.

“Can a person who lies about a restraining order be charged if they request to drop it?”

Not really, no. It’s remotely conceivable that if you were to confess to lying, you could be sanctioned by the court, but such a confession isn’t necessary to have an order dismissed. You would only have to offer—if you were questioned at all—that you felt you acted rashly and now regret it. The court just needs to be assured that you don’t feel the order is necessary and that you’re not seeking to withdraw it because you were threatened or otherwise feel coerced. You don’t have to implicate yourself as a “liar,” per se, to have an injunction “dropped.” You just need to return to the courthouse and file a “motion to dismiss” or “motion to vacate.” Approval isn’t guaranteed, but if the allegations weren’t extreme and children weren’t involved, there shouldn’t be a problem. If the allegations were extreme and/or children were involved, the court might require that your home situation be investigated before ruling. See also this post.

“Can a PFA [protection from abuse order] keep you from a public place such as a church function?”

If the plaintiff on the order is there, yes; the proscriptions of the order (among them keeping a distance from the plaintiff) apply everywhere. Although an order may not specify a “minimum distance” that the defendant must observe, it will require that the defendant “keep away” from the plaintiff.

Can a plaintiff drop a temporary protective order lawsuit?”

Yes. Only a judge can modify or vacate (“drop”) an order of the court, but a plaintiff can move a judge to do so. Procedures will vary from state to state, because every state’s laws are different. This document “explains,” for example, how a restraining order is modified or vacated in California: “Do you want to change or cancel a restraining order?” This page by a New Jersey attorney underscores the complexities of undoing the effects of restraining orders alleging domestic violence: “Can a domestic violence restraining order be vacated or dismissed?” Here’s a basic eHow tutorial: “How to Rescind a Protective Order.” The National Center for State Courts provides links to court forms in all 50 states that can be used by self-represented litigants. Plaintiffs seeking to vacate restraining orders in some states (for example, Kentucky) may not find prepared forms and may have to make their own. This would probably best be done by looking at a different motion form from their state, using it as a template/model, and titling it, “Motion to Vacate [X kind of] Order.” See also these state-specific forms/tutorials (and this post):

How to dismiss or quash an order of protection in (Maricopa County) Arizona.

Request to Modify or Dissolve Protective Order” (Alaska)

Motion to Set Aside/Vacate Judgment” (Arizona)

Ex Parte Request and Order to Terminate Restraining Order” (California)

Request to Vacate Restraining Order” (California)

Protection Order Forms” (Colorado)

Motion to Modify/Dismiss Temporary/Permanent Protection Order” (Colorado)

Order Vacating Restraining Order” (Colorado)

Injunctions and Restraining Orders in Connecticut

How to Prepare a Civil Motion” (Delaware)

Motion to Modify, Extend, or Vacate Order of Protection from Abuse” (or Word file) (Delaware)

Dismissal of Temporary Restraining Order” (Georgia)

Court Forms” (Hawaii)

Motion for Dismissal” (Hawaii: applicable to first district court protection order)

Motion to Dismiss” (Hawaii: applicable to third district court protection order)

Motion to and Declaration to Dissolve the Existing Order” (Hawaii: applicable to family court restraining order)

Procedure to Change or Dismiss an Order of Protection” (Illinois)

Protection Order Forms” (Indiana)

Petitioner’s Verified Request for Dismissal” (Indiana)

Request to Cancel or Change a Chapter 236 Protective Order” (or Word file) (Iowa)

Protection From Abuse Forms” (Kansas)

Notice of Dismissal” (Kansas)

Order of Dismissal” (Kansas)

Uniform Abuse Prevention Order Forms” (Louisiana)

Plaintiff’s Pre-Judgment Motion to Dismiss Complaint” (Maine)

Plaintiff’s Post-Judgment Motion to Modify or Terminate Protection Order” (Maine)

Petition To Modify/Rescind Peace Order” (Maryland)

Petition To Modify/Rescind Protective Order” (Maryland)

Restraining Order & Harassment Forms” (Massachusetts)

Plaintiff’s Motion to Modify or Terminate Abuse Prevention Order” (Massachusetts)

Motion and Order to Dismiss Action for Personal Protection Order” (Michigan)

Motion to Modify, Extend, or Terminate Personal Protection Order” (Michigan)

Domestic Abuse Forms” (Minnesota)

Affidavit and Order for Dismissal” (Minnesota)

Procedure—Setting Aside Final Judgments in Missouri

Domestic Violence – Protective Orders: Forms for Printing” (Montana)

Motion for Modification or Termination of the Protection Order” (Montana)

Motion to Vacate and Set Aside and to Dismiss” (Nebraska)

Modifying, Dissolving, or Appealing a Protection Order” (Nevada)

Failure to Prosecute, Dismissals, and Withdrawals” (New Hampshire)

Can A Domestic Violence Restraining Order Be Dismissed?” (New Jersey)

Dissolving a Domestic Violence Restraining Order” (New Jersey)

Motion to Dismiss Temporary Order of Protection” (New Mexico)

Procedure to Dismiss an Order of Protection in New York

Family Court Forms” (New York)

Motion to Modify or Terminate Domestic Violence Civil Protection Order” (Ohio)

Family Abuse Prevention Act (FAPA) Forms” (Oregon)

Petitioner’s Motion and Affidavit for Dismissal and Order” (Oregon)

Instructions from the First Judicial District of Pennsylvania for vacating a protection-from-abuse order (PFA).

Domestic Protection Order Forms” (South Dakota)

Motion to Dismiss Protection Order” (South Dakota)

Order Dismissing Protection Order” (South Dakota)

Prosecuting and Defending Protective Orders” (Texas)

Protective Order Forms” (Utah)

Order on Request to Dismiss or Vacate Protective Order” (Utah)

Relief from Abuse Forms” (Vermont)

Motion to Vacate Relief from Abuse Order” (Vermont)

Guide to Civil Protection Orders in D.C.” (Washington D.C.) (see p. 27: “Vacating Your CPO”)

Domestic Violence Forms” (West Virginia)

Petition to Terminate Protective Order” (West Virginia)

Order Dismissing/Denying Petition for TRO/Injunction” (Wisconsin)

Can a plaintiff email the defendant’s husband when [there’s a] harassment order?”

Yes. Since you’ve arguably injured that man’s family, though, unless the intent of your email were conciliatory (that is, unless you were trying to negotiate a peace), you would likely stir up trouble. The restraining order that you were awarded doesn’t, strictly speaking, impose any limitations on your actions, only on the defendant’s.

[C]an a police officer sue someone for making a false accusation?”

A police officer might have sufficient grounds to sue someone for making a false accusation against him or her, yes, especially if it was done publicly in a way that damaged the officer’s reputation or professional standing. A police officer couldn’t sue, though, for someone’s making false allegations against someone else. False reporting to a police officer is a misdemeanor crime that could only be prosecuted by the county/district attorney’s office.

Can a police officer work in a town if someone has a restraining order against them?”

That’s probably a question for HQ (police admin). Unless having a restraining order against him or her were grounds for termination of employment from the police department, it would probably just impose some limitations on where the officer was permitted to go. Typically, though, restraining orders prohibit defendants from possessing firearms, which might well mean an officer couldn’t work in any town.

Can [a] protection order forbid you to go to someone’s home who is not involved?”

Unless the court’s order specifically says so, no. Obviously if the plaintiff resides in that person’s home, it’s off-limits. Though restraining orders are boilerplate instruments, each will specify what addresses you’re forbidden to visit (usually the plaintiff’s residence and place of work or study). The only adult you’re forbidden contact with is the order’s plaintiff, though minor children in the plaintiff’s care may also be included on the injunction. If the plaintiff has requested an area be forbidden to you for no justifiable reason, you can bring this up at your appeals hearing or apply to see a judge to modify the order.

Can a restrained person communicate through a lawyer?”

Ask one. A lawyer who’s representing you in a legal action against the plaintiff is authorized and legally bound to inform the plaintiff, certainly. Whether an attorney can tender an olive branch to the plaintiff or propose a reconciliation is a question s/he could best answer.

“Can a restraining order be placed with no hearing?”

Yes, in contravention of defendants’ constitutional right to due process, restraining orders are typically issued ex parte, which means based on allegations made by the accuser and articulated in a brief interview with a judge (five to 10 minutes). In some states (Arizona and Michigan are examples), no hearing is required (also in contravention of due process). In order to be heard at all, defendants must apply to the court to be given an audience and an opportunity to defend (which is often limited to around 15 minutes).

“Can a restraining order be taken out against a child under 10 in Maryland?”

Google Maryland + restraining order laws. I know juvenile restraining orders are available in California. See this Huffington Post story: “Father of Bullied Son Files Restraining Order against 9-Year-Old Kid.” See also this letter from the Maryland Office of the Attorney General.

Can a restraining order become [a] public document without your knowledge?”

A restraining order is a public document.

“Can a restraining order ruin your future?”

No question about it. If you’re asking could it prevent you from getting a job, it would probably depend on the job. Whether knowledge of your having received a restraining order would be the reason an employer would cite for rejecting you is uncertain. Whether that knowledge would influence an employer’s decision is less uncertain. Running for high public office is probably off the table. (One reader found this blog by this search engine query: “old restraining order keeps me from getting jobs.” Other respondents report being denied jobs because of vacated restraining orders, that is, ones that were ultimately dismissed as baseless.)

Can a stepmother sue an ex-wife for intentional infliction of emotional distress?”

Yes. A husband can’t sue his wife or she him. Otherwise, a litigant’s relationship with the other party in a lawsuit is irrelevant. What would matter in a suit of this sort is the plaintiff’s (the stepmother’s) ability to substantiate her allegations of intentional infliction of emotional distress against the defendant (the ex-wife). Consult your state’s definition of this tort to see whether the grounds of your complaint to the court would qualify. Typically for misconduct to rise to the level of intentional infliction of emotional distress, it has to be pretty heinous. Extreme misconduct is hardly unheard of in cases of abuse of restraining orders or related bureaucratic processes, but lawyers and judges need considerable persuading, because they’re unaccustomed to thinking of restraining orders, for example, as “abusive” (even though they know damn well that they’re abused—and routinely). You would need to firmly impress upon them the severity of your injury, which would likely require third-party corroboration (for example, from a doctor and/or therapist) and documentation, for example, of lost income, etc. Affidavits or testimony from family members or friends regarding your mood and behavior might also support your allegation.

“Can a teenager have a restraining order removed?”

If the teenager were still in the care of the adult guardian who petitioned the order, probably not, though this is a question that could be run past a lawyer with a phone call (no charge). If the petitioner of the restraining order were no longer (or was never) the teenager’s legal guardian, it’s possible the court might determine the restraining order to be void.

Can [a] third party be arrested when breaking a protection order…?”

The only person who can violate a restraining order is the person against whom it was issued (that is, the defendant). A restraining order only applies to the actions of its defendant.

Can a wife put a restraining order on someone for someone else?”

Only if that “someone else” is a minor or an adult deemed unfit to represent him- or herself. You can’t apply for a restraining order for someone else if the other person is an adult capable of self-representation.

“Can anyone attend a TPO hearing…?”

Yes. It’s a public proceeding.

“Can charges be filed for filing a false protective order?”

Only by the district prosecutor. Who won’t. So no.

Can evidence help fight a restraining order?”

Assuredly. Don’t, however, expect evidence you provide to the court to speak for itself. Use it instead to support your interpretation of the restraining order plaintiff’s motive. Judges should ask questions and probe defendants’ allegations, but defendants shouldn’t take judges’ interest in the truth (or justice) for granted. The reason you have a restraining order in the first place is because a judge swallowed whatever story the plaintiff told him or her.

Can I appeal if I lost a motion to terminate a PPO against me?”

If the ruling in a hearing to appeal a restraining order went against you, you may appeal the case to the next highest court, yes. Inquire at the courthouse that issued the order. In my state, applying for the opportunity to file an appellate memorandum with the Superior Court is free, and defendants have a month to craft their appeals briefs. If you exercise this option, find out what the criteria for judging such an appeal are. In Arizona, where I live, the Superior Court rules on such an appeal based on whether the lower court clearly “abused its discretion” in issuing/upholding a restraining order, that is, the next judge up the food chain doesn’t review a case de novo (from scratch); it determines whether the lower court overstepped its authority.

Can I be arrested for mailing a certified letter if there [is] a restraining order against me?”

Not if you’re mailing legal documents, but such documents will of course have to have been filed with and approved by the courts beforehand. If, for example, you’ve filed a lawsuit against the plaintiff in a restraining order case against you, you may (and have to) mail the complaint and summons to him/her. If contact by mail is forbidden by the restraining order, though, mailing any other sort of communication to its plaintiff would be a violation of the order (whether by certified letter or other means). Put simply, you can mail court documents pursuant to a legal action; you can’t write to say hi.

“Can I be charged with violating a restraining order I didn’t know about…?”

Technically, no, but it’s not unheard of. If you’ve been accused of violating an order you were never served with, you need to appeal and make that clear to a judge.

“Can I be sued for libel if I write about my ex and don’t post his name?”

Qualifying grounds for suing someone for libel are that s/he lied about you publicly in a defamatory way. The key word here is lied. If what you write about your ex is true, no matter how unflattering it might be, it isn’t libel. Truth is an absolute defense against allegations of libel/slander/defamation. If you are sued for libel, and you didn’t lie about the plaintiff, you may countersue for malicious prosecution/abuse of process and request damages. A caveat to consider, however, is that when someone does sue for libel, the burden falls upon the defendant (you) to prove that what s/he’s reported is accurate. Can someone file a libel suit against you? Sure. Under the circumstances you specify, though, it’s very unlikely you would be sued.

Can I call my accuser to the stand on stalking charges?”

A restraining order hearing isn’t a trial. It’s conducted more like a hearing for a traffic violation (in my state, anyway). Participants are sworn in but don’t take the stand. You can, though, pose questions to your accuser through the presiding judge, that is, the judge will communicate your question(s) to the plaintiff and require that s/he respond.

“Can I call my ex’s attorney when I have a restraining order on him?”

There’s certainly no legal impediment preventing you, though his attorney has no obligation to take your call. His attorney’s responding would probably depend on the nature of what you had to say or what you were asking of him or her. A lawyer is employed to serve the interests of his or her client.

“Can I contact my husband under an order of protection against him?”

Sure. But if he responds, he may be subject to arrest and incarceration. Better to communicate through a third party.

“Can I drop a PPO order I had taken out?”

Yes. Any time before it expires, you may go to the courthouse and have it vacated with no repercussions—though if allegations of domestic violence were made against a spouse, and there are minor children in the household, it’s possible the court would require that your domestic situation be investigated prior to issuing a ruling. See also this post.

“Can I drop a restraining order before court?”

Yes. You would file a motion with the court to have the temporary order dismissed/vacated.

“Can I fight a restraining order that’s been put on my boyfriend by the DA?”

Yes. See the links in this comment strand for advice.

“Can I file a civil suit against someone who has filed a false order for harassment against me?”

Yes. Survey similar questions on this page for further information.

“Can I file a lawsuit against my ex-wife for taking out an order of protection on me and wrecking my reputation?”

If she lied, absolutely. The standard of proof of libel/defamation requires that you demonstrate she publicly made false statements of fact about you that harmed your name and respectability. The statute of limitation for libel/defamation is usually one year.

“Can I [file a] motion to vacate an order…when I’m not the defendant?”

As the petitioner/plaintiff, you can move the court to vacate/dismiss an order you requested, yes (see above for links to forms and tutorials).

Can I file a PFA [protection from abuse order] if my wife beats me?”

Certainly, yes. Though they wouldn’t strictly be necessary, photographs of injuries (bruises, etc.) would support your allegations.

“Can I fire my lawyer on a protective order case?”

Sure.

Can I get a restraining order against my wife?”

If the court determines you have sufficient grounds, sure.

“Can I get a restraining order against someone who attacked me?”

Yes. That’s what restraining order laws were enacted to provide protection against.

“Can I get a restraining order on someone who got one on me? / “Can a respondent file an application for an injunction against the plaintiff?”

Yes. The court usually doesn’t discriminate (and, constitutionally speaking, shouldn’t). In some jurisdictions, however (for example, Illinois), there are laws on the books that prohibit “mutual orders.” See this post. This doesn’t bar applicants from filing separate petitions, though, which would be heard separately and assigned their own case numbers.

Can I get an order of protection against someone who has one on me?”

Assuming you can persuade the court that you’re in need of protection, yes. And unless you’re asked, you’re not obligated to share that you’re under a court-ordered injunction yourself (which should have no bearing on your allegations, anyway). A restraining order in no way restricts your taking legal action against the plaintiff or reporting his or her misconduct to the police or the courts; it only forbids you from personally contacting or approaching the plaintiff. If you successfully petitioned for a protection order, you would still have to observe the injunction against you or risk arrest. The defendant on the restraining order you got would be identically restricted.

“Can I get in trouble for emailing with a restraining order?”

Yes. Consult the court order you were issued. Sometimes only face-to-face contact is forbidden, but if the plaintiff has indicated no emails, telephone calls, etc., then those forms of communication are also off-limits, and engaging in them could make you subject to arrest.

Can I get in trouble for not paying the court costs for someone [who] put a restraining order on me?”

If the court has ordered you to pay those costs, yes. If you’re asking whether you’re automatically obligated to pay attorney fees for the plaintiff’s being represented at a hearing, the answer is probably no. It was the plaintiff’s choice to hire counsel. If in doubt, don’t hesitate to go to the courthouse and ask.

Can I get in trouble for violating my own restraining order years later?”

No. There are no grounds, that is, for your being arrested for communicating with the defendant in spite of a restraining order you obtained that’s now expired—or for your communicating with that person since its expiration. Some basis for the defendant to sue you may still endure, but the probability of this is low.

“Can I get in trouble if I don’t report my husband violated the PPO?”

Not legally. If your reasons for taking out the protection order were legitimate, though—that is, if your husband’s dangerous—then you could be inviting further violations. The only value of a restraining order (a legitimate one) is to check the behavior of someone who has a basic respect for the law. (Restraining orders are band-aids dispensed to reassure the public that the government cares. That’s why they’re most effective when they’re false). If your husband is dangerous and has no respect for the law, a restraining order is all but useless, and you’d do well to consider an alternative solution, like relocating. (This is the pickle the court puts you in: reporting your husband may only inflame a volatile situation.) If, on the other hand, your husband isn’t dangerous and you’ve thought better of the restraining order and that’s why you haven’t reported the violation, you may pacify the situation by going to the courthouse and having it nullified. A lawyer or women’s advocate could tell you if there’s a middle course, like hashing out differences through a mediator.

“Can I get in trouble for talking to someone I filed a protection order against…?”

No. But the other person could. Enforcing no-contact is presumably why you filed for the protection order.

Can I get into trouble [for] speaking to someone with a restraining order?”

A restraining order’s prohibitions only apply to its defendant (its recipient), that is, a restraining order only prohibits its defendant from communicating with its plaintiff. If you’re asking as the defendant in a restraining order case, the only person (or people) you can get into trouble speaking to are the ones you’ve been told not to speak to. If you’re asking whether you can get into trouble for speaking to someone else who has a restraining order, the answer is no. Though it’s often among the evil effects restraining orders have, they aren’t meant to place defendants in social quarantine.

Can I go to my husband’s court [hearing] if the district attorney placed a criminal protection order on him?”

Yes. A restraining order against your husband in no way constrains your actions.

Can I include my girlfriend in a restraining order?”

If you’re asking whether you can include your girlfriend as a co-plaintiff on a restraining order that you apply for against a third party, no. You and your girlfriend would have to file separate restraining orders against him or her.

“Can I keep a sociopath out of my same state with a restraining order?”

No.

Can I post pics on Facebook of someone who has a restraining order against me?”

Facebook may have its own policies concerning posting pictures of others. You’re technically only constrained from performing activities specified on the court’s order (forbidden activities are usually limited to contacting or approaching the plaintiff). Posting pictures of the plaintiff that s/he might object to is not going to land you in jail. It might, however, provoke the plaintiff to cause you more legal aggravation.

Can I put a restraining order on my spouse forbidding them to talk to someone else?”

Strictly speaking, no (though this is a common ulterior motive among restraining order applicants, especially ones who’ve cheated on their husbands or wives and don’t want them finding out—or who don’t want their spouses cheating on them).

Can I request to get the affidavit on [a] restraining order…?”

On a restraining order against you, yes. See a clerk at the courthouse, and assert your right to know what the plaintiff has alleged against you. If you’re insistent, the clerk should provide the affidavit with some information redacted (crossed out), such as the plaintiff’s address. If you’re refused, an attorney can obtain it for you.

Can I request to have a restraining order vacated if its petitioner harasses me?”

Not per se. You certainly can, though, apply for a restraining order yourself against the plaintiff of the one against you. You can also report this person’s misconduct to the police (who will likely call the person and warn him or her to stop). Having a restraining order against you in no way impedes your instituting legal action against its plaintiff or reporting his or her actions to the police and/or courts.

“Can I send a letter to the court against my protection order?”

It’s perfectly lawful to write to a judge. It’s very unlikely to have any effect in your favor, though. If the judge obviously violated his ethical duties, you can file a complaint against him or her with your state’s Commission on Judicial Conduct. This is unlikely to affect the ruling, either, however. You can appeal the verdict to the Superior Court (no cost), but it bases its ruling on whether the lower court judge clearly abused his discretion, so you’d want to orient your appeal toward proving s/he did (i.e., that s/he went out of bounds). If the window for filing for an appeals hearing has closed, or you’ve already had an appeals hearing and it went against you, you’re stuck with applying directly to the plaintiff (through an attorney) to have him or her cooperate in vacating the restraining order in lieu of litigation (and this may only be a viable option after the order has expired). This answer presumes you’re the defendant. If you’re the plaintiff, you can have your restraining order quashed by dropping by the courthouse—or, if it has expired, by having an attorney file a nunc pro tunc motion.

Can I Skype if the order of protection says ‘phone’?”

Generally speaking, you’re not forbidden from using Skype. If you’re asking whether you can contact the plaintiff via Skype, that would probably be okay if the order allows phone contact. The plaintiff would have the option of responding to your call if s/he wanted or ignoring it if s/he didn’t. If the order forbids phone contact with the plaintiff, though, Skyping him or her would also be forbidden, obviously.

Can I still send my kids things even though the girl has a restraining order?”

Consult the specific constraints on the restraining order you were issued. Sometimes only face-to-face contact with the plaintiff is forbidden, but oftentimes all contact is forbidden. The children may even be listed on the court’s order as additional parties you’re forbidden from contacting. Be very sure you’re authorized contact with your children before sending them anything, because even mailing something as innocuous as a birthday card could land you in jail (and you wouldn’t be the first to be arrested for something so harmless and understandable).

Can I submit a letter to the courts in defense of my boyfriend, who was charged with domestic violence against me?”

Yes. This is unlikely to have any effect, though. You’d do better to provide testimony in his defense at a hearing or to provide him or his attorney with an affidavit, which is a written statement that you would have notarized to make it the equivalent of sworn testimony. See also this comment thread on vacating a criminal restraining order (a.k.a “mandatory order” or MRO).

“Can I sue a stalker who has filed a restraining order against me falsely to only then beat me up and say it was self-defense since they have a restraining order against me in place?”

PLEASE DO.

Can I sue my soon-to-be ex-husband for filing a bogus order of protection?”

Yes, but you’d probably have to postpone filing your complaint with the court until the divorce was final.

Can I sue someone for filing a wrongful restraining order that cost me my job?”

Yes. See similar questions for a more detailed answer.

“Can I sue if a police officer lied about serving a restraining order?”

You can sue anyone for anything (including officers of the law and court—yep, you can sue a judge just like anyone else whose negligent conduct injures you). To show standing to prosecute a complaint (lawsuit), you need to demonstrate that you were injured and have a vested stake in the court’s redressing that injury. If you were served with a restraining order, the police officer should be able to produce a receipt with your signature on it.

“Can I sue someone for mental anguish from attempting to get a restraining order?”

Yes. To make a compelling case, though, you’d have to see a counselor and doctor so the court had some third-party substantiation of your suffering. If it was merely an attempt and the duration of your suffering was brief, the sympathy you could expect would probably be scant. If you could show a pattern of conduct, you’d stand a better chance of prevailing in a lawsuit. If this pattern rose to a sufficient level of egregiousness, you could sue for intentional infliction of emotional distress.

“Can I sue someone who wrongfully filed a civil harassment suit?”

Yes. See also above. Torts for suits alleging malicious prosecution or abuse of process involving a restraining order are likely to be among these: malicious prosecution/abuse of process, defamation, false light, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and fraud (on you and/or the police and courts). Other torts may apply, such as those entailing invasion of privacy. See your local law library for a book of jury instructions (which will show you not only what torts may be alleged in your state but how those torts are defined and what you would need to prove to establish liability).

Can I talk to the police about emotional abuse?”

Certainly, yes. Whether an officer could assist you with resolving the abuse would depend on the circumstances.

“Can I travel to Bangladesh and reenter the U.S. with a restraining order?”

Unless you’re under unique restrictions, there’s no evident reason for concern. Though it may feel otherwise, you’re not being monitored. A civil restraining order prescribes limitations on your interaction with another party. That’s all. Violation of a restraining order (e.g., contacting the plaintiff) can result in the deportation of a non-citizen, but travel is not a violation. A restraining order is meant to keep you away from someone, not keep you close. To be certain your restrictions aren’t peculiar, review the court’s order, and don’t hesitate to inquire with the court (i.e., a judge, not a clerk) if you’re still anxious.

Can multiple persons be named in a restraining order?”

Unless the laws in your state are exceptional, only one adult can be named as “plaintiff” on a restraining order, though children in that adult’s care may additionally be listed. Multiple adults seeking a restraining order against a single defendant would have to apply separately.

Can my attorney speak to the person I have a restraining order against?”

Of course. Anybody can. Injunctions (excepting mutual no-contact orders) are one-way: the only person restrained by a restraining order is the defendant (who could freely respond to your attorney if s/he wished).

Can my employer stop me from talking to someone else?”

While you’re on the clock, yes. An employer can’t impose limitations on how you spend your personal time, though. See the question, “Can your employer make you file a restraining order on someone?” for how to respond to workplace/employer coercion. If the job is one you couldn’t live without, consider asking the other person not to visit or call you at work and reassure your employer that your relationship with the other person isn’t one s/he need be concerned about.

Can my ex come back to the house to get her stuff if I have an order of protection?”

No, the order of protection prohibits her from nearing you or your place of residence (on pain of police arrest). You could, though, have her belongings delivered to her or let someone pick them up for her.

“Can my fiancé ask the DA to terminate the criminal protective order that he has with me?”

He can ask, yes.

“Can my girlfriend get arrested for lying on a protective order?”

In theory, yes. In practice, no. Perjury, though a felony, is a crime in name only. The statute is seldom enforced and never in commonplace matters. The district prosecutor, if asked why, would shrug and say that if he prosecuted everyone who lied, there’d be no one outside of prison to caddy for him.

Can my husband have the court date changed?”

Sure, provided the court finds his request for a postponement to be worthy.

“Can my spouse file a protective order after I filed one already?” / “Can someone file a restraining order against me if I have one against them?”

Yes. In a democracy, what’s deemed fair for you to do is deemed fair for all to do. In some jurisdictions, entitlement to file cross-claims is restricted, but it’s usually possible for defendants to apply for injunctions against plaintiffs provided they’re insistent and meet certain qualifications.

Can restraining orders be served via postal mail?”

Possibly. I’ve heard of a restraining order being served by video on Facebook. Service requires confirmation that the defendant has been provided with a copy of the court’s order or had that order read out to him verbatim. If a restraining order were mailed, it would probably require a signature from the defendant confirming receipt to properly qualify as served.

Can someone file a restraining order on the other person who already has one on them?”

Sure.

“Can someone file multiple protection orders?”

Yes, even against a single person.

“Can someone get a restraining order against me for posting a blog?”

It would probably depend on how a judge perceived its intent. The courts generally consider blogs to be the equivalent of online diaries. If you haven’t contacted the person in question and repeatedly been told not to, you’re not vulnerable to an allegation of harassment. If you haven’t lied about the defendant, you’re also immune to allegations of libel or defamation. Unless you’re leaking state secrets, posting information or opinion is protected under the Constitution. Where a judge might take exception to your blog is if its intent is patently malicious or invades the privacy of the other person (or, in the case of warring parents, if it stands to injure the kids). If the gist of your blog is, “X did this” or “X did this to me, and I think s/he’s a dirtbag,” saying so is your First Amendment prerogative. In other words, it’s defensible. That said, restraining orders lacking any meritorious basis are awarded to petitioners routinely. “S/he posted a blog about me, and I feel threatened!” may strike some judge or other as sufficient grounds (particularly an older judge who thinks the Internet is a playground for perverts). A goodly percentage of restraining orders are obtained on the force of dramatic persuasion alone. Should someone be able to get a restraining order against you for posting a blog? Excluding the exceptional cases I’ve mentioned, no. See also this post.

Can someone get a restraining order against me without my knowledge?”

Restraining orders are issued ex parte, meaning based on interviews between judges and plaintiffs. Defendants are only informed after the fact. So yes, someone can obtain a restraining order without your knowledge. Service of the restraining order is required, however, for it to take effect. If you haven’t been served with a court order and informed of its restrictions on your freedom, you can’t be expected to observe it.

Can someone park their vehicle in front of your house if you have a TRO against them?”

If the court has ordered this person not to come within a certain distance of you and/or your residence, then his/her parking in front of your house is a willful violation of the restraining order and grounds for arrest.

Can someone place a restraining order after one contact in five years?”

Restraining orders are meant to restrain chronic behaviors. That said, a judge may sign off on a restraining order in the absence of any qualifying evidence. If you’re issued a restraining order based on a single isolated meeting, you would have strong grounds to appeal.

Can someone put a restraining order on me for calling her a bitch?”

Calling someone a name is not sufficient grounds for a restraining order. This is the land of the free (supposedly, at least): you’re entitled to call a Supreme Court Justice a bitch. This person, though, especially if she is a bitch, could allege that you’ve repeatedly harassed her despite her asking you to leave her alone or make any number of similar claims to a judge (they don’t have to be true). Steer clear of her, and tell her to leave you alone.

Can someone put a restraining order on me from another state?”

Yes.

“Can someone sue you for filing a restraining order against them?” / “Can someone sue me for filing a false restraining order that was dismissed?” / “Can I be sued for a dismissed domestic abuse restraining order?” / “Can I sue if [the] plaintiff dismissed [the] charges?” / “Can I sue…if an order of protection was taken [out] against me, and the accusations were proven to be false?” / “Can I sue the plaintiff if a protection order is quashed for legal fees, etc.?” / “Can I sue a neighbor for filing false charges against me that could affect my job?”

Yes.

Can someone take out a restraining order for someone else?”

No, not unless the other person is a minor or an adult found to be incapable of representing him- or herself. Hawaii’s family court, for example, has a specific application for this (“Petition for an Order for Protection on Behalf of a Family or Household Member“).

Can someone who has a restraining order on me tell my boss?”

Yes, s/he can tell anyone. Restraining orders are public documents. This doesn’t mean, however, that the restraining order plaintiff could lie to your boss with impunity. If s/he made false claims about you that imperiled your employment, you could sue him or her for damages or seek an injunction against the plaintiff of your own, alleging harassment.

“Can someone write on Facebook about you if you have a restraining order against them?”

A restraining order doesn’t mean someone can’t talk or write about you. It just means s/he can’t talk or write to you. If what the defendant has written is patently harassing or taunting, you may have grounds for having the restraining order modified to forbid this kind of public expression. If, however, the defendant is reporting facts about the case, that’s his or her constitutional right (as is his or her expressing an opinion about those facts). Restraining orders are matters of public record. If the defendant (or anyone else) lies about you publicly in a damaging way, you may sue him or her for defamation.

“Can the state pick up a case after you drop a restraining order?”

If a restraining order that was electively petitioned in civil court were vacated upon the request of the petitioner, there wouldn’t seem to be any grounds for further state interest. If the order had been violated, that is, if the plaintiff and defendant had been communicating or seeing each other in spite of the order’s prohibitions and this were reported, it might constitute grounds for a renewal of scrutiny. Otherwise, I can’t conceive of a reason why terminating the restraining order wouldn’t be a legal end on the matter.

“Can women get away with false protective orders?”

Sure. Men, too (though not as easily).

Can you be prosecuted for lying to get a restraining order?”

Yes. If you lie about a material fact in a restraining order case (that is, one likely to influence a judge), you’re vulnerable to prosecution by the county/district attorney for felony perjury. You may also be prosecuted in civil court (sued) by the person you lie about (for defamation, false light, fraud, etc.).

Can you be violated for a restraining order after it expires?”

Expired means no longer valid/effective. A possible exception would be if you violated the restraining order before it expired, and this was easily proved.

Can you beat a PFA…if you have prior mental issues?”

Possibly. You would probably need a counselor (therapist, psychologist) or doctor/psychiatrist to testify on your behalf at an appeals hearing, whether in person or by affidavit. Ideally, you should have an attorney represent you, besides. Because you’re not being charged with a crime, guilt is less a factor than whether the plaintiff has a legitimate reason to be concerned for his or her safety, privacy, or peace of mind. If the allegations against you are nonviolent—if you were merely accused of harassing conduct, for example—you might be able to base a defense on a mental condition like manic depression, schizophrenia, or Tourette syndrome—a condition, that is, that causes you to involuntarily engage in activity that someone would find unsettling or distressing.

“Can you file a restraining order based on hearsay…?”

You can file a restraining order based on fantasy or outright lies.

“Can you get a fake restraining order?”

Daily if you’re determined enough.

Can you get a protective order because of a threatening phone call?”

Possibly, though a threat communicated by phone is impossible to substantiate (prove) unless the call was recorded.

Can you get a restraining order for comments made on Facebook?”

If you’ve been libeled (that is, if someone has made false, public statements that traduced your name and respectability) or if you’ve libeled someone yourself, redress through the courts would probably be by lawsuit. Grounds for a restraining order would be your repeatedly making comments to someone or that person’s repeatedly directing unwanted comments to you despite being told not to. In other words, if you keep posting to someone’s wall or emailing him or her in spite of that person’s telling you to buzz off, s/he could allege harassment and be granted a restraining order. If you post comments about someone to someone else, and those comments can be defended as either truthful or simply your opinion, the person you wrote about would not have grounds for filing for a restraining order against you (which, unfortunately, doesn’t mean a great deal: a judge can approve a restraining order on a whim). Play it safe. If you’ve got someone threatening to petition for a restraining order against you, keep your communications about that person private.

“Can you get a restraining order if you don’t want someone to view your finances at their place of employment?”

Probably not, per se. If the person were to use that information inappropriately in a way that injured you or that demonstrably invaded your privacy, you might have grounds to allege harassment (besides report that person for professional misconduct).

Can you get a restraining order to stop someone from posting messages on Facebook and [sending] text messages?”

Yes. Before taking this extreme step, though, why not tell the person to stop and inform the person of your intention if s/he doesn’t? That may suffice to resolve the nuisance and would save you and him/her a good deal of grief (and the taxpaying public about $2,000).

Can you get an order of protection against you for only stating your opinion about someone?”

Strictly speaking, no. There might be exceptions, for example, if you publicly stated the opinion that the other person would look better in a noose or in concrete shoes at the bottom of the ocean. Opinion is protected under the Constitution. Unless your opinion could be persuasively interpreted as threatening, there isn’t a substantive basis for a protection order.

Can you get fair representation yourself against a lawyer in court?”

In theory, yes. In practice, no. Courts show partiality toward attorneys and those represented by them. Restraining order defendants are an exceptional case. For restraining order defendants, having a lawyer definitely improves the odds of their prevailing in a hearing but doesn’t guarantee success, because courts also show partiality toward restraining order plaintiffs (applicants, that is, especially female ones). If you’re a restraining order defendant and the plaintiff is represented by counsel, you’re going to have a very tough time of it on your own. Retain a lawyer yourself if at all feasible.

Can you legally explain your side of a temporary restraining order on Facebook?”

A restraining order doesn’t deny you your freedom of speech. If you’re forbidden all contact with the plaintiff, though, you can’t message him or her on Facebook. Also, take care when writing that what you say is defensible (that is, true and factual) and that you don’t provide the plaintiff with grounds to allege harassment. If you’re writing about a restraining order that’s still in effect, you’d be wise to imagine that everything you say will be read by a judge. A blog is typically viewed by the courts as an online diary, so a blog might provide you with more latitude to express yourself than you’d have writing on Facebook. A blog requires that others choose to read what you post there; things you post on Facebook are automatically forwarded to those in your circle, making it an aggressive medium rather than a passive one (a judge may discern a difference, that is, between your explaining your side and your advertising it). See also this post.

Can you post a restraining order on Facebook?”

A restraining order is a public document.

“Can you press charges for harassment with a PPO in effect?”

You can certainly try. An injunction doesn’t forbid your filing a police report or taking other legal action against the plaintiff (for example, suing him or her). Just make sure any documents you send or have served on the plaintiff are mailed or delivered through proper channels (i.e., do not contact or confront the plaintiff in person). Such documents must, of course, have been processed by the court ahead of time. If you’re male and you’re being harassed by a female plaintiff with a protection order against you, your allegations are likely to be discounted by the police. An attorney could best advise you on available recourses, which will probably be through the courts. Initial consultations are usually free.

Can you re-serve a restraining order?”

If you’re asking whether you can apply for another restraining order to replace one that has expired, yes, if the conduct complained of in the first injunction resumes.

Can you report that your girlfriend will file a fake restraining order?”

No. The court only rules on actual misconduct. It won’t act on your prediction. If there’s no restraining order in effect at present, though, you’re perfectly free to tell your girlfriend that you intend to sue her penniless if she follows through on the threat—which you would have every right to do in such a case.

Can you send a greeting card to someone who has a restraining order against you?”

Consult the order you were served. If it prohibits all contact with the plaintiff, including by phone, email, and post, then sending a card would be a violation. Take the court’s order very seriously, because defendants have been arrested for acts as innocuous as this.

Can you settle a restraining order out of court?”

Possibly. Bear in mind that if you’re the defendant and the restraining order is in effect, your contacting the plaintiff is probably forbidden and grounds for arrest. Consult the court’s order to see whether all contact is off-limits. Sometimes communication by phone, letter, or email is allowed. If it isn’t, then you’d either have to speak via a third party (which may also be forbidden) or through an attorney to avoid risk of arrest. If the restraining order was fraudulent, you can of course sue for damages and possibly settle the matter out of court that way. If you’re the plaintiff in the case, you can return to the court and request that it be vacated.

Can you still be pressed with charges if you talked during a restraining order, but the restraining order is over?”

The window for reporting a violation is probably closed now that the injunction has expired. This is a question you could likely run past a criminal attorney for no charge, though, if you’re really concerned. Make a call and frame the question this way: “I’m wondering if I need to retain legal counsel. My situation is….”

“Can you still sue someone if you have a restraining order against you?”

Yes. A restraining order isn’t an impediment to instituting a civil action against the plaintiff. Once you’ve filed your complaint and summons with the court (usually your local Superior Court), you may send the court-approved documents to the defendant by certified mail or have them served on the defendant by a local law officer or process server. (You want a confirmation that the defendant received them, which you need to provide to the court to proceed.) Keep everything on the up and up. Your only communication with the defendant will be through legal briefs submitted through the court (copies of which you’ll mail to the defendant or the defendant’s attorney).

Can you stop a restraining order before it is served?”

If you’re the plaintiff, possibly. You’d have to return to the courthouse and move to have it vacated. If you’re the defendant, no. You’d have to request an appeals hearing.

Can you sue a counselor if she doesn’t keep her word?”

You may have grounds for suing her and/or having her license revoked if she breached confidentiality (that is, if she talked about your private sessions with a third party or parties without your consent).

Can you sue for legal fees on a dropped restraining order?”

Yes. If you’re only out a few thousand or less, filing in small claims would be simplest—and you could represent yourself if having a lawyer represent you would cause your damage claim to exceed that court’s award limit.

“Can you sue for repetitive false restraining orders?”

You can sue anyone for anything, certainly, and it only costs a couple hundred or so to file a lawsuit with the Superior Court. Getting a judge to recognize the pain, suffering, and stress that the kind of sniping you’re talking about causes is challenging, though, because the court obviously doesn’t want to cop to its role in this abuse. If you could qualify and substantiate your losses adequately, and you filed your complaint within the statutes of limitation for whatever torts you were alleging, you could probably recover on your suffering and simultaneously bring this conduct to a permanent halt. Consider, also, if you’re seeking to recover damages, requesting a jury trial (instead of a “bench trial”). There’s an extra cost for a jury, but I’d sooner rely on Joe and Jane Doe to recognize how torturous what you’re complaining of is than a judge.

“Can you sue someone if you have a restraining order?”

Yes. A restraining order isn’t an impediment to your taking legal action against your accuser. Injunction against contacting him or her doesn’t apply to mailing legal documents (a court summons and lawsuit, for example) or to having legal documents delivered by a process server or local law officer. Nor, incidentally, does it apply to your talking to anyone else you might wish to, whether an attorney, friends on Facebook, or people who know both you and the plaintiff whom you want to explain the situation to and/or obtain testimony from. If you choose to meet with a mutual acquaintance, of course, make sure the plaintiff won’t be present.

Can you violate a restraining order if a temporary order was created the same day you supposedly violated it?”

Technically a restraining order isn’t valid until it’s been served on the defendant. You can’t, that is, be expected to observe an order of the court until you’ve been provided with a copy of it or have otherwise been informed of its specifications (by having it read out to you by a law officer, for example).

Can your employer make you file a restraining order on someone?”

No. S/he couldn’t compel you to prosecute someone by threatening to fire you, that is. If your employer objects to someone’s conduct, s/he should apply to the courts him- or herself. If you are threatened by your employer for not doing something that clearly falls outside of your job duties, file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Employers are not permitted to retaliate against you for filing such a complaint. There are also statutes (laws) against workplace coercion/retaliation, such as those defined here.

Do courts send out text messages about restraining orders?”

I’ve never heard of this, no.

Do I have to go back to court to quash a restraining order?”

An attorney could prepare the paperwork for you, but it’s possible the court will require a followup hearing that you would have to attend.

“Do I need an attorney to fight a restraining order…?”

Maybe not. If “maybe not” isn’t what you want to bank your future well-being on, get an attorney. Hock your car if you have to.

[Do] I, the plaintiff, have every right to drop my protective order anytime before my court date?”

You have the right to apply (move) for the order’s vacation. It’s possible that a judge, at his or her discretion, could deny your motion.

“Do judges hold people in contempt for violating a restraining order…?”

Yes.

“Do judges like attorneys at restraining order hearings?”

No, because it complicates things and makes them accountable for their rulings. Bring one. Bring two.

Do narcissistic men trick courts into giving them restraining orders?”

With ease, yes, and a good deal of relish, besides. Narcissistic women, too. Glib lying comes naturally to narcissistic sociopaths, and lying successfully (bending others to their will) gratifies their egos, which know no bounds. Narcissists have a pathological lust for vengeance, and restraining orders not only cater to their talents—social manipulation and dominance—but are very effective at wreaking havoc on the lives of those whom they target for revenge.

Do police call if someone takes out an injunction or restraining order on you?”

If the plaintiff first filed a complaint with the police, possibly. If the plaintiff went straight to the courthouse, you may not be informed you’ve been issued a restraining order until you’re served with it (though a phone call from a cop may constitute “service” in some locales).

Do police inform neighbors of no-contact orders?”

Typically, no.

Do restraining orders prevent people from making phone calls to employers?”

A restraining order may forbid a defendant from making phone calls to the employer of the plaintiff, yes, if the employer and the plaintiff share the same workplace. Typically restraining orders will list those locations that are off-limits to a defendant. Calling an employer may be a gray area. The purpose of a restraining order is to restrict a defendant from contacting its plaintiff.

Do the police track your phone with restraining orders?”

Unless the circumstances were extraordinary ones, no. To the best of my knowledge, the police would have to apply to the court for permission to tap a telephone line or monitor its records, which authorization would only be granted in the case of probable criminal activity. There might be exceptions under the Patriot Act, but it isn’t standard protocol, no. Millions of restraining orders are issued each year, and there aren’t resources enough for the police to monitor that many phones. You would likely have grounds for filing a lawsuit, besides, if your privacy were invaded in this way without justification.

“Do women with borderline personality disorder make false rape allegations?”

False allegations of a sexual nature are common, yes. One female respondent to this blog, the long-term girlfriend of a man who’s likely a borderline, reported being accused of rape (coerced sex). Another woman, whose borderline personality-disordered boyfriend had physically abused her, was accused of sexual kinks in court, which worked to explain away her allegations of violence. From “BPD Distortion Campaigns”: “What lies do BPs [borderline personalities] tell? Often they revolve around false claims of partner abuse, child abuse, perverse sexual behaviors, drug and substance abuse, mental illness, and criminal conduct.”

Do you get served a new restraining order when it’s modified…?”

Restraining order laws and procedures vary from state to state, but probably you would simply be mailed a copy of the modified terms.

Do you have to notify your job [that] you have a PPO against someone?”

No, but it wouldn’t be a bad idea if this person legitimately poses a danger to you or others.

Do you have to out that you have an order of protection on a job application?”

To the best of my knowledge, you’re under no ethical obligation to report that you’re the recipient of a civil restraining order to a prospective employer unless asked. Note that restraining orders are civil instruments and do not mean that you’ve been convicted of a crime. A restraining order equates (in legal significance, anyway) to a civil misdemeanor and doesn’t represent a criminal anything.

Does a denied temporary restraining order stay on my record?”

Possibly. Some respondents to this blog report that they’ve been denied jobs because of vacated restraining orders (ones, that is, that were dismissed/quashed). You should endeavor to find out what kind of residue remains on public record and see that it’s expunged. Since you’re arguably a victim of abuse of process/malicious prosecution, don’t hesitate to go to the courthouse and request an interview with a judge to see that your record is cleared, particularly if the order was approved and quashed on appeal. If the court approved the ex parte order in the first place, it’s the court’s responsibility to see that you’re not punished for a judicial error.

“Does a restraining order include my new girlfriend, too?”

Not per se, no. A restraining order only applies to its defendant/respondent. It may, however, expressly prohibit “third-party contact” with the plaintiff/petitioner, which means that if your new girlfriend were to contact the plaintiff and that contact could be construed as being instigated by you, you could be charged with violating the order. Your girlfriend’s actions, in other words, aren’t restricted, but if she were to act injudiciously toward the plaintiff, you could end up paying for it.

“Does a restraining order stay on your record?”

Yes, indefinitely.

Does calling an elementary school saying I am abusive to children count for slander?”

Yes, provided the allegation has no factual basis, that is, you may sue for defamation if someone lies about you publicly in a way that injures your name and respectability.

Does having a protection order against you prevent travel to the U.S.A.?”

I don’t see why it would (unless there’s only one departing flight, and the plaintiff is the pilot). If you’re worried, don’t hesitate to call or go to the courthouse that issued the order and ask.

Does it help to have friends write letters for a temporary restraining order?”

The testimony of friends and associates who can speak to your character or who are material witnesses may help your defense, yes, especially if they can back up your account. The court would probably accept letters, but statements are more valid in the form of affidavits, which are simply written statements that have been witnessed by a notary public and made the equivalent of sworn testimony. Query Google for an example affidavit from your state to use as a template. If the judge allowed it, witnesses could also testify in person at your hearing.

Does my harassment protection order protect me from being charged for defending myself?”

Laws vary from state to state, but probably not, no.

Does the accuser have to be present in court for a restraining order?”

At an appeals hearing, yes, typically. The Constitution requires that a defendant be afforded the opportunity to face his or her accuser. Accordingly, defendants may interrogate (ask questions of) their accusers through the presiding judge (defendants, in other words, may pose their questions to the judge, and the court will communicate them to the plaintiff and require a response). Rules vary from state to state, however. An exception might be if the accuser has claimed mortal apprehension.

“Does the applicant for a protection order have to go to court if they are too unwell to?”

Eventually, yes, if the defendant has been granted an appeals hearing. You can, however, explain your condition and request a continuance (postponement).

“How are restraining orders abused?”

Sign a petition to promote reform.

Restraining order abuse is limited only by the extent of an applicant’s imagination and malicious ill will. See this page for a more detailed answer.

“How can a judge just approve a restraining order when the [person] is lying?”

Restraining orders aren’t issued on the basis of truthful allegations; they’re issued on the basis of probability. What a plaintiff claims (violence, stalking, rape—it doesn’t matter) isn’t what’s important. If a judge is persuaded there’s a greater chance that the plaintiff has a reason to feel concern or fear or whatever than that the plaintiff is totally lying or complaining about nothing, then the “burden of proof” is satisfied. Lies aren’t prosecuted or even acknowledged, and allegations don’t have to be true to work. A judge rules on the forcefulness of a complaint, not on its strict factuality.

How can I charge someone for intimidating me when they have a protective order filed against me?”

A restraining order only forbids your contacting or approaching the plaintiff. It in no way limits your taking legal action against him or her. If the plaintiff is harassing or threatening you, you may report his or her conduct to the police and ask an officer to request that s/he desist, or you can turn the tables and apply to the court for a restraining order against him or her. Keep a careful record (a dated log) of all such activity so you can substantiate your claim. Abuse of restraining orders to dominate or taunt defendants isn’t uncommon. Don’t allow yourself to be baited into violating the protection order, but don’t tolerate continued abuse, either.

“How can I drop a criminal restraining order?”

Restraining orders that issue from civil court are electively petitioned by plaintiffs. Criminal restraining orders (also called mandatory restraining orders or MROs) are issued by the court in conjunction with criminal cases. See this page prepared by a Denver attorney for explanations of what criminal restraining orders signify and how they may be vacated.

“How can I get a restraining order dropped for something I never did…?”

Appeal. Some jurisdictions assign appeals hearings. Others require that they be applied for by a certain deadline. This information should be on the first page of the injunction you received. Also, get an attorney if at all possible.

“How can somebody be stopped from filing false restraining orders?”

The only certain way I can think of is homicide, which isn’t a recourse I condone. Within the law, your options are limited. If this is a serial behavior, especially part of a campaign of harassment, you could have a lawyer draft a cease-and-desist letter (which is toothless), apply for a restraining order yourself (see this post), or sue (for harassment, emotional distress, etc.). There might also be grounds for pressing charges.

How can you know if a TRO has been canceled if you are the person being restrained?”

The court should notify you—or you can look up your case online at the courthouse’s website to see if it’s been vacated (canceled, nullified).

“How can you make someone drop a false restraining order?”

I presume you mean legally? Sue for damages. Short of that, you could employ an attorney to “invite” the petitioner to recant in lieu of facing litigation. Appeal it, of course, if the window of opportunity hasn’t already shut.

“How common is restraining order abuse?”

It’s been extrapolated from government studies that as many as 80% of restraining orders are either frivolous (“unnecessary”) or fraudulent. A frivolous restraining order might be one that forbids someone from annoyingly texting too persistently. To put this in perspective, an injunction to stop someone from texting you (on pain of police arrest) may cost the state $1,300 to $2,000 just to process. A fraudulent restraining order would be one that’s based on lies and likely motivated by sheer malice (its cost to state resources is the same). It’s estimated that as many as three million restraining orders are filed each year. Therefore 2.4 million restraining orders might fall into the categories of frivolous or false (at a correspondent cost to the nation in the neighborhood of $3.2 billion).

How do authorities make people feel when they come out to handle a restraining order situation?”

Cops’ responses will typically favor restraining order plaintiffs (that is, petitioners). Defendants, on the contrary, will be treated with suspicion, possibly even distaste.

How do I check online to see if I have a domestic case against me?”

You would go to the website of the courthouse where the case was opened and enter your name (this may be the city courthouse or the county courthouse).

“How do I get my attorney fees back for lies about me to get a PPO…?”

Litigate. To recover a sum of a few thousand dollars, you could sue in small claims court.

“How do I handle a fake police report and false restraining order?”

Apply for an appeals hearing, and retain an attorney. See also this post.

“How do I know if I’ve been served a restraining order…?”

A constable will have put it in your hands. It’s possible, though, that you’ve been issued one and not served. If you know what jurisdiction (court) the order would have been sought in, the courthouse should be able to tell you. Technically, you shouldn’t be subject to arrest for violating a restraining order you were never served. Which isn’t to say you couldn’t be arrested. It’s happened.

“How do I prove my girlfriend punched herself in the eye for a domestic charge?”

You’d probably need video evidence or corroborating testimony from a witness.

How [do I] prove to a judge in a civil harassment case [that] the defendant is mentally ill?”

If the plaintiff’s mental illness has been diagnosed or s/he is on doctor-prescribed medication for a mental condition, you may introduce this person’s medical history into evidence (which records would have to be obtained by subpoena). Otherwise you can testify to what you know about the plaintiff’s condition and offer what substantiation of aberrant behavior you can to support your defense. Restraining order deliberations are fast-food justice (appeals hearings are typically only minutes long). To do this well would probably require your obtaining legal counsel and moving for additional time from the court to prepare your case.

“How do I reply if I’m the defendant for a restraining order?”

There should be instructions on the injunction you were served. Otherwise check with your courthouse. And do whatever you have to do to secure the services of a qualified attorney. Consult this page for further details and a helpful link.

“How do I sue an ex-husband for false claims of abuse against my boyfriend?”

The complaint (lawsuit) would probably have to be filed by your boyfriend—unless you wanted to sue for injuries the false claims caused you. Ideally, you and/or he would want to employ an attorney. If you wanted to file a suit on your own, see this post.

How do you communicate with someone who has [a restraining order] against you?

Indirectly and preferably through an attorney. Unless the restraining order specifies “no third-party contact” or “no third-party communication,” a mutual friend could speak on your behalf. The restraining order plaintiff could return to the courthouse and have the restraining order modified to forbid third-party contact, which would make even communication through a go-between a violation of the order. Until then, however, having someone speak for you wouldn’t strictly be a violation of the court’s order, which only forbids you from contacting or approaching the plaintiff.

How [do you] get an order of protection dropped when the [district attorney] and judge won’t drop it at the protected party’s request?”

Your best course would be to consult an attorney. It may be possible to appeal the judge’s decision to a higher court. (Alternatively an attorney can assist you in expunging the order after its expiration.) See also the question above, “How can I drop a criminal restraining order?”

“How easy is it to get a restraining order…?”

As easy as walking and talking.

“How much does it cost to hire a lawyer if someone filed a restraining order against you…?”

A standard retainer is $500. For this a lawyer will review your case. Total fees to litigate it may run from $2,500 to $5,000.

How to get protection from someone who keeps violating a PFA?”

Your question gets at the restraining order process’s dirty secret: a civil injunction is a piece of paper, and if a volatile/violent defendant has no respect for this document, it’s all but worthless. Unless you’re prepared to physically defend yourself (or hire a bodyguard), you’d do well to consider moving yourself out of harm’s reach, that is, relocating and keeping your new address private. You would want to change your phone number, too, obviously.

I am the defendant in an order of protection. Can I ask for more time to collect my evidence?”

The worst that can happen is that you’re refused. To request more time, you’d want to go to the courthouse and file a motion for continuance (that is, a motion to be granted an extension/postponement). Explain what you’re after to the clerk. Having your case number handy will expedite things.

I have a restraining order against me? Can a lawyer go for me?”

A lawyer can accompany and represent you. The court requires your presence at the hearing, however.

“I have a restraining order against me. If I ‘like’ a picture, is that still communication?”

Legally, maybe/maybe not, but since “liking” an image on Facebook does communicate both a feeling and your presence as an observer, it’s an ill-advised action. A defendant’s “liking” an image on the plaintiff’s Facebook page confirms that the defendant is monitoring the plaintiff, which, according to the climate of hysteria that prevails today, may well suggest “cyberstalking” to a judge (especially if the plaintiff or his or her attorney uses that word). Defendants have landed in hot water for sending flowers, butt-dialing plaintiffs, or, in one instance that gained media attention, because Google sent an automated email. The conceit of the restraining order process is that plaintiffs apply for restraining orders because they’re afraid for their safety. A judge, according to this conceit, may well interpret your action in the most sinister light possible, that is, as a taunt or as a reminder that you’re “still out there…watching.”

“I have a restraining order against my ex, but my children were canceled to be protected. Why?”

Evidently because the court held that whatever your grounds were for applying for the order didn’t apply to the children or legitimate their father’s being denied parental visitation rights.

“I have a restraining order in West Virginia. Does it count in Maryland?”

If you’re the defendant and you’re asking whether you would still have to observe the court’s order even if you moved, the answer is yes. For example, if you were forbidden to call or write to the restraining order plaintiff in one state, you would still be forbidden to do so even if you relocated. If you’re the restraining order plaintiff, the situation is more complicated, because the addresses you provided to the court in your former jurisdiction—that is, the places where the defendant is forbidden to go—will have changed.

I have a restraining order on my ex. Can I still talk to his mum?”

You’re free to speak to whomever you like. Restraining orders’ restraints only apply to the actions of their defendants.

I have an order of protection that was vacated. Does it need to be expunged?”

It’s possible. You’d think one would necessarily follow the other, but this isn’t necessarily the case. Courts get praises and federal subsidies for issuing restraining orders but nothing for revoking them. Clearing your record is in no one’s interest but yours. There are law firms that specialize in expungement, but start at the courthouse and see what you can find out or accomplish for free.

I have no-contact orders in both criminal and civil court. Does one’s being dropped count for both courts?”

Probably not (separate cases, separate courts), though the dismissal of one case may support a motion or appeal to have the other case vacated (voided).

“I just turned 18 and want to remove my name from a restraining order my mom put on my boyfriend. How do I do that?”

Go to the courthouse that issued the restraining order and apply with the clerk (file a motion) to see a judge and have the restraining order modified or vacated (canceled).

I made false allegations to obtain a PPO. What do I do?”

If the court order is still in effect, the ethical thing would be to return to the courthouse and have it vacated (canceled). You’re at no risk of punishment from the court (though I wouldn’t recommend that you inform the court you lied but just say you changed your mind). If you’re concerned that the defendant in the case will sue you for abuse of process, you could either call and apologize and offer to make amends, or you could postpone having the order rescinded, obtain the counsel of an attorney, and have the attorney broker an agreement with the defendant so that his or her feathers are smoothed before you have the order withdrawn. If the expense of hiring a lawyer is beyond consideration, you could have a third party (a mutual friend, for example) call the defendant and explain you’ve reconsidered. You always assume some risk when you commit perjury, but chances are the defendant will be relieved to have the matter concluded.

I need a restraining order on someone. Do I have to put my home address on it?”

Very likely you’ll need to provide this information to the court, yes, but you may request that it not appear on the restraining order itself (that is, that it be withheld from the defendant). Often, if not typically, there are public and private components of restraining order applications. Express your concerns to the court. Keeping your home address private shouldn’t be a problem.

I received a letter from an attorney in New York threatening me with a protective order. I live in Missouri. Whom do I complain to?”

It would depend on the allegations the attorney was making. If the attorney is writing to you on behalf of a client, ceasing contact with that person (the client) would be a good idea (if practical). Hopefully the matter would go no further. If the attorney has mistaken you for someone else, inform him or her of the mistake. If s/he’s harassing you for no reason, you can request that the s/he leave you alone. If the lawyer persisted without justification, you could apply for a restraining order against him or her alleging that you’ve been harassed and distressed (that is, take your complaint to the court). You could also register a complaint with the New York Bar Association or call the law firm the attorney is employed at. If you have an attorney yourself, make him or her aware of the situation and obtain his or her counsel (which would probably be to let the situation pacify itself). If you’re being harassed and threatened baselessly, you can also call your local police precinct and file a report and ask that an officer call the lawyer for you. Whether or how you act should really be based on what truth there is to the attorney’s allegations against you. You don’t want to inflame the situation pointlessly.

I want to dismiss a protective order. Can the respondent sign a contract to leave me alone?”

This is a question best posed to an attorney. The probable difficulty would be in making such a contract legally binding. You might consider consulting a professional arbiter/mediator, someone who specializes in “alternative dispute resolution” (ADR).

I want to take out a PPO on my mother. Can I if I’m a minor?”

Possibly, but you’d have to be represented by an adult, that is, an adult may be able to obtain one from the court on your behalf. Have an adult (preferably a guardian) accompany you to see a judge.

[I was] found innocent of stalking, but my ex-boyfriend is still accusing me…. Can I sue for this?”

If the basis of your ex-boyfriend’s prosecution was malicious or fraudulent, certainly. Counts (torts, civil wrongs) that you alleged in such a suit might include abuse of process/malicious prosecution, defamation of character, fraud (in misrepresenting you to the court for the purpose of misleading a judge), and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

I’m getting harassed by someone phoning and knocking on [my] door. What should I do?”

Keep a log of this conduct (or construct one) for reference or substantiation of the harassment in case you should need it. If you tell the person repeatedly to leave you alone and s/he persists anyway, you can apply to the court for a restraining order (assuming this person has no legitimate excuse for bothering you). Before taking this step, however, which can have have enduring consequences not just on the other person’s life but on yours, too, consider informing the person of your intention if s/he continues to bug you and waiting to see if that suffices to resolve the nuisance.

If a girl has a restraining order on a guy, can you talk to him about her?”

Yes. Restraining orders are matters of public record and don’t forbid anyone from talking about anything. To avoid the possibility of exciting further allegations from the girl, however (for example, of harassment), it would be wisest to communicate in person or through a private medium. A protracted conversation on Facebook about a restraining order case wouldn’t necessarily be a violation of the restraining order—which only prohibits the guy from talking to the girl—but it might provoke the girl to cause the guy more legal grief. Though they often serve this purpose—and are often intended to serve this purpose—restraining orders are not gag orders.

“If a judge [dismisses] a protective order as frivolous, can the petitioner apply for an new one?”

Absurdly, yes. Some people are serial abusers. And some serial abusers go so far as to apply for multiple restraining orders against the same defendant in different jurisdictions (and they get them, too). Some readers have reported having spouses (exes, etc.) repeatedly file and then drop restraining orders against them. Because restraining orders are usually free and easy to obtain, they’re excellent both as tools of harassment (or taunting) and as a means to forcefully and continually re-exert one’s presence on the subject of a personal fixation: “You thought you were rid of me? Think again!”

“If a [restraining order] is vacated nunc pro tunc, does it still exist in the records?”

By definition, vacation (of judgment) means “the setting aside of a judgment on grounds that it was issued by mistake, inadvertence, surprise, excusable neglect or fraud” (Black’s Law Dictionary). The case should be expunged. Some respondents to this blog, however, have reported being hamstrung by vacated restraining orders (that is, ones that were ultimately found to be baseless). The court should be able to tell you whether record of the case remains publicly accessible. If so, take action.

If I apply for a restraining order, and it is denied and then I get hurt, can I sue the court?”

You may have grounds to sue the judge, yes, which is why restraining orders are commonly awarded on a better-safe-than-sorry basis. It isn’t just protectiveness toward plaintiffs that biases judges but self-protection, as well, which is among the reasons justice in this process is inherently compromised.

“If I file [an] order of protection and leave [the] state, is it still valid?”

Yes. For the term of its effectiveness, it’s valid in both the state where it was petitioned and in all others where you register it. This policy is called “full faith and credit.”

“If I gave my wife’s sister a baby diaper, is that breaking the no-contact [order]?”

Strictly speaking, if the sister isn’t the plaintiff, no. Some orders may prohibit defendants from “harassing” family members of the plaintiff. The gift of a diaper wouldn’t seem to constitute harassment, but if your wife is the plaintiff, there’s no telling how a judge might rule if she represented your contact with her sister as “untoward” or “unwelcomed,” etc. (Pretend you’re a judge and consider how this claim sounds: “He’s been sneaking around, contacting members of my family, and trying to turn them against me.”)

If I have a restraining order against me, do police check?”

If the police ran your records, the restraining order would pop up, yes.

If I have a restraining order against my husband, can I have it modified?”

Yes. You just need to return to the courthouse.

“If I have never had a domestic violence case, and the person applying for a restraining order states there never was any abuse, will a judge grant a restraining order?”

Conceivably, yes. A plaintiff’s simply stating, “I’m afraid,” may very literally be all the more basis for issuing a restraining order that a judge requires.

If I haven’t been served for a protection injunction, and the person wants to drop the order, what do they do?”

Irrespective of whether you’re served with the order or not, the plaintiff may voluntarily withdraw it by returning to the court where it was petitioned and requesting that it be vacated.

If I made a false report to get a restraining order, can I be charged four years later?”

If you lied under oath about a material fact to obtain a restraining order, you’ll be vulnerable to prosecution for perjury for the term of the statute. Perjury is a felony crime, the statute of limitation for which is seven years.

If I put a restraining order against someone, can I still talk on the phone with them?”

A restraining order application may allow you to indicate that communication by phone is acceptable. In my state, there are a series of tick boxes to specify what forms of contact, if any, are okay with the applicant (for example, email, phone, or post). If you’ve previously indicated otherwise on an existing order, you may return to the courthouse and modify it to permit phone conversation.

If I put a restraining order [on] someone, and we both violate it, who’s in trouble more?

The party who may be subject to arrest is the defendant. A restraining order doesn’t explicitly restrict the actions of its plaintiff; it’s presumed that you wouldn’t have wasted the court’s time and taxpayers’ money by applying for a restraining order you didn’t intend to honor.

If I put a restraining order on the person living in my house, do they have to leave immediately?”

As soon as s/he is served with the order, yes.

“If I represent myself, do I have the right to question my accuser?” / “During [a] protection from stalking hearing, can [the] plaintiff be interviewed?”

Yes. You may present your question to the judge, and s/he will ask it of the plaintiff. See also this post. I recommend you get an attorney, though, if at all possible.

If I’m under oath, can I be sued for slander?”

Substantiation of an allegation of slander requires proof that the defendant lied. Truthful statements, no matter how unkind, don’t qualify as slander.

If I’ve been served a restraining order, do I have to appear in court?”

If you want to contest the justice of the court’s order, yes. If you don’t appear in court, you’ll forfeit your opportunity to appeal the restraining order.

If my restraining order is dropped, can I see my kids?”

If you’re asking as the defendant, your visitation rights would presumably be restored if the restraining order were vacated, yes, because it would be as if it had never been issued. If possible, though, consult with a family attorney. If you’re asking as the plaintiff, you won’t lose visitation rights consequent to your restraining order’s being vacated, per se, but if the order was malicious, it’s conceivable that the defendant could instigate a reciprocal legal action of his or her own against you.

If my sister has a restraining order against her husband, am I still able to speak to him?”

Of course. Your actions are only limited by a restraining order if you’re the defendant on that order. An injunction against someone else in no way pertains to you.

If my [temporary restraining order] gets dismissed, can I turn around and get one against my spouse?

Yes, assuming you could persuade a judge you needed one. You could in fact apply for a restraining order even if the restraining order against you is upheld, though in some states restrictions apply to obtaining a reciprocal restraining order (in which case you would have to be very insistent).

If my wife has a restraining order, can she still email me mean stuff?”

Having a restraining order against you doesn’t mean you have to tolerate abuse from its plaintiff. You can report this misconduct to the police and ask them to call your wife and ask her to stop, or you can save the emails, print them out, and apply with the court for a restraining order against her, alleging harassment. Keep a dated log of all acts of abuse to present to a judge. This blog has gotten a number of inquiries that suggest restraining order plaintiffs believe that because they’ve obtained injunctions against others, they can harass (or even assault) these people with impunity. This isn’t the case. Restraining order defendants have the same entitlement to legal protections that anyone else has.

“If restraining orders are vacated, does it mean malicious prosecution?”

Most states permit tort actions for the malicious institution of civil actions like restraining orders. For a fully fleshed definition of malicious prosecution, consult Black’s Law Dictionary, which is the standard legal reference: “One who takes an active part in the initiation, continuation or procurement of civil proceedings against another is subject to liability to the other for wrongful civil proceedings if: (a) he acts without probable cause, and primarily for a purpose other than that of securing the proper adjudication of the claim in which the proceedings are based, and (b) except when they are ex parte, the proceedings have terminated in favor of the person against whom they are brought.” Abuse of process/malicious prosecution are sister torts. One or the other would likely apply (“A malicious abuse of legal process occurs where the party employs it for some unlawful object, not the purpose which it is intended by the law to effect; in other words a perversion of it”). See your state’s definitions of malicious prosecution and abuse of process to confirm applicability to your case.

If someone calls me a bitch [in a] text, can I press charges on that person?”

You can sue someone for defamation, that is, publicly lying about you in a damaging way. But calling someone a name isn’t against the law, and being called a name isn’t grounds for prosecution. A basis for legal action (against harassment) would be someone’s routinely shouting insults at you or texting insults after your repeatedly telling him or her to leave you alone.

“If someone drops a restraining order, what happens?”

The case is vacated, and the injunction is null and void. The defendant should nevertheless endeavor to ensure that traces of it are removed from his/her record. A restraining order can only be “dropped” by the court.

If someone has a restraining order against me, can I write about it?”

Yes. A restraining order forbids you from contacting or approaching the order’s applicant (the plaintiff in the case) on pain of police arrest. It does not, however, abrogate your constitutional entitlement to free speech. Restraining orders are matters of public record.

If someone has a restraining order against you, and they get locked up for violating a restraining order, is theirs still active against you?”

Yes (though you’d have to work pretty hard to violate it in that case). A restraining order can only be vacated (deactivated, canceled) by an act of the court.

If someone has a restraining order [against you] and they walk into the same bar as you do, do you have to leave?”

Consult the order issued against you to see what actions/locations are forbidden. Sometimes a defendant is ordered to keep a specific distance from the plaintiff at all times (x number of blocks, for example). In any case, avoiding the plaintiff would clearly be a good idea.

If someone has a restraining order against you, can you write a letter to the media complaining about how you were treated?”

Certainly. A restraining order only places restrictions on your actions vis-à-vis its plaintiff; it doesn’t deny you your constitutional right to free speech. You can speak about the plaintiff (reasonably and truthfully) and/or about the case s/he brought against you and how you were treated by the court; you just can’t speak to the plaintiff. Restraining orders, their prosecution, and how they’re ruled on are matters of public record. Obtain the transcript or audio recording of your hearing(s) from the courthouse for your reference and/or a journalist’s.

If someone loses a restraining order, does the plaintiff need to pay the defendant’s lawyer’s fees?”

That would seem to be a just requirement, but no, you’d have to sue to recover your costs—or have your lawyer request compensation from the plaintiff in lieu of filing a lawsuit (in lieu of means instead of). To recover a few thousand dollars, you could litigate in small claims court yourself. Request damages for lost time and emotional distress, also.

“If the accuser doesn’t show up in a PFA court, do the charges get dropped?”

Typically in such a case, the restraining order is dismissed for “failure to prosecute,” yes.

If the charges are dismissed, is the protection order also terminated?”

If that were the case, you would probably have been informed at the hearing. Endeavor to find out from the court. File a motion at the courthouse to see a judge if necessary.

If the police put a restraining order against your boyfriend, and you break it, will they take [your] son away?”

It’s possible that the police would report you to Child Protective Services if they learned that your boyfriend was visiting or staying at your home in violation of a restraining order.

If there’s a false restraining order against someone I know, should I inform the police?”

Informing the police of a fraudulent restraining order wouldn’t affect its validity, because it issued from the court, and only the court can vacate it. You could, though, offer to give testimony at the defendant’s appeals hearing (or in a civil suit alleging fraud) or provide him or her with an affidavit (a sworn, written statement) corroborating the falsehood of the plaintiff’s claims.

If there is a restraining order against me, but the plaintiff dies, does the restraining order get canceled?”

No, it’s unlikely the court will even know. Inquire with an attorney or the court to see if this is grounds to have the order vacated.

“If you are the defendant in a domestic violence criminal case, and charges are dismissed, can you sue for false allegations? If so, what is the minimum I can sue for?”

You certainly could sue, yes. Applicable torts might include fraud, defamation of character, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The maximum you could litigate for would likely depend on the jurisdiction and venue in which the case was tried. If you’re asking, for example, if you could sue for $100,000, the answer is yes. Whether a judge or jury would conclude that the degree of your suffering deserves such remuneration would depend on the nature and extent of your injuries and losses and your ability to substantiate them.

If you don’t get served, does that mean you don’t get a restraining order?”

For a restraining order to enter effect, it must be served on the defendant.

If you have a restraining order against someone and decide to move back in, does that nullify the order?”

Not in the eyes of the law. You need to inform the court that you’ve changed your mind and have the order vacated.

If you have a temporary restraining order, are you allowed to move?”

Yes. If you’re the defendant on the order, though, you have to mind whatever restrictions have been placed on your coming near the plaintiff. You’re going to excite friction, obviously, if you move in next door or just up the street.

If you have an order of protection, can you travel?”

Of course. A restraining order is a civil injunction barring you from certain actions toward a specific person; you’re not on probation. To understand what restrictions have been placed on your activities, consult the order you were issued. These restrictions are usually limited to contacting or approaching the plaintiff (or going to his or her place of residence and work and/or study). This law firm, however, reports a protection order could be an impediment to travel:

“If you invite your spouse over, does it nullify your PPO?”

No, but you should.

If you needed a hard copy of a protection-from-abuse order, whom would you contact?”

You would go to the courthouse that issued the order. You might be charged a photocopy fee.

If you put a restraining order against someone and then change your mind about it, can you stop it?”

Yes. You can have the order vacated with no repercussions by returning to the courthouse.

If you’re defending an ex parte order, can you serve the plaintiff with divorce papers?”

The restraining order shouldn’t prohibit you from serving legal documents on its petitioner. If in doubt, consult the order itself for confirmation of this. If still in doubt, don’t hesitate to check with the courthouse.

“If you took out a temporary restraining order, do you have to show up?” / “What happens if the plaintiff doesn’t show up for a temporary restraining order hearing?” / “What can happen to me if I don’t show up for a court date, [and] I am the plaintiff…?” / “Whoever filed a harassment charge against me—would they have to show up in court?” / “Will a warrant go out for your arrest if you applied for an extension for a TPO against someone but don’t show up for the hearing?” / “Does the plaintiff have to show up for a restraining order hearing?”

The consequence of a plaintiff’s/petitioner’s not appearing for a hearing to finalize (or extend) a civil restraining order would likely be its being dismissed/vacated for “failure to prosecute.” In other words, the petition would be tossed out. It isn’t always required, however, that plaintiffs represented by attorneys appear at hearings, for example, when domestic violence is alleged. Whether this is only true in criminal restraining order cases—when restraining orders are issued in conjunction with criminal trials—I’m not certain. To the best of my knowledge, plaintiffs who fail to prosecute (don’t show) are not sanctioned/penalized by the court; their requests are just denied. Defendants who don’t appear for hearings to finalize civil restraining orders forfeit their opportunity to challenge the allegations against them. Default judgments in favor of the plaintiffs will be entered—unless the plaintiffs don’t show, either.

“In an order of protection hearing, can you be charged with attorney fees?”

Only your own attorney’s fees (assuming you hired representation). If the opposing party employed counsel, that was his or her choice, and s/he would be responsible for the costs.

In order for me to sue someone, do I have to press charges?”

No. Charges are allegations of criminal violations. You may press charges, for example, if someone punches you. Lawsuits are civil actions. Allegations you make in a lawsuit are torts (civil wrongs), though you can sue someone for criminal misconduct.

Is a false restraining order grounds for libel?”

If the plaintiff in the case made false public allegations that maligned your name and respectability, then yes. To sue for libel/defamation of character, you would have to prove that the plaintiff lied about you in a damaging way. The statute of limitation for libel/defamation is usually one year, so you would want to pursue legal action promptly.

Is a ‘friend request’ a violation of protection order?”

If you’re asking as a defendant, possibly. Consult the order you were issued, and see if all contact (including mail and email) is forbidden. If you’re asking as a plaintiff, the answer is the same; but taxpayer money would probably be better spent if you just denied or ignored the request.

“Is a narcissist capable of slashing his own tires and blaming it on his ex-girlfriend?”

Lying that’s both cunning and dramatic is certainly associated with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), though social manipulation more commonly typifies the frauds of narcissists than their actually dirtying their hands. Any motivated liar, however, is capable of a simple frame-up like this.

Is [a] protection order a felony, and does it come if [the] judge dismisses it?”

A restraining order is a civil misdemeanor. A dismissed restraining order should be vacated and expunged from your record. You should confirm that it is, though. Some respondents to this blog have reported being denied employment because of vacated restraining orders (ones, that is, that were ultimately found to be baseless). Apparently the vacated orders remained publicly accessible.

Is a restraining order a form of control for a narcissist?”

Yes, absolutely—of control, domination, intimidation, assertion of superiority, revenge, etc. These are textbook urges for someone with narcissistic personality disorder.

“Is a restraining order still in effect…if both persons on the order have sex with each other?”

Yes. Only the court can vacate (cancel) a restraining order. Consensual relations or cohabitation is still recognized legally as a violation of the court’s order, and places the defendant in jeopardy of arrest. Unless the restraining order was petitioned by the DA, however, the plaintiff can go to the courthouse and move to have the restraining order lifted (vacated).

“Is a restraining order valid if the birthday is wrong…?”

Yes, most likely. If you were served with a restraining order, you were served with a restraining order. Basing an appeal on a minor factual error like this is unlikely to lead to a restraining order’s being vacated (canceled). If you pointed out this mistake, the court would probably just correct it.

[Is a wife] permitted to request a restraining order on behalf of her husband?”

Only if her husband is incompetent to request the restraining order himself (because of mental or physical disability, for example).

Is attacking my attorney a violation of [a] restraining order?”

Only if the attorney is the plaintiff on that order.

Is calling a family member to contact the plaintiff for money a violation?”

Possibly. You’d want to determine whether the restraining order against you forbids “third-party contact.” Oftentimes this isn’t formally forbidden but can be later upon the plaintiff’s returning to the court to have the injunction modified. Another consideration would be what sort of response you expected to get, that is, if the restraining order was malicious, it’s unlikely you’re going to get a favorable answer, and the plaintiff could use the request to complicate your life further and make you look even worse to the court. A family member could make the request on your behalf. Where you might run into trouble is if the family member were put on the spot and testified that you asked him/her to make it.

“Is filing a bogus PPO harassment?”

Clearly. If you’re asking if you can press charges, no.

Is following someone on Twitter a violation of a protection order?”

What activities constitute a violation of a court order will be specified on that order. Following someone on Twitter is clearly an act of monitoring, which could be construed by the court as violating the spirit of the order. Somebody who’s forbidden all contact with the plaintiff on a court order should cease all relations, even passive ones, to avoid running afoul of the law.

“Is it a violation of a restraining order if I add my ex’s brother on Facebook?”

No, not unless the restraining order explicitly prohibits you from communicating with the brother (for example, because he’s a minor dependent in his sister’s care). Restraining orders don’t extend to third parties even if those third parties are mutual friends or are related to plaintiffs. Exercise caution, though, if the brother is a minor and his parents might object to his talking with you, because his parents could petition a restraining order against you, too, possibly just on the grounds that they’re apprehensive of you or whatever. Also think twice about asking the brother to speak to his sister on your behalf, because she could return to the court and allege that you’re trying to sneak around the restraining order’s proscriptions.

Is it hard for a plaintiff to get a restraining order vacated?”

A plaintiff, no. A plaintiff may have a restraining order vacated at any time while it’s in effect—or s/he can cooperate with the defendant in having it vacated after its expiration by filing a nunc pro tunc motion. For a defendant to get a restraining order vacated, it’s very hard.

“Is it illegal to leave the state if you have a restraining order?”

No. All that’s required by the law is that you mind the restraining order’s prohibitions wherever you go. It would still be illegal, for instance, to contact the plaintiff if the order forbid you to even if you traveled or moved to another state.

Is it lawful to let someone live with you [whom] you have a restraining order against?”

It’s unlawful for someone to live with you whom you have a restraining order against. The defendant is the one who may be arrested. If you have children, and you’ve invited someone you swore a restraining out against to live with you, you may put yourself at risk of interference by Child Protective Services if the police were to discover the arrangement or, for example, if a neighbor reported it. If you’ve reconsidered the restraining order, you may return to the court and request that it be vacated.

Is it legal to write a check after a restraining order?”

It’s unclear to me what your concern is. What activities a restraining order forbids you from engaging in will be specified on the order. Even sending a check to the restraining order’s plaintiff may well be against the law. However, writing a check for your groceries, for example, wouldn’t be. If you’re asking because your checking account is one you share with the plaintiff, you’d do best to check with an attorney or the court to find out what entitlement you have to joint monies.

Is libel a violation of [an] order of protection?”

Not per se. Libel is a civil tort that may be litigated in a lawsuit.

Is my speaking to my wife’s lawyer a violation of a protection order?”

No, unless specifications on the protection order say otherwise, you can talk to anyone you want to aside from the restraining order plaintiff. You would want to avoid her attorney’s being able to construe what you said to him as an attempt to convey a message to her, though. In other words, don’t ask him to be your go-between. This wouldn’t necessarily be a violation of the restraining order, per se, but it might prompt your wife to have the injunction modified to forbid third-party contact (that is, communication with her through a third party). You could, of course, have your own lawyer speak to your wife about any legal action you are considering—though this is most commonly done by mail.

“Is perjury on a restraining order a felony?”

Yes. Lying in court or in any sworn statement is perjury, which is a felony crime—though it’s one that’s rarely prosecuted and only in cases of social prominence.

Is posting photos online a violation of a restraining order?”

Not per se. Restraining orders specify what activities are forbidden to their defendants. The typical forbidden activities are approaching or contacting the orders’ plaintiffs.

“Is restraining order extension automatic?”

Typically, no, an extension must be applied for (though laws and protocols vary from state to state). It would be nice to say, besides, that some substantive grounds would have to exist for an extension’s being awarded, but one may be approved on the allegation of continued or renewed apprehension, which may be credited by the court on no more ascertainable a basis than the plaintiff’s say-so.

Is sending a friend request on Facebook breaking a restraining order?”

If the plaintiff of the order has requested that all contact be forbidden, then yes. Consult the specifics of the order you were issued. The police don’t weigh the harm or harmlessness of a violation, they just slap the cuffs on.

“Is suing someone a violation of a restraining order?”

No, a restraining order is not an impediment to pursuing a civil action against the plaintiff. See the response above to the question, “Can you still sue someone if you have a restraining order against you?” See other related responses for torts that will likely apply to your case.

Is the defendant in violation of [an] order or protection for ‘third party contact’ if it is not written in a full order of protection?”

What actions an injunction enjoins a defendant from engaging in should be specified on the court’s order. For third-party contact to be in violation of a court order, the defendant would have to have been informed that such contact was forbidden. If a plaintiff objects to third-party contact, typically the court will modify the order accordingly and inform the defendant of the modification.

Is there any punishment for filing a false restraining order?”

None. Lying on an affidavit to the court (or in any sworn testimony) is perjury, a felony crime. The statute is seldom enforced, however, and only then in cases of public prominence.

“Is there any way to file defamation charges against someone who makes false statements in a restraining order?”

Yes. Sue for damages. Defamation is a civil tort with a one-year statute of limitation.

It was self-defense. How does he get a restraining order on me?”

Restraining order applications are approved based on the persuasive quality of a plaintiff’s presentation to the judge (or sometimes simply on his or her filling out the form correctly). This interview is a five- or 10-minute screen test, not a diligent weighing of verifiable facts.

Just because I told a wife her husband was having an affair, is that grounds for a restraining order?”

Not per se. Legitimate grounds for a restraining order might be your repeatedly contacting the wife after she asked you not to. In practice, though, restraining orders may be issued on no legitimate grounds at all or on the basis of skewed or fabricated evidence. If you were the person the husband was having an affair with, there would be ample motive for the wife to paint you in a false light to the court (that is, to get payback).

Must you report to [your] employer about [a] restraining order?”

Unless doing so is court-ordered or the terms of your employment contract dictate otherwise, you’re under no compulsion to inform your employer. A restraining order equates to a civil misdemeanor; being issued one doesn’t mean you have a criminal record.

My boyfriend’s ex-wife said I harassed her, and she was a granted a six-month do-not-harass order. Does this prevent me from being around his son?”

Not per se. Unless the boy is also included on the order, your spending time with him isn’t off-limits that I know of. You’d just have to take care that you observed the restraints prescribed by the court’s order to the letter, that is, that you didn’t contact or come within a certain distance of the ex-wife, for example. If the ex-wife has full custody, of course, then she can prevent the boy’s seeing you. Surely your boyfriend can find out whether his ex-wife objects to your being around their son. If she does, you’d do well to let things settle out for the duration of the injunction. If the ex-wife is acting jealously/vindictively, she can rain all manner of hell on you and your boyfriend through the courts or Child Protective Services. These bureaucratic systems are easily abused and can turn lives upside down.

“My ex has lied to obtain a protection order against me. What do I need to prove he has made up the accusations?”

You need to go before a judge and appeal the injunction, of course—ideally with a lawyer by your side. Bend heaven and earth to acquire an attorney’s help. Once something like this sticks, it stays stuck, and you don’t want this gnawing away at you for years to come. (Also, having a protection order in place against you will make you very vulnerable to anything your ex may do or to any further lies he may concoct in the future.) You need to create a reasonable doubt in the judge’s mind. If you have concrete evidence that your ex has lied, by all means bring it to the judge’s attention. If not, you need to convincingly demonstrate that he had an ulterior motive for lying about you (to shut you up, for example, or spitefully injure you or gain sole possession of something you would otherwise have a mutual claim to). In these cases—notwithstanding court rhetoric to the contrary—the burden is on the defendant. If your ex has claimed you’re dangerous, persuade the judge you’re not. See also this post for a basic defense orientation. The rule of thumb is speak to the charges and explain why they’re false.

“My ex-girlfriend has an order of protection against me, and three months later she stopped by my house and we talked then she got upset and hit me. Can I get her arrested, or will I get in trouble for letting her in my house?”

I would imagine if she voluntarily came to your house, your letting her in couldn’t be construed as a violation of the restraining order. It’s your house. But if you were seriously injured and you can prove this and want to press charges, you should consult with an attorney before racing off to the police station. Also you’d need documentation of the injury (photos and a medical diagnosis).

“My ex-wife has filed for three orders of protection that have been dismissed. Can I sue her for harassment?”

Consult with an attorney. You can always file a suit yourself, and you can certainly allege harassment, infliction of suffering, loss of time and money, etc. An attorney, though, can best advise you on how to arrest this kind of misconduct.

My ex-wife is dating someone [who] has a PPO. Can I stop my children from being around him?”

If you’re legitimately worried for the welfare of your children, you could inform Child Protective Services of the restraining order against your ex-wife’s boyfriend and express your concerns. Activating this bureaucratic machine may have repercussions, though, that you should weigh in advance. Both CPS and restraining orders are notoriously abused (and easily abused). I mention this, because there’s no telling how your wife might respond (that is, what allegations she might turn around and make against you in retaliation). You might also have grounds for seeking sole custody. If it’s within your means, consult with a family attorney.

My girlfriend filed a restraining order. Can I get her medical records?”

Consult with an attorney. Medical records are confidential, but there may be grounds for moving the court to require that they be produced (if, for example, your girlfriend had a documented mental condition that would discredit her allegations). According to Law and the Physician: A Practical Guide by Edward P. Richards and Katharine C. Rathbun: “In general, a person’s medical records may be used in court if that person’s medical condition is at issue.” You can file a discovery request (request for production) or a subpoena to try to obtain these records, but it’s possible that the plaintiff or her physician(s) would refuse to comply on the grounds that these records are privileged.

“My injunction provision…stated that I can talk to my abuser on the phone. Can I email or text instead?”

You’re not going to get in trouble for doing so, but the defendant could be placed in violation of the order if s/he responded. Since you’re effectively calling the shots, there shouldn’t be any complication if you return to the court and modify your restraining order to explicitly allow these forms of communication. The court will notify the defendant of the modification.

“My kids and my wife are in a shelter. She filed in court for a TPO and a divorce. What shall I do?”

Apply for a hearing to appeal the restraining order, and get an attorney post haste.

My son and I, we have an injunction for domestic violence against [his] father, and he violated our injunction. What law was broken?”

If your ex-husband/ex-boyfriend violated the terms of the injunction, you would simply report the violation to the police, who would determine what additional crimes, if any, the defendant committed.

My wife has a TPO against me. Can my mom talk to her?”

Unless “third-party contact” or “third-party communication” is prohibited by the order, yes. If it is prohibited, your mom couldn’t be your go-between. Your mother’s not constrained in any way by your restraining order (nor is anyone else). She can’t get in trouble. But you could be charged with violating the order if third-party contact is forbidden and what your mother had to say could be construed as coming from you (and your wife complained about it). If third-party contact isn’t forbidden, it’s still possible that your wife could apply to the court for a revision of your order disallowing third-party contact if she asserts that you put your mom up to talking with her. Unless or until your wife opted to do that, though, your mom’s talking to her would be fine. Also, your mom could just say it was her idea. Obviously if your wife refuses to talk to her, your mother should honor that and not risk your wife’s applying for a restraining order against her, too. It’s often the case that when someone learns how easily this process can be (ab)used, he or she (ab)uses it repeatedly.

“Nine years ago I got a protection order falsely. Can I get it expunged…?”

There are two ways this may be possible. If you can obtain the cooperation of the petitioner (the plaintiff in the case), you can jointly file a nunc pro tunc motion through the court to have the order vacated. You would need the help of a qualified attorney. Alternatively a law firm in your city or another city in your state that specializes in records expungement may be able to clear your record for you. The ability to exercise this option depends on the laws in your particular state (in my state, Arizona, nothing ever goes away without the cooperation of the plaintiff: once it sticks, it’s stuck). Try a Google search using the terms restraining order* + expungement + your city and/or state. You should be able to call or email, explain your situation, and find out whether the firm can assist you.

“Perjury and false restraining orders—what to do?”

Militate for the prosecution of perjurers and for legislative reform. Bring your case to the attention of the press, and call or write your local lawmakers.

End Restraining Order Abuses

Stop False Allegations of Domestic Violence

Restraining order: I need text message records. [What to do?]”

You could file a discovery request (request for production) or subpoena the records, but the other party could easily delete them from his or her phone if s/he hasn’t already. It’s possible that you could subpoena the records from the service provider (cell phone company) if it retains these records. Consult an attorney if feasible.

Should I move if I have a restraining order against me?”

There’s no way to run from a restraining order against you. It’s super-glued to your public record and will follow you wherever you go. You would also still be subject to the limitations it imposes on your actions even if you relocated to another state.

“Someone filed an injunction against me [whom] I have not seen in three years, and I live in a different state. [What do I do?]”

Appeal the order. For someone to file against you from another state, s/he would have to establish repeated contacts (by phone, for example, or mail or email). If you haven’t approached or communicated with the defendant despite that person’s repeatedly asking you not to within the previous 12 months, there’s no legitimate grounds for a restraining order.

Someone has opened a peace order against me. If I still have pictures of them taken from my phone, can that be used against me in court?”

If you’re asking whether it’s illegal for you to have pictures of the plaintiff, no, it isn’t (presuming, of course, that they were taken before the peace order was issued). If you’re asking whether the court can compel you to produce photographs you have that may somehow incriminate you, possibly. That is, it’s not a crime for you to have photographs, but if the pictures, for example, showed you engaged in a crime (or proved that you had photographed the plaintiff after being ordered to keep a certain distance from him or her), they could be used against you, I suppose.

“Someone I know is using my address and phone number, and I’m getting calls for her from the court and a warrant [that’s been put] out for her. How can I stop her from using my address and phone number?”

Ask her not to would be the obvious course. If she’s nowhere to be found, though, there’s not much you can do to arrest this, because requesting that the police warn her off would only work if they had a means to call her or track her down. Same goes with alleging harassment to the court (and the grounds would be thin, besides). The proactive solution, if you don’t have a way to reach her, might be to contact both the court and the police, and inform them that they have the wrong address/phone number and that you don’t want to be bothered further with a matter that has nothing to do with you. Impress upon them that you have the right to be left alone and that they’re infringing upon your privacy and causing you distress. If you wanted, you could also provide them with the most recent address/phone number you have for the person or let them know who they might contact to find her.

The girl who put a restraining order on me messaged me on Facebook. What should I do?”

Save the message and make a hard copy in case you need it in future (take a screen shot—and save it, too). If you choose to respond to it, your doing so could put you at risk of arrest. You’d be wiser having a third party intermediate if you think there’s a chance of your resolving differences. She can have the restraining order vacated if she chooses. Just take care that you’re not baited into landing yourself in jail. Also be aware that “thirty-party communication” may be expressly prohibited by the order. If so, even talking through a friend would be a violation, and your only risk-free option would be mediation through an attorney.

What are acceptable reasons for requesting to drop a PFA?”

If you’re the plaintiff, you can simply say you acted rashly, have changed your mind, etc. If you’re the defendant, grounds for requesting that a restraining order be vacated may be that it’s unnecessary and/or that the plaintiff acted impulsively in the heat of a dispute, that the plaintiff has exaggerated his or her allegations, that these allegations are maliciously false, etc.

“What can I do if my ex-girlfriend is putting my son’s picture on her Facebook [page] without my permission?”

If you object, ask her not to.

What can I do if someone got a restraining order on me, and I’m in fear [for] my life?”

Someone’s having a restraining order against you doesn’t mean you can’t report his or her misconduct to the police or apply to the court for a restraining order of your own against the plaintiff of the one against you. Other respondents to this blog have reported having restraining orders issued against them by plaintiffs who were violent abusers or stalkers. Restraining orders are excellent tools of domination and provide their plaintiffs with a sense of impunity (a sense that they can get away with anything). One commenter to this page assumed that having a restraining order against another person meant she could assault him or her if she felt like it and have the other person arrested if s/he fought back. Though it’s often the purpose they serve, restraining orders aren’t supposed to be a license to terrorize or abuse.

“What can you do if someone files a false injunction on you?”

Apply for an appeals hearing, and retain the services of an attorney. See also this post.

What can you do with text messages that show someone is going to beat someone else up?”

Priority one, ethically, should be to inform the potential victim of the danger. Threatening messages could be reported to the police and/or possibly used as grounds for applying for a restraining order.

“[What do you do] when protective orders don’t work?”

If the situation is dire, clear out. Relocate to ensure your safety. Put as much distance between you and your abuser as possible. Change your name if necessary. Keep your home address private, and don’t give away your location on Facebook or the like. If you’re legitimately in danger, a piece of paper is worthless. See also Gavin de Becker’s book The Gift of Fear.

“What do you do when your wife lies to get a temporary injunction for protection from violence?”

Appeal. Act promptly. And get an attorney. Depending on the outcome, you might also consider suing for damages later (assuming you divorced).

What does ‘case terminated’ mean in an order of protection case?”

In all likelihood, it means the case was vacated (canceled, nullified, voided). If you’re the defendant in the case, though, you should endeavor to make sure of this and to see that traces of the order are removed from your public record (that is, expunged).

What does ‘Have you ever been the subject of a restraining order?’ mean?”

The questioner (an employer, I’m guessing) is asking whether you’ve ever had a restraining order issued against you.

What does ‘interfere with plaintiff’ mean on a restraining order?”

A restraining order forbids its defendant (that is, its recipient) from interfering with its plaintiff (that is, its applicant). If you’re the recipient of a restraining order, you must not contact or approach its applicant. Plaintiff means the person who has complained to the court about you.

What does it mean that my restraining order has been vacated?”

That means it has been nullified, canceled. If you’re the defendant on the order, though, make doubly sure that this is the case before undertaking any action that would qualify as a violation of the order.

“What evidence can I submit when contesting a restraining order?”

Anything you think would be relevant: records or other documents, prescriptions, photographs, statements from witnesses, etc.

What grounds do you need to file [a] motion on [a] restraining order against you?”

None. You have the right to request an appeal and respond to allegations made against you.

“What happens if I talk to someone whom I have a restraining order against?”

Depending on the circumstances, you may place him or her in violation of the order and subject to arrest. Communicate through a third party or an attorney, or visit the courthouse and have the order quashed if you feel you acted rashly.

“What happens if I violate my protective order under a civil case?”

If you’re the applicant, nothing, though you’ll compromise your credibility in any further legal actions that may arise. If you’re the recipient of the order, you’ll be subject to arrest.

“What happens if my sister used my phone to text a girl who had a restraining order against me?”

The police may come knocking. Consult an attorney (usually free) and see what s/he advises. Or have your sister call the girl and fess up.

“What happens if someone has a restraining order against you, and they pass by your house?”

Unless the restraining order plaintiff trespassed (and was caught at it), nothing. Any number of visitors to this blog report that they’re phoned, emailed, or texted by the people who swore out restraining orders against them. Many report, besides, that these people show up at their homes or work. At least one respondent to the blog reports being not only stalked but assaulted.

What happens if [the] accused party does not show up in court for [a] restraining order?”

Unless the hearing is postponed, the defendant will lose his or her opportunity to defend.

“What happens if the victim falsely accused the person of violating a protective order?”

See above: What happens if my sister used my phone to text a girl who had a restraining order against me?”

“What happens when a temporary restraining order does not become final?”

A temporary order must be served within a specified period of time (contingent on state law), or it expires and becomes null. This doesn’t prohibit the petitioner from reapplying and initiating the process all over again, however. It doesn’t necessarily mean the temporary order has no lasting consequences, either. In Massachusetts, for example, even to have been accused of domestic violence on an application for a temporary order that was approved by a judge means the defendant’s name is entered into a domestic violence registry (indefinitely). The only reasons an order wouldn’t be finalized are (1) it was never served on the defendant, (2) the court found for the defendant in an appeals hearing and dismissed the case, or (3) the plaintiff defaulted by not appearing for a scheduled follow-up hearing, and the order was vacated.

“What happens when I’m sued for a false protection order?”

Justice, hopefully. If you feel repentant, see if the person suing you would agree to drop the complaint if you cooperated in clearing his or her record and made amends. Obviously, getting an attorney would be a good idea. If the protection order is still in effect, you can voluntarily have it vacated at the courthouse. If it has expired, you and your victim can cooperatively have the order vacated by having an attorney file a nunc pro tunc motion (sort of a legal reset).

“What happens when someone lies to obtain a restraining order?”

Too often he or she succeeds. Apply for an appeals hearing, and get an attorney. Do whatever it takes.

“What happens when someone tries to fight a protection order?”

Often they’re driven to the conclusion that resistance is futile. If the grounds for the restraining order are false, however, my opinion is resist anyway.

What if I change my mind about a protection order?”

You may return to the courthouse and ask (file a motion) to have it vacated (canceled).

What if no one is home when police try to serve a restraining order?”

Typically a notice will be left for the defendant requesting that s/he call to arrange for service.

What if you don’t answer the door to receive a temporary restraining order?”

It’s possible that a warrant will be issued for your arrest (consult the notice left by the officer), and avoidance of service will just prompt the law to get more creative. You don’t want a constable serving you at work. My advice is accept the inevitable, and appeal the order in court—ideally with an attorney by your side.

What is it called when someone gets a restraining order against you but doesn’t need it?”

That would depend on the circumstances. The prosecution may just be “frivolous” (that is, without sound or urgent justification, for example, “He’s always rude to me!”). Or it might constitute abuse of process/malicious prosecution if the applicant’s intent in obtaining a restraining order was different from what s/he claimed it was. Restraining orders may be sought out of spite or vengeance, for example.

What is it called when you can’t afford to sue someone?”

That’s called screwed. If you mean when you sue without an attorney (that is, when you represent yourself in a lawsuit), the answer is pro se. Where an attorney’s name would appear on your document captions, you would write instead “(Your name), pro se.” Pro se is Latin for “on one’s own behalf.”

“What is the charge for making up false police reports in order to send someone to jail…?”

This is called false reporting. In my state, it’s a misdemeanor crime with a two-year statute of limitation.

“What is the due process for a restraining order…?”

Due process doesn’t apply to restraining orders. You’re guilty unless proven innocent. Restraining orders are issued ex parte, that is, based solely on the testimony of your accuser. You may appeal, but if you don’t, the court doesn’t care.

“[What is] the penalty for lying on a restraining order?”

Zippo.

“What is third-party communication in a restraining order?”

“Third-party communication” refers to communication with the plaintiff in a restraining order case through another person (that is, a person not involved). An example of “third-party communication” would be the defendant’s asking a mutual friend or family member to convey a message to the plaintiff (whom the defendant is forbidden to communicate with directly). If the court has ordered “no third-party communication,” this means the use of a go-between is likewise forbidden. In other words, a restraining order defendant who is enjoined not to communicate with the plaintiff via a third party cannot ask another person to speak to the restraining order plaintiff on his or her behalf. The only authorized communication would then be through an attorney or through the courts pursuant to a legal action, such as a lawsuit.

What is the typical punishment for lying to get a protection order…?”

Success.

“What legal actions can I take if a neighbor has a restraining order against me but is using it as a weapon by calling the police [and] putting in false reports?”

The least demanding countermeasure would be your applying for a restraining order against your neighbor alleging harassment. If you consult your state’s harassment statute (Google your state + harassment laws), you’re likely to find that it recognizes the filing of false allegations with authorities to constitute harassment. Harassment, in turn, is grounds for procurement of a restraining order. Convincing the court that false allegations are abusive is always a challenge, because its tendency is to discount the effects of lies and to acknowledge laws selectively or preferentially. So you’d have to be insistent and persuasive. Your state, furthermore, may disallow so-called “cross-petitions” or “mutual orders.” See this post. Although you may not be able to piggyback your application on your accuser’s case, it’s possible to obtain an order against your accuser by filing a separate application (that is, by opening a separate case). You could also file a lawsuit, but this is a major undertaking and very taxing. It’s also best accomplished with an attorney’s representation and so can be very expensive. A final alternative would be to move. (The passive approach, hiring an attorney to send a menacing letter, could work, but such a letter is basically toothless. If the addressee blows it off, you might be out a couple of thousand dollars, and you’d be left with tolerating the abuse or pursuing one of the options enumerated above.)

“What reason do I need to file a restraining order on my wife?”

Some jurisdictions would require you to allege you fear her (that is, that she poses a threat to your person or your children). In others, it may be sufficient to allege, for example, that your wife is terrorizing you and/or your children (that is, subjecting you to psychological abuse). Violent behavior, tantrums, threats—all of these might be valid grounds.

“What recourse do you have against false statements on a restraining order?”

Appeal immediately. Instructions or a hearing date will be included with the restraining order you were served. Obtain the counsel of an attorney at all costs. Also consult this post for orientation. The odds are against the defendant in this process—guilty or innocent. The presence of an attorney can at least negate the handicap and level the playing field. If your appeal fails (or succeeds), you might also consider litigating toward a settlement (or for damages). If you decide to sue, do it right away. The statutes of limitation for some torts you may wish to allege are brief (e.g., one year for defamation). You may have court documents delivered or served on the plaintiff of a restraining order even if the injunction is in effect.

“What to do if you are wrongly accused of assault, and a lawsuit is filed?”

If you’ve been served with a lawsuit, retain the services of an attorney. Do whatever you have to do. An attorney may be able to arrest the suit before it can proceed. And protect your assets against whatever may come. You can also countersue, either through an attorney or by representing yourself (pro se). See this post for instructions.

What to do if [you] think someone might file a restraining order [against you]?”

The wisest course would probably be to sever contact with that person and let things settle. After a few months of no contact, the grounds for that person’s seeking a restraining order will have lost their urgency. If you’re dealing with someone who’s unreasonable or who’s out to get you (or who will be even angrier if you ignore him/her), then you’d do well to prepare for the inevitable and begin planning your defense. In any case, this is a person you’d do well to shun. See also:

What are the Warning Signs of an Impending False Allegation?

What You Should Do If your Wife or Girlfriend Threatens to Call the Police and Make False Allegations

The Fake Fight – What’s She Doing?

What to do when a judge denies you the right to defend yourself against an injunction?”

The best course would be to consult with an attorney. If you applied for an appeals hearing on time, it’s unlawful for the court to deny you the opportunity to contest allegations made against you. Appeal your case to the Superior Court and report the misconduct of the lower court judge to your state’s Commission on Judicial Conduct.

“What to do when someone continuously accuses you of harassment and abuse?”

Consult with an attorney (consultations are usually free), and see what you can do to get this person off your back. Sometimes a well-phrased letter under an attorney’s letterhead can work magic.

“[What to do] when the person who gets the restraining order keeps calling the person they got it on…?”

You may be able to persuade the person to quash the restraining order. He or she can do this at the courthouse. It just takes a signature. To protect yourself, make the invitation through a third party, preferably an attorney. DO NOT call or otherwise initiate contact with the restraining order applicant. This will make you subject to arrest. Alternatively, you could always apply for a mutual no-contact order and explain to the judge what’s going on.

“What type of person does a sociopathic narcissist target?”

Ones he or she perceives to be manipulable and tolerant of abuse.

What was the legislative intent of having the petitioner sign under oath in a civil TRO…?”

The intent was to dissuade petitioners from making false allegations—to make liars think twice, in other words. Having petitioners sign under oath is a purely rhetorical gesture, though. Statutes making perjury a felony crime are paper tigers. Frauds and liars are never prosecuted.

“What’s the purpose of a fake restraining order?”

There are many. Here are some: to spitefully subject the defendant to public humiliation and/or to ruin him or her personally or professionally (petty revenge), to gain custody of children or possession of property from a domestic partner, to terminate an illicit relationship (or gag an extramarital friend or lover so s/he feels intimidated and can’t speak to your spouse), to lame or discredit a romantic or business rival (exes’ new spouses or love interests are popular targets), to gain power or leverage over someone (stalkers have obtained restraining orders against their victims), or simply to get attention. False criminal allegations are difficult to substantiate, usually require you to give testimony before a jury, and can backfire if you get caught making them and possibly land you in jail. By contrast, the burden of proof on a civil restraining order petitioner is minimal to none (“I’m afraid!” sometimes suffices), the inconvenience is minor (a few minutes with a judge in a closed chamber), and perjury—if it’s detected at all—is generally winked at and never prosecuted. See also this page.

When can you sue for malicious prosecution over a restraining order?”

The sooner the better. A restraining order is not an obstacle to your pursuing legal action against the plaintiff. Because some torts you may wish to allege have a brief statute of limitation (one year for defamation, for example), you want to act promptly. If you litigate on your own behalf, remember to observe the constraints placed upon you by the restraining order. You may mail your complaint and summons to the plaintiff after you’ve filed with the court, but don’t make this an occasion for sending any form of personal message (you may also have these documents served by a process server or local law officer). Once you’ve obtained confirmation that these documents have been received by the plaintiff, your communications (briefs) will be addressed to the court (though you’ll mail copies to the defendant or his/her attorney).

“When does the trial begin in a restraining order matter?”

The issuance of a restraining order is itself effectively a verdict (“guilty”). In some jurisdictions, if a restraining order recipient doesn’t explicitly request an appeals hearing, there’s no follow-up. Consult the order you were issued to see if a hearing date has been assigned or whether you have to request one by calling, writing, or visiting the courthouse. And don’t hesitate to request (file a motion for) a continuance if you need more time to prepare.

When fighting a restraining order, can the accuser bring in a notarized statement [from] someone who knows about the case?”

Absolutely. It’s up to the judge whether s/he admits this exhibit into evidence, but there’d have to be a good reason for his or her refusing you. If you wanted to formalize this statement, you would find a template online for an affidavit to the court you’re defending in and type your witness’s statement onto it. Here’s a generic online example (for others, Google example witness affidavit). Then just accompany the witness to see a notary public. The services of a notary at a bank you have an account at are typically free. There’s nothing to this. A notary won’t swear anyone in or scrutinize credentials. S/he’ll smile, ask for a driver’s license, sign and date the form you hand him or her and apply his or her stamp. Ten minutes tops. The notary is unlikely to even read the form you hand him or her, so make sure s/he puts his or her name and signature in the right places.

When going to court for a restraining order, don’t both people have to be there?”

Yes. I’ve heard of restraining order defendants accused of violating restraining orders being represented by attorneys and not appearing in court themselves, but in a restraining order appeal, a judge will want to see a defendant for him- or herself, and defendants have the constitutional right to face their accusers, the satisfaction of which expectations necessitates the presence of both parties at a hearing (though either or both may be accompanied by legal counsel). Sometimes allegers of domestic violence may be excused from hearings, which is unfair but probably rationalized as sparing the “victim” further trauma.

Who can call on a person who has a criminal restraining [order] against them?”

Anybody. An injunction restricts the actions of its recipient (defendant). It doesn’t restrict anyone else’s actions.

“Whose record does a restraining order go on?”

Both the plaintiff’s and defendant’s names will be linked to a restraining order record (which may not be accessible to the general public). The person whose record will be affected by a restraining order is the defendant; the defendant bears the stigma.

“Why can’t the accused get a copy of the application for a protective order?”

You should have been served a copy. If you mean the plaintiff’s affidavit, this is part of the game. If you persistently apply at the courthouse—don’t take no for an answer—the records clerk should agree to give you a copy with some information redacted (like the applicant’s address). If this doesn’t work, an attorney can obtain the affidavit for you, which is essential to your defense.

“Why can’t the person with the order of protection get in trouble for contacting you?” / “Why doesn’t a restraining order affect the plaintiff?”

The legitimacy of the restraining order process is faith-based. Just as a church congregation agrees to collectively hold a certain set of beliefs to be true so does the legal system agree to perceive restraining order applicants as honest, earnest, and “for real.” It’s not that religious people can’t detect contradictions between everyday life and church doctrine, and it’s not that judges, for example, don’t know that restraining order petitioners lie; it’s that uncertainties aren’t openly acknowledged, because that would call the validity of the whole system into question. So the party line is that defendants (the “bad guys”) are the ones who need to be restrained from contacting plaintiffs (the “victims”). Remember that lawmakers (who have no exposure to how their laws are implemented—or how they’re abused) are the ones who make the rules. Police officers and judges simply follow and enforce those rules. They may know better than legislators what really goes down, but their discretion is limited, and they have a vested interest (job security) in maintaining the status quo. Put simply, restraining orders don’t affect their plaintiffs, because why would plaintiffs (wink, wink) have any motive to harass, intimidate, stalk, or persecute defendants?

Why did my spouse appeal a protective order?”

More than likely because s/he didn’t want the label of abusive wife/husband on his/her public record. Would you?

“Why do sociopaths file restraining orders?”

Sociopaths (or psychopaths—these terms are used interchangeably, and the distinction isn’t hard and fast) are social eels, sliding along through the currents of life. A defining trait of people with antisocial or narcissistic personality disorder is a disregard (even contempt) for the feelings of others. What conscience sociopaths may have remains arrested at a preadolescent stage. They look out for number one and see other people as objects (tools), not subjects. Glib lying being second nature to them, sociopaths can easily obtain restraining orders, which are unparalleled tools of manipulation, exploitation, intimidation, and revenge.

“When does an order of protection expire?”

The typical duration of a restraining order is one calendar year, but durations can vary. A restraining order may even be permanent (“non-expiring”). Consult the order you were issued. And don’t hesitate to call or go to the courthouse that issued the order and ask the clerk or a judge to clarify its limitations. A justice of the peace (JP) is as much your JP as s/he is the restraining order plaintiff’s.

Why would a husband want a wife to drop a restraining order?” / “Why would a man contest a protective order against him?”

List the reasons why a wife would want a husband to drop a restraining order or why a woman wouldn’t want a restraining order on her public record, and you’ll have your answer.

“Why would a narcissist put a restraining order on you?”

To be hurtful and to have all eyes focused on him or her. Narcissists exult in exercising power over others, and they have pathological urges for attention and vengeance. See also this page and this post (also this one). Here are some short essays on the subject of narcissistic malice by Dr. Linda Martinez-Lewi:

Narcissistic Vengeance Has No Boundaries

“Narcissists Hold Deep Grudges” (dead link)

Narcissists—Don’t Expect Formal Justice or Punishment

Malicious Narcissists—Convincing Others You Are at Fault or Crazy

Sociopathic Narcissists—Relentlessly Cruel

Narcissistic Relationship Cycle: Use, Abuse, Dispose

Narcissist—Sweet Revenge

“Narcissist’s Cycles of Revenge” (dead link)

“Why would a policeman take statements from witnesses if a person was not pressing charges. What if I do not want to press charges?”

The police and judges have been trained to react “heroically” when they perceive that a woman has been abused. If you don’t want to press charges, refuse. And don’t sign anything. Also, consult with an attorney (usually free), because once this process is initiated, it can carom out of control.

Will a prosecutor file criminal charges if a petitioner dismisses a civil protective order?”

I can’t imagine what grounds would exist for prosecuting you for withdrawing a protection order you petitioned, no. If the restraining order was based on false allegations (that is, if you committed perjury), don’t offer that fact as your explanation for requesting/moving that it be vacated (dismissed). Even if you were to cop to making false allegations, however, it’s unlikely that you’d be prosecuted.

Will I get arrested for not showing up to court for [a] restraining order injunction?”

That probably depends on whether you’ve been ordered to appear or whether you’ve simply been provided with an opportunity to defend. Don’t hesitate to inquire with the courthouse or to request more time to prepare if you need it.

“Will I go to jail for a restraining order against me from a minor?”

Irrespective of the age of the plaintiff on the order, if you violate the order’s prohibitions (for example, by approaching the plaintiff), and the police are notified, you may be arrested, yes. Police detention doesn’t necessarily follow from the issuance of a restraining order, though. Receiving a restraining order, in other words, doesn’t by itself mean you face incarceration. It just means you’re “on notice” for the period the order remains in effect.

Will looking at someone’s Facebook [page] violate a protective order?”

No, not unless this act has been forbidden by the court. And I don’t see why it would be. Consult the order you were issued by the court to see what limits have been imposed on your activities. Communication via Facebook most likely is forbidden.

“Will police arrest me for violating an injunction against harassment…?”

Yes. Don’t.

Will the defendant be notified if the petitioner cancels a protection order before the hearing?”

Possibly, but I wouldn’t count on it.

Will the judge let me get my stuff from the house if I have a restraining order?”

Typically, no. You leave with the shirt on your back and nothing else. Check your state’s statutes, though, by Googling restraining order statutes + your state. Your state’s laws may allow you to return to your residence to pick up some essentials in the company of a police officer.

“Will the person know I filed a restraining order on them if it was denied?”

In some jurisdictions, at least, the defendant is informed, yes.

With a [protection order], what is the distance a person has to stay away?”

Consult the order you were issued. If you’re still uncertain, don’t hesitate to inquire at the courthouse.

With a restraining order, can I keep the defendant on my Facebook?”

Sure. And why wouldn’t you want to?

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1,117 Responses “Restraining Order Q&A” →
  1. Can a parish, who owns its church building and grounds, issue a restraining order against verbally abusive priests who have threatened the congregation with their own legal action (defamation) because the parish feels they are wrong theologically, much less interpersonally? Recently, our former pastor retired and this action sort of opened the door for not one, but two, nearby priests (who are a little higher up the “political” ladder in the diocese) to come in and essentially bully us about everything we are doing. Letters were written to the bishop about the priests’ behavior, but nothing has been done and the priests are becoming increasingly hostile. Note that our parish is the second most wealthy in the whole diocese and the largest in our immediate area. We have many older parishioners, many of whom have become physically ill and have refused to return to our church until these priests leave. Even a few of the young families have stayed away as of late and don’t feel that our church is no longer a good environment for their kids. This is a very unfortunate situation. We don’t want to quit – we love our faith, traditions, and family. Going to another church of the same rite will only put off the problem as others are under the same influence by these guys. Can you provide some insight?

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    • How bizarre—and awful. My grandmother, who lived into her nineties, never missed a mass in her life and would have been crushed by any cause to be disappointed in the Church. It was pretty much the axle of her life.

      A restraining order is typically petitioned by an individual to arrest misconduct toward him or her by another individual (that’s the pretense, anyway). Using an analogous context, you couldn’t—I don’t think—get a restraining order against the proprietor of a business for treating you badly when you voluntarily entered his business. You could, however, get a restraining order against someone who repeatedly came into your business and harassed or threatened you.

      I would expect a judge to say that if you don’t like the service, you should go elsewhere. What grounds you might have for some kind of legal prosecution would probably depend on what form the verbal abuse took. Religion, including for the reasons you name, is a complicated case, because people feel compelled by loyalty and faith not “to quit.”

      The proper channel would seem to be Church administration. Maybe a group delegation’s appealing to the bishop in person?

      Basically you want these guys out, right? Who knows, an attorney might be able to propose a legal remedy if the parish’s ownership of the grounds authorizes its collective members to choose whom they allow to live on those grounds and/or officiate in the services held there. The grounds, that is, may be considered “private property.”

      Going back to the analogy I used in the first paragraph, it might depend on whether the Church has authority or whether, as the property owners, the members of the parish have authority and whether the priests are viewed as “running the shop” or whether they’re “customers” whom you have the right to expel.

      You could call and run this past some attorneys, Matt. What the heck. Maybe some Jewish ones?

      The rub is, though, that you’re still going to want actual Church-ordained priests to minister to the parish, which probably makes trying to work things out through Church channels the wiser (if less satisfying) course.

      Alternatively, you could stage a walkout or picket and call a local news station.

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  2. Lauren

    April 1, 2014

    I was in a relationship for almost a year with someone who had some deep seeded trust issues, low self esteem, and perhaps an undiagnosed mental disorder or two. Without the aforementioned this man had a wonderful soul, he unfortunately was very broken. In the beginning, I will admit I was not perfect and I have always believed it was the lack of communication and misconstruing what the relationship was in his eyes. I had taken blame and apologized continuously through our relationship even though it was in the past, he unfortunately could never let it go. Promises made by him time and time again to put it behind us and move forward together were broken continuously until 6 months into it when he threatened to kill himself and got his family and friends involved. He blamed me of course when I wasn’t even in the state. However, another cry for help and I remained by his side. He again made promises from that point forward to seek counseling and failed to do so. Our relationship needed help and I suggested therapy for us hoping then he would go. No. After months of noticing things he would say that were in complete reference to what friends of mine would say privately and showing up places he was never told by me or anyone else for that matter and my job when we were broken up, I started to think because of his education and career he did something like gps. I started to realize, ok how would he know my conversations and who I was talking to on the phone throughout the day that he had put something on my cell phone. I am not that computer savy and even had the cellular store professionals try to retrieve it and shut it off and they could not. I had notified some friends of what I thought was going on and they began to text me things that should not be said to anyone in a relationship and if said the person receiving them should instruct them to stop and I did not. This, thinking he was reading all my texts when he was nowhere near, infuriated him to a point where he finally admitted it to me. He admitted to doing this once before back at the 4-5 month mark but stated whatever it was he was doing and I of course believed him. He at this point had forwarded me messages that I only received, we do not share the same cell phone plan by the way, and he even in fact sent me texts of the gps coordinates he had on me a night that I went out with friends. I continued to try and work things through, because without all the craziness I truly loved this man with all my heart, and begged for him to get counseling it only got worse. He claimed he again stopped the program he admitted to having on my phone but then two days later he showed up where I was out at and did not inform him of banging on the door. I foolishly tried to appease him but when I woke up the next morning and we argued and I asked to take his cellphone he said to take it and when I left I showed up at my residence to him threatening me he was calling the cops. I never had the chance to try and find it on his phone and remove it as he the police there in 10 minutes. My children were home and were terrified I was getting arrested. I returned the phone to the police immediately and informed him of why I did what I did. Then it made me wonder what exactly does he have on that phone of his. The cops informed me that if he was stalking me and had a tracking device on my phone that I should file a restraining order. All I ever wanted to do was help him get better and filing the restraining order made me feel awful. I know I did it for my children and myself because I shouldn’t have to live my looking over my shoulder as I have for the majority of my relationship with him, some of my friends would not even text me anymore. I have a part of me that says it could potentionally get more volatile but I have been second guessing it because I do not want to damage him anymore than he was when he came to me a year ago. I feel bad and always try to help[ lost souls. I have court in the morning and have no idea what I am walking into and do not know what my options are at this point.

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    • Hi, Lauren. I’m not a psychologist, but it sounds like you’re describing a man with borderline personality disorder. If you read about this on the web, you may encounter the statement that BPD is more typically seen in women. It’s also said then men more often manifest the traits of narcissistic personality disorder. I’m not sure what the bases for these gender remarks are, and I question their correctness (as I believe a psychologist would).

      Chronic blaming is a defining tendency of all of the “Cluster B” personality disorders. See this post. Because of this tendency (vehement blaming), these “high-conflict,” personality-disordered people are often either recipients of restraining orders or their applicants. The irony is that the same behaviors that may urge someone to have a personality-disordered individual restrained by court injunction also urge personality-disordered people to get restraining orders against others, because they’re marvelous tools for deflecting blame from themselves and exerting it on others.

      You may have dodged a bullet by acting first.

      Here are the DSM-IV criteria for BPD (these aren’t the most up-to-date, but they’re straightforward):

    • Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment.
    • A pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation.
    • Identity disturbance: markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self.
    • Impulsivity in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging (e.g., spending, sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, binge eating).
    • Recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, or threats, or self-mutilating behavior.
    • Affective instability due to a marked reactivity of mood (e.g., intense episodic dysphoria, irritability, or anxiety usually lasting a few hours and only rarely more than a few days).
    • Chronic feelings of emptiness.
    • Inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger (e.g., frequent displays of temper, constant anger, recurrent physical fights).
    • Transient, stress-related paranoid ideation or severe dissociative symptoms.
    • Mediator Duncan McLean characterizes the borderline personality this way:

      “Borderline personalities tend to view themselves, others and the world in the following ways: ‘I don’t know who I am,’ ‘He/she is great…no they’re not,’ ‘Life must go my way or I won’t be able to tolerate it.’ The interpersonal characterization of Borderline personalit[ies] is their paradoxical inclination to fluctuate between idealization and devaluation of other people. They hate criticism [and] rejection, and quickly get dysthymic or depressed following the slightest of stressors. They are terrified of abandonment, and relatively simple things such as other people forgetting to return phone calls can cause considerable anxiety.

      “Their thinking style tends to be inflexible, which leads to rigid abstractions of other people. This in turn leads to particular problems in communication as they have a tendency toward ‘splitting,’ which is the inability to synthesize contradictory qualities in people, so that others are seen as good or bad but rarely in between. [T]heir dichotomous thinking and inclination to think and evaluate experiences in mutually exclusive categories is the basis of self-destructive behaviors and erratic emotions. The practitioner should look out for loyalty and scapegoating, inclusion and rejection, collusion and sabotage.”

      That’s the disorder. Mr. McLean also notes these positive traits that probably resonate with your good impressions of your ex-boyfriend:

    • Tendency to experience passionate, focused attachments in all relationships.
    • Emotionally active and reactive. Display their emotions openly.
    • Uninhibited, spontaneous, undaunted by risk.
    • Creative, lively, engaging. Open to experiencing other roles, cultures and values.
    • Intense and focused romantic relationships with one person.
    • Something I haven’t written about but intend to is an observation I’ve read repeatedly, and that’s that empathic people are often targeted by high-conflict people. Or draw them, if you prefer. I bring this up, because it sounds like you are an empathic person (“I continued to try to work things out”), and that’s why you feel conflicted.

      There’s a psychologist named Tara Palmatier, who consults by Skype, who could talk to and advise you about what to do going forward and let you know what to expect.

      Also know that you can (probably) have the restraining order vacated (voided) before it expires if you choose. That’s not meant as a recommendation but as information that you may not be aware of. Someone like Dr. Palmatier would much better be able to assess whether this man poses a physical threat to you or if he’ s more likely to hurt himself and whether the restraining order is useful or a possible trigger for escalation.

      For what it’s worth to you, my impression is that you have nothing to recriminate yourself for. People like this are toxic to normal minds and especially to minds that are hypersensitive to the feelings of others, like I suspect yours is. Sensitive minds are especially vulnerable to their manipulations (which aren’t necessarily deliberate—they’re part of the disorder). This thing’s reaching a head may have been a good thing for you, because it broke the cycle. It’s likely your compassionate desire to help would otherwise have kept you hooked into a relationship with someone who can’t be cured with kindness.

      If you find yourself waffling in your resolve, I tell you this with all confidence: You could very easily have found yourself in the opposing role. Not only could this man have sought a restraining order against you following the dictates of his will to blame; he might well have lied in extremely hurtful ways to obtain it. And the probability of his second-guessing himself and feeling bad afterward about what he did to you is zero.

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      • Lauren

        April 3, 2014

        Thank you for the response. I recognized all the that and did my research once I started to see a pattern. I am not a psychologist either but I am a nurse. However, I diagnosed him myself with BPD with abandonment issues shortly into our relationship. Everyone leaves this poor guy and I did my best to stay. Like I said, I loved him very much and tried to get him to get help but he refused which constantly hurt me because I could see it all. I haven’t heard from him since I filed for the TRO which then confirmed what I believed because that broke a pattern for him and made me think he still has the tracker on my phone. I went yesterday morning for the hearing for the FRO and was hoping he wasn’t going to show up. I had two friends with me as witnesses to the events of his stalking me. He showed up with his mother, father, and sister (the sister was giddy and happy and cracking jokes), which was embarrassing because I truly loved them and if the role was reversed I wouldn’t bring my family, Especially when they hear all of the events to which their son/brother is a stalker. I really don’t want them to hear that. I probably wouldn’t even tell them. He then asked for an adjournment. Besides the fact that he possesses firearms and he doesn’t want to lose, what would be the reason for asking for an adjournment to get an attorney? There really isn’t anything to fight here. The fact that he has had a restraining order or two already, shouldn’t that stand for something. Can’t the courts advise him or make him get counseling?

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        • You’re at least the third nurse I’ve been in correspondence with, Lauren, who’s gone through something like this, and I don’t believe that’s coincidental. I once spent five days in ICU—I was run down in the road by a guy in a 4 x 4—and my appreciation for nurses is without bound. They’re patient, compassionate, and giving people, and the personality-disordered have antennae that quiver when they recognize people like this—which isn’t to say that your feelings weren’t reciprocated; I’m sure they were. It’s just that how someone like your ex-boyfriend perceives the world is hopelessly marred.

          The irony is that pathological fear of abandonment (paranoia) is assuredly the reason why borderlines are abandoned. The fears of people with personality disorders seem to be self-fulfilling prophecies. It’s heart-wrenching, and it was good of you to hang in there for this person.

          From what I understand of the cognitive structure of people like this, you’re now “the enemy” in his mind, which perceives others in high contrast: they’re either white or black.

          So-called high-conflict people like this don’t capitulate; they amp the drama. I’ve been in a similar situation and wondered at the absence of shame from someone I thought I knew. There really is a kind of Jekyll-and-Hyde dichotomy to people like this. The person you thought you knew disappears completely.

          Expect anything—and nothing that you think you’re entitled to expect (like respect or recognition either of shared experiences or generosity and compassion you’ve shown in the past, which likely won’t be acknowledged). False allegations to self-justify and shift blame are typical of people like this and can be extreme. The person who was smiling at you enticingly or laughing with you not long ago may look at you with stony-faced malice tomorrow and claim anything his or her disturbed mind suggests would be a winning ploy. Very possibly, you’ll be represented as the stalker.

          Family and friends—contrary to all reason and evidence—will tend to side with their own. They may even harass you. When the situation is reversed, that is, when the personality-disordered person is the restraining order applicant, this is often the case. Outsiders are even brought in on the fun, and they need less coaxing than you’d imagine.

          As reluctant as you may be to involve others, you may want to consider bringing in some allies, too. If this man has already had others petition restraining orders against him, his credibility is probably shot, but restraining order adjudications are so fast-and-loose that nothing is dependable, least of all a reasoned and deliberate ruling. If the judge is female, for instance, and he has a smooth tongue, who knows.

          One of the nurses I told you I’d corresponded with applied for a restraining order against a short-term, violent boyfriend (who may also have been a borderline), was refused based on some fantastical and very vicious lying and ended up with a restraining order against her, obtained for payback and also based on fantastical lying. She was ravaged. I don’t mean to worry you, only to impress upon you that it happens. The upshot was that the nurse had to change jobs and seek therapy herself.

          The tolls exacted by people like this are incredible.

          To the best of my knowledge (which is limited), no, counseling would only be prescribed in a family court case. You could consult an attorney by phone, though. There’s no cost for this. The information you’d receive in a brief call would be scant, but you might get a lead. You might even find an attorney who knows what borderline personality disorder is. The personality-disordered are rarely diagnosed, though, so establishing that your ex-boyfriend needed counseling would be rough.

          The trial judge isn’t going to know you or him, and hearings for restraining orders are typically very short (minutes, not hours). It’s possible, I suppose, if you could establish a history of mental disturbance that a judge might mandate some kind of remedial treatment, but, again, an attorney would be the person to ask, and moving the court to mandate counseling (if this is even possible) would probably require you to obtain an attorney’s representation—which would be a good idea, anyway, if it’s within your means. An attorney could turn up this guy’s skeletons, which might clinch your case.

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        • On borderline personality disorder and its tolls:

          BPD Distortion Campaigns

          What lies do BPs [borderline personalities] tell? Often they revolve around false claims of partner abuse, child abuse, perverse sexual behaviors, drug and substance abuse, mental illness, and criminal conduct. BPs tend to pick false accusations that are difficult to disprove. Although we supposedly live in a society in which people are “innocent until proven guilty,” the reality is, that is not how people are treated. This is especially the case when accusations of sexual abuse, child abuse, and spousal abuse are involved. The victims of the distortion campaign often are treated as pariahs or even criminals, assumed to be guilty without any evidence whatsoever.

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        • Check out this tutorial, Lauren:

          How to Get Someone Committed to a Mental Hospital

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  3. girlsparky

    March 29, 2014

    Thank you. I didn’t think I would be able to get him on anything after poking around on the web. It just seems so wrong that a tpo can be used in this way with impunity. I’ll take your suggestion and just hope that karma catches up with him in the end.

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  4. girlsparky

    March 28, 2014

    Someone threatened me in writing and I obtained a tpo. He then lied to get a tpo against me. The Sherrif told me that if I stood in my front yard for too long they would (not could) arrest me and put me in jail for 12 hours. I can prove he lied. He even states the he “recently through court documents” learned he had been falsely accused which is the tpo I filed on him. He accuses me of having my 12 year old daughter harrass him.

    I believe he used the courts and the sheriff to do exactly what my restraining order prohibits him to do.

    Is it possible for me to have him arrested for violating the tpo?

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    • If I’m understanding you correctly, you’ve had conflict with a neighbor, who threatened you, which inspired you to apply for a restraining order, and the neighbor did the same thing as payback.

      Again if I’m understanding you correctly, your allegation is that your neighbor lied about you in order to harass and injure you by getting a TPO, which is what the TPO you petitioned was supposed to prohibit him from doing.

      If that’s what you mean, you’re totally right, but the courts don’t necessarily recognize false allegations as extreme as assault or rape as grounds for arrest or prosecution. Use (which includes ab-use) of legal procedure is seldom recognized as harassment, so the chances of having your neighbor arrested for harassing you by lying and abusing legal process are probably zero.

      If he broke your window, the police would come. Apparently if he lingered in his yard, the police would come. If he falsely says on public record that you’ve repeatedly exposed yourself to him, that you’ve stared through his windows at night, that you’ve offered to sell him narcotics, that you’ve aimed a gun at him, or anything else he wants, no one will do anything about it or even see that the allegations are expunged. Allegations on a restraining order may be consulted, for example, by your employer, by the principal at your daughter’s school, or by a social worker, anytime. Lying, which I mean to emphasize can seriously and permanently damage someone’s life, isn’t even recognized by the system as harmful.

      False allegations of stalking, sexual harassment, physical assault, sexual assault, physical or sexual assault on a child, etc., are made through the restraining order process every day—and erode people’s sanity or trash their lives…every day.

      Instead of escalating things, if I were you, I’d think about talking to a lawyer down the road about brokering a peace and getting these restraining orders vacated and expunged (erased or sealed), which usually isn’t a problem if all parties involved consent.

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  5. Anonymous

    March 20, 2014

    If someone fraudulently claims to be in a relationship in order to get a domestic violence order is that a crime, and came it be considered libel?

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    • It’s both criminal and libelous, yes. False allegations of domestic violence won’t be prosecuted, though. Depending on how awful the false allegations were, the accused may have grounds for a lawsuit for libel (fraud, etc.). Important to know is that the system doesn’t care, so the successful prosecution of a lawsuit against a liar like this depends on the victim’s ability to persuade the court to care.

      If there was no domestic relationship, there could have been no “domestic violence.” That likely means the court lacked jurisdiction to issue the order. A motion to dismiss should be filed on the basis that the court lacked jurisdiction to enter the order, making it “void.”

      Don’t take my word, though. I’m not an attorney. Confirm this by checking your state’s definition of “domestic violence” and the statutes that define the “domestic violence order” in your state. See the links at the bottom of this page, which I just put up.

      I corresponded with a female defendant in California in 2012 who was in an identical situation. The judge dismissed the order against her on appeal, because she had no domestic relationship with the married man who accused her (and never had had one).

      In some jurisdictions—maybe most—the allegation of “domestic violence” can be made just by ticking a box on a form.

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  6. You are too damned funny!! I need to find a guy like YOU!! Thanks for making me laugh! I haven’t in a few weeks.

    Kelley

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  7. My boyfriend of three years and I just broke up. It was sudden and he would not give me much of a reason for this. There has been alot of stress in both of our lives recently. I have, for the last two weeks, been trying desperately to get him to talk to me. I’ve texted a lot and called a few times. Only response I got was to just leave him alone. I felt that I deserved SOME explanation of what the heck was going on.
    Yesterday I received a phone call and a message was left from the county sheriff’s ofc where he lives, telling me that he was there asking the ofc to call me and tell me to not contact him. The officer told me that if I contacted him again there would be criminal charges filed against me. There is no restraining order in place.
    Can this office threaten me like that?
    Can I take some action against this officer for the threat?

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    • It sounds like your ex-boyfriend whined that you were harassing him (what a guy). The officer who called you just had his word to go on. It’s terrible to have someone you trusted and shared your life with betray you publicly like this and have you embarrassed and intimidated, but unless the officer said something way out of line, s/he was just doing what s/he’s paid to do (keep the civil peace). You could complain to police administrators, I guess, or write a letter to the precinct captain, but probably the smartest thing to do would be to mentally say “go f* yourself” to your ex-boyfriend and forget the guy exists. Maybe have one of those purgative ceremonies where you burn his letters on the grill. At any rate, don’t call him or contact him in any way, Kelley, because once someone like this whines to the police, the police explain how a restraining order is obtained, and it’s the easiest thing in the world for a sniveler to then go to a judge and say that s/he had the police call you, but you didn’t take the hint (“She won’t stop!”). The next cop whom you talked to would serve you with a restraining order, which would take the outrage, humiliation, indignation, and betrayal you’re feeling now to a whole new plane.

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      • Hey Todd. Well the jackass has been texting and talking to a former friend of mine, who incidentally contacted his wife and kid during one of our breakups. He’s saying nasty things about me and sharing past texts with her. She claims they laugh about what a fool I am. Of course she could be lying to try and hurt me, and it’s hurting me. I’m crushed. This guy has told me a lot of personal things about his wife, who I’ve heard is now his ex wife. I’d love to give her some details so she can see what a slime ball he really is. My question is, since I have her number becuz she’s contacted and harassed me in the past, is it legal for me to contact her now? I want this piece of shit to hurt like I’m hurting. I know I shouldn’t have but I’ve texted him a few times just trying to turn the end into something amicable, not bitter and cruel, for my own mental peace. After the acquaintance of ours started texting me last night I told him not to do anything to cause trouble for me, that I guess I needed to start making phone calls, that I would speak with my lawyer. He texted one word, Help. And idea what the hell that was? I’m so disgusted with him and with myself for being taken in by this jerk. I want him to pay for the devastation he’s caused me. Thank you for your help.

        I’m a damned mess, Kelley

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        • I’m really sorry. I’ve seen this kind of thing over and over—and I’ve been subject to it, too. Other people are brought into the conflict and enjoy getting in on the bullying just for the sheer spite of it. It’s deeply sick, and these people—in my opinion—are the lowest of the low. More pathetic than bullies are their pets.

          The answer to your question is that if there’s no restraining order in place, you’re not prohibited from talking to anyone, though I would take the police warning about not communicating with your ex-boyfriend very seriously, because an officer can arrest you independently of charges brought by a complainant, that is, at his or her own discretion. This is an actual exchange I’ve heard between a guy and a cop: “Who’s pressing charges?” “I am.” The thing is everything that you feel tempted to do risks inspiring someone to do something back. The boyfriend could whine to the courts, the (ex-)wife could whine to the courts, the “friend” could whine to the courts, or they could all gang up against you in one prosecution (or three), and even a lawyer probably couldn’t save you. If you were seeing a married man, all a judge is going to hear is that you’re bitter and vengeful.

          You’re a woman. Ask yourself whether if you were the wife (or ex-wife, as the case may be), and your female rival called you, would you be sympathetic toward what she had to say, or would you just hate her guts and want her to die writhing in agony? In my experience, when someone’s been cheating, the spouse sides with the cheater.

          That “Help” your ex-boyfriend texted, incidentally, might have been sarcastic. He might have meant “Gulp.” Some people thrive on the sniping and drama. The way to defuse it is to ignore it and impress upon them that they mean nothing and are nothing.

          They’re enjoying getting a rise out of you and hurting you.

          I know it’s hard, but I’d let this die, Kelley. Don’t contact these people. If they contact you, tell the “friend” and your ex-boyfriend: “Leave me alone” (use words you’d be okay with a judge reading). And keep a record, if possible, of your having done it. Then if they don’t leave you alone, you have both a defense if you’re hassled in court (something you can tell and show a judge) and evidence you can prosecute them with if you want. Alternatively, if they continue to harass you relentlessly, you could call the police (a different precinct), tell them you’re being harassed, and have an officer call the bullies and make their bottoms pucker.

          Just appreciate that if you escalate, they probably will, also.

          Consider, too, that all the texts you’re furious that your ex-boyfriend has been sharing can be aired in court and put on public record for view by anyone, including your employers. Privacy, fairness, sensitivity—expect none of these from the courts.

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          • Thanks. I understand what you’re saying. I don’t think the cop from 300 miles away is gonna drive here and arrest me, tho. But hey you never know! I appreciate your thoughts, input and support. You’re really the my best friend right this minute! 🙂

            K

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            • Then you’re screwed if you wind up in jail, because this friend can’t post bail for you! If you can’t resist the urge to even the score, do it when your mind is cool…and be stealthy.

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              • Good advice! Thanks, dude

                K

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              • Kelley

                April 3, 2014

                Well, now this jackass has been texting me, saying all kinds of insulting things and at one point told me to bring my “better half” with me when I come back there becuz he has something for both of us. Can I have him arrested for that? Cuz I sure will if I can!

                K

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                • Save everything for your self-protection. The “threat” is so vague, though, that I doubt the police would take an interest. What they’d likely do is warn him off and/or direct you to the court. But if you’ve been responding, that could go against you. Remember, too, that all of these actions are at the taxpayer’s expense.

                  What sort of resolution are you looking for? It doesn’t sound like he’s going to apologize or extend an olive branch, and you surely don’t want this person (“jackass”) in your life, anymore, do you?

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  8. Anonymous

    March 3, 2014

    Hello… My ex is trying to vacate my three-year domestic violence restraining order. I am worried that if it is vacated, he will at least harass if not physically harm me. What can be done if the family court vacates it and he harms me? Would there is any reciprocation for the court? (California)

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    • Hi. What are the circumstances (roughly)? Presence or absence of a restraining order won’t protect you, of course, if someone’s determined to hurt you. It’s just a piece of paper. The court doesn’t need to order that someone not physically harm you, though, for it to be a crime. If someone hurts you, you’re authorized to defend yourself, and/or file assault charges against that person. If you’re asking because you’re in legitimate fear for your safety, you’d be really smart to distance yourself from this person physically (i.e., relocate) whether there’s an order of the court in place or not. On what grounds is he seeking vacation of the restraining order?

      There might be repercussions (negative publicity) if a restraining order were vacated and you were injured, but the best you could expect would be that a judge were sanctioned or invited to retire. If you were profoundly injured, you could sue.

      Protecting yourself effectively is really about your choices. I’ve recommended this writer before, whom I like: Gavin de Becker (The Gift of Fear).

      It’s disgustingly the case that a lot of people abuse restraining orders, making hyped claims to injure someone else or dominate a situation, which discredits and complicates the claims of people who really are at risk.

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  9. My fiance and child’s father has a child by a woman from a previous relationship that keeps filing bogus orders of protection against me, she was able to have one slip through the cracks because i had no knowledge of it, once i found out and we appeared in court it was thrown out so here we go again i just received mail that she has filed another order of protection against me, i haven’t seen or been near this woman since the last court date and i now live in another state. I believe shes using me as a pawn in the child support custody battle because she mentions that she doesn’t want my fiance in his child’s life, what can i do to stop her from keep filing these against me Ive also lost a job offer due to it, help she wont leave me alone!!

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    • An attorney might be able to present you with other options, Tierney, but these are the ones I know of: (1) have an attorney write a menacing letter (this is expensive and basically toothless), (2) file a restraining order against your tormentor that alleges chronic harassment and stalking (and tell the judge you’re constantly anxious, have lost sleep, that your job performance has suffered, yadda, yadda), (3) sue the woman, and/or (4) move to an address where she can’t find you to have restraining orders served. The latter option probably isn’t viable if there’s a child involved and you’re the dad’s fiancee and live with him, but FYI.

      Of these, I would recommend applying for a restraining order against the woman and not holding anything back. Be emphatic and dramatic. It’s a filthy game, and I’m sorry to encourage you to soil your hands, but if you try to stay clean and above the fray, you get buried. The fact is what this woman has done is nothing next to what she could do (false allegations to Child Protective Services, false allegations to the police, and on and on and on), and there is no statutory limit on how many restraining orders this woman could apply for. A restraining order you got would discredit anything else she tried to do. You might also be able to use it to prevent her from knowing your whereabouts. If that worked, you could have a lawyer communicate that you’ll sue her if she ever bothers you again, and it might mean something then.

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  10. samantha dilbeck

    February 11, 2014

    the person that lives with me got served with a restraining order from his soon to be ex wife because of domestic violence and i am the witness to this abuse ,

    does that mean i am not allowed to have contact with her until after the trial because he lives with me even though i am the witness ?

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    • I’m confused by whose relationship with whom signifies what, but the simple answer, Samantha, is that a restraining order is just an order directed at its defendant from the court. You’re not the defendant, so it doesn’t affect what you can or can’t do. One word of caution, though: if the party who got the restraining order is in a volatile state, it’s totally possible she could get pissed at something you had to say and get a restraining order against you too. Sounds absurd, is injust and outrageous, and does happen. Best with getting through this.

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  11. There is an App that allows for an easy download of texts that are still on the cell phone (many pages worth). Once this is done, then that party who did the download needs to sign a affidavit of authentication.

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  12. Can the courts access your text messages on your phone without your knowledge when you have a restraining order against you? And, if so, how common is this? Do they actually “hijack” your messages right off your phone form your cell number or do they have to go through the provider with a court order? Signed, Paranoid I guess!

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    • Possibly the NSA could, Claire, but the courts don’t investigate anything. An attorney could subpoena the records from the provider (or try), or a judge could authorize a cop to monitor your phone. If you’re not egaged in highly felonious activities or suspected of them, though, the likelihood of any of this occuring is pretty remote. Would the courts you’re worried about even know your cell phone provider or telephone number? No judgment here: perfect paranoia is perfect awareness!

      eHow: How to Retrieve Text Messages from Cell Phone Companies

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  13. Hi is it possible for our lawyer to bill the defendant for the court costs since the person is appealing our permanent restraining order? It’s really not fair or financially possible for us to keep paying these legal fees because she can’t except the fact of the restraining order.

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  14. Hello, great site! I’ve been harassed by an individual with multiple false R.O.’s for several years now. I fought the first one in person (with no lawyer) the next two via letters to the court (they were issued from out of state) and the last one, also issued from out of state, with a lawyer. ALL were vacated, and in the last instance, my accuser was ordered to reimburse me for $2,500 in legal fees, which I will never see. I can’t take this person to court to try to put an end to this because I’m not allowed to know where she is; she’s essentially a professional “abuse victim” who has gullible domestic violence groups eating out of her hand. She’s shuttled from safe house to safe house and accuses me of rape, beatings, threats, etc. in order to receive the free housing, food, and good will that she gets from these folks. She also tells them that we were a “couple” for 10 years, which is false. We were never a couple, period. She was our border for 2 months years ago, until we asked her to leave; she was mentally unstable even then.

    QUESTION: If we were to move so that future R.O.’s couldn’t be served at our long time address, they’d become null and void, correct? Instead of trying to address each R.O. as they come, I’m thinking of moving. I doubt that my local police would do more than ring the door bell at our present address when serving one of these, in terms of “looking” for me, correct? Thanks for your work!

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    • Thanks, Gunnar, and I’m sorry for the anguish this has caused you. Who could even imagine the hell these facile instruments enable? Congratulations, at least, on keeping your head above the tide so far.

      The answer to your question is probably, that is, if you changed addresses and ensured this woman couldn’t find you, this torment would probably die away. It depends, I guess, on how obsessed she is and what kinds of resources she could muster. A cop or constable isn’t likely to bend the full force of law enforcement resources to track you down, and restraining orders must be served within a specified period or they expire (check with your local courthouse(s) to find out what this period is, which likely varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction). You’d have to take care that the courthouse(s) didn’t have your new address (which they could get from your driver’s license, for example), and this wouldn’t work, of course, if this person knew your place of employ. I’ve heard of a police officer in Australia tracking a defendant down (and serving him) via Facebook, so I won’t tell you some gung-ho officer wouldn’t go Inspector Javert on you. Short of suing this person (which would require serving her with a summons and complaint), though, I don’t know of a better remedy. You could, of course, do the same to her, and see if you could inspire some dogged police sleuth to track her down (with the help of a private investigator, even) by applying for a restraining order alleging chronic harassment yourself. The scenario you describe highlights the (many) absurdities of the process and is one no one with a stake in the preservation of the status quo willingly admits occurs. The shelters get money for this. So, too, the police, the courts, etc. It’s in nobody’s interest but the victims’ to observe abuses. (And taxpayers’, I guess, but how many taxpayers know how government spends their earnings?)

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  15. Anonymous

    January 23, 2014

    I wanted to leave an update: I had a social worker take a R.O. out on me in Oct of last year. It was granted because the judge would not “allow” me to show my proof! The woman had no proof of anything, and the judge would not hear my witness. So her R.O. was granted. So that being said I found out this person was NOT licensed (I told the judge this too). So, I reached outside of my area and now she is being punished from the License Board. From what I hear she is no longer doing the hosp job. This woman’s friend is doing it now and she has been reported for having no license either. It is not the route I wanted to go. But, I believe that she is dangerous for working in M.H. and not having a license and that is why she wanted the R.O. because she KNEW I knew and did not want me to ruin her reputation! So, I would like to know how you think I handled a bogus R.O. and that even it bugs me I still got a clear message through.

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    • I’m sorry this went against you. When false motives are subtle, they almost always work. Clearly you’re never likely to get this woman to recant now that you’ve exposed her, but if you’ve protected someone by removing a person who wasn’t qualified to do the job she was doing, there may be some karmic merit in that. Any victory, even exoneration, is a pyrrhic victory in these cases (one that’s as damaging as it is satisfactory). I hope you’re able to feel okay about it.

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  16. This may be silly but I was wondering, someone has been harassing me via the internet for the past 2 months, at the beginning this person has been doing it through anonymous but I have known who it was the entire time; I have tracked the I,P addressed constantly, the person has come reveal themselves by messaging me directly. I have been defending myself, but they are still harassing me, at times the participant would get their friends or roommates to do it for them. Would getting a restraining order forbid this person from contacting me in any sort of way? My apologies, I am not too knowledgeable about these things.

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    • Yes, but before actually taking this step, if the harassment isn’t threatening and is more of a nuisance than anything else, you might spell out your intention (“I know who you are, and I’ll prosecute you if you don’t stop”). This would likely be sufficient to shut this person down, would save taxpayers one to two thousand dollars, and possibly save you a serious headache. Don’t hesitate to follow through, Martina, if you feel threatened. If not, though, appreciate that this process can exacerbate or escalate conflict and comes with a good many consequences no one’s going to tell you about going in. Best wishes and take care.

      Caveat: If you decide to fire a warning shot before acting, say you intend to “prosecute” instead of that you intend to get a restraining order. It’s entirely possible this person or one of his or her cronies could apply for a restraining order against you first. As ridiculous as this sounds, it happens. This process is very easily abused, which is why this blog exists.

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  17. Why is this American tragity of abusive orders not getting the attention they deserve with so many lifes ruined and desrtroyed on a daily basis? Who should be held responsible for causing the death of an innocent defendent who’s rights were violated and died as a direct result stemming from this crime? Think about it!

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  18. my daughterinlaw put a false order of protection against mt son also one for his 4 year old daughter the problem is she just became a us citzen because my son married her but her family is her illegally they keep threatning him to take her to trinadad to live and he will never see her agan…what are his chooses…

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    • If your son hasn’t already appealed the order, Debbie, that would be the place to begin. If he has, and the order was upheld, it prevents him from having any sort of relationship with your daughter-in-law, and whether she leaves the country or not is beyond his control. What’s the purpose of the threats? Are the in-laws trying to extort money? And is your granddaughter in your daughter-in-law’s custody?

      If it’s within your means to hire a family attorney, that would be advisable, and you can call and consult one for free. Was the protection order baseless (in other words, a fraud)?

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  19. Hi!i file for restrianing order against my boyfriend but with my consent he come into my apartment so many times.. And now he again doing messy things that i dont like …can i sue him for violating the restraining order?

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    • You can report him for violating the court’s order. Understand, though, that this will mean police will collect him and lock him up. Possibly for quite a while.

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  20. I have a question, my duaghter is getting an order of protection against my wife because of a big tiff they have going, mostly bogus mean spirited bach and forth, but if the judge ordres my wife cant have a firearm does that mean my guns have to go because I live in the same house. My wife doesnt own them I do and registered to me

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    • The language of my own state’s laws is pretty vague and only specifies that the defendant musn’t “possess” firearms or ammunition. It doesn’t say anything about cohabitants’ owning firearms. How fast and hard rules are and how closely they’re observed is uncertain. If this thing goes forward, absolutely do inform the judge (and any police officer involved) that you have firearms and want to observe the letter of the law. I would be surprised if this affected your rights.

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  21. If I got a order of proctetion against me and me and my gf we get back together knowing she got a order of protection. Against me and she find out I’m cheating on her and she deci to.get revenge by telling the judge that i being talking to herr calling her and texting her can I do something about It i got text from her threating me my life and threat me with her baby father

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    • She’s holding all the cards in this relationship, Darell, so be very cautious. If the police have reason to believe you’ve even come near her while the order of protection was in effect, they can arrest you. And she can tell them any story she wants. It doesn’t matter what the truth is. You can be arrested for sending a text message.

      You might be able to use the text messages that threaten your life to get a protection order against her. Just understand that you could be inviting heat, because you acted in violation of the court’s order against you.

      Stay safe.

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  22. Hello,
    Thank you for your information. I too have had a wrongful protection order taken out on me. My husband is the abuser not me. I can’t afford an attorney so tomorrow morning I go to court tell tell my side. Unlike a lot of posters here, I am the wife. So yes, there are psycho men out there that abuse the system. I told my husband I wanted a divorce. The next day I was served the papers that he said I threatened to kill him, his parents and his dog… What a lie, I never even thought of such horrible things. I was kicked out of the house with no where to go. So here we are 5 days later and I’m still wearing the same clothes I left in and no place to live, no money, etc…. But alas all I have research I find that tomorrow might indeed be a moot point to even go to court. If the judge does grant my husband the permanent protection order, does that mean I can’t even get my things? All of my life is at the house including important documents etc. God I just wish this had never happened. I never did anything and here I am now having this horrible situation rearing its ugly head. Anyway, I just wanted to say thanks for your web page and for all the information. I just wish it would have some type of happy ending for me and all of you out there suffering in injustice the way I am. I tried to find a Pro Bono Attorney here in Wyoming without any success. So I guess I lose again… May God protect us all from the perpetrators who willfully lie and manipulate the system. We don’t deserve this! But hey I guess that’s why they say life isn’t fair right? Now I have to find out how to get a divorce from this crazy man without any money… We will see what happens I guess.

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    • I marvel at the emotional resource and positivity of people like you, Lisa. I think you’re rare. In your place, I’d probably be huddling in the corner of an alleyway. I hope you receive some measure of fairness. Regarding your belongings, check the restraining order statutes for Wyoming. It’s usually the case that people are just tossed out and told not to look back, but in some states (like mine, Arizona), defendants are allowed to return to their homes to briefly gather some belongings in the company of a police officer. It’s a very long shot, but there may be a divorce attorney who would take your case on contingency, especially if s/he thought you had grounds to sue your husband. This would mean s/he got a cut of the settlement or award. Persevere, best wishes, and stay warm.

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  23. Thank you so much for your response!
    My questions now would simply be, what is my rebuttal in court when obviously in their eyes he indeed violated the pfa order. If they put him away for 6 months or any time at all would be insane, I’m hoping for a fine and or probation + fine. I spoke to a friend of his who is willing to let him use his address so he can get out in time for supervised bail or at least if they do not make him serve time. I will do my best to express how they should not condem him or a mistake I made. I just want to tell them that I told the defendant the pfa was dropped, perhaps that will take more heat off of him? What about possible pregnancy ? He was starting a new job after the first, doing this to him will take away a lot in his life for a long time. He will be tiring 29 and with those kinds of charges it is already difficult enough for him. Maybe they would favor a fine and probation since he has a job that wants to hire him after the first? He can be given a chance, pay the fine and do the probation term instead of jail time.

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    • Probably your best course would be to honestly present the facts as you’ve done here. You didn’t understand the seriousness of the order and thought you had discretion to allow your boyfriend to return (you thought the order was “for you” not “against him”). Everything was consensual. And you didn’t understand the gravity of asking for help a second time. You just reacted in the heat of the moment and didn’t realize what you were setting into motion. Judges aren’t likely to appreciate this, but no one is told anything when they’re awarded a restraining order, and no one is told anything when they’re issued one. In both cases, it pretty much boils down to “sign here,” and the state washes its hands of the matter. The fact is this man didn’t do anything, right? The police and courts are responding to your allegations, which were about your feelings, not his acts. I don’t know what the previous allegations were. If you just said you were afraid, then they’re responding to your emotional interpretations. If there was more to it than that—for example, if you said he hit you or threatened you—it’s going to be rough. Basically this man’s only violation was in disregarding the restraining order, which was only issued, again, based on your allegations, whatever they were. You know whether they had a substantial basis or not. If it’s true that you felt bullied into proceeding with the restraining order once your mom and her friend got involved, you could explain that. It’s easy to get swept away by feelings of resentment that are then seconded by others—whom you then feel indebted to, etc. The whole process is coercive. And it’s like a hair-trigger trap: once you touch it, it mercilessly slaps shut. (Most plaintiffs love it for this reason, especially if those plaintiffs are frauds, because it caters to their every whim and fantasy—which is why it’s so popular, which is why it’s so bent.) Do explain, sure, that this stands to destroy his life and that this wasn’t what you had in mind. In fact you weren’t thinking ahead at all, just acting impulsively. I don’t know what the truth is, and I can’t counsel you to bend it, obviously, but if you were to tell the court that you told your boyfriend the restraining order was canceled or over, or that you gave him to understand that that was the case, I suppose it might relieve him of some of the responsibility for violating it. These matters are totally discretionary, that is, you could get a benevolent judge, or you could get the Terminator. Your pleading for leniency should carry some weight, but judges are basically trained to drop the guillotine. Natural expectations we have of people are often disappointed when those people are judges. I don’t know that a lawyer could help much in this case, but, again, talking with one (or some) would be a good idea.

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  24. Anonymous

    December 29, 2013

    I have a PFA on my current boyfriend and I have yet to make a petition to modify it. Today was heart wrenching, my boyfriend and I got into an argument and I automatically went into victim mode and I wanted to leave- I was frantic and scared not because he acted that way towards me but because it brought up bad memories for me. I ran, as if I was being chased and went to the local college police campus while I waited for a taxi, I let a police man on duty know what was going on and he took my honesty about being stupid and having a PFA on him when we are living together etc. and contacted city police to go to my home and arrest him. ( campus police asked for my ID and his name.. I did not think anything of it at the time, thought it was routine ) The city police took my words and turned it into him violating the PFA because he was in OUR home, he is on the lease, he did not commit any physical, threating abuse. He is not in the local county jail on 5,000 dollars bail for such offense. I am looking up case law and other situations but I am hitting a dead end because of the PFA. HOWEVER, the PFA was for a previous address not the current one we reside in, how does that apply? I allowed him to move in, obtain gainful employment, if anyone is at fault I suppose it should be me? How do I fix this? Nothing happened at all!! I am going to the Court House tomorrow to file a petition for modification on the PFA, how long does that take, I wonder. He doesn’t deserve to be in jail. PLEASE, I know I am no one “special” just someone looking for help, assistance to resolve this problem that occurred, please. Begging is not my forte nor becoming of a person however, I will for this situation. Also, the police really twisted my words once I explained a bit of back round on why we are together, they didn’t even get my full side of the story, they were just there to make an arrest. I asked them several times, crying as well that it was just an argument and he did not do anything to me. We have been living together since May of 2013 and they did not want to hear anything I was saying to them. I am at fault for not modifying the PFA, I understand that however I did not originally waste the courts time when the PFA was filed. My boyfriend changed his whole world and being and acted out in the heat of the moment which lead to the PFA. I didn’t understand most of it when it was all happening in 2012, my Mother never liked him because of his race and the lawyer I had was her good friend and well you see where that got me. I thought it was it for him and I, then we started talking and one thing lead to another and he has changed so much but because I freaked out in a panic and the police wanted nothing more than to get a black man off the streets, I feel- this has happened to us. Possibly pregnant, he has a new job, I am on unemployment and have an upcoming surgery in Feb, things were moving along just fine for us and I had a freak out moment, please someone help me.

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    • The police and courts are trained to be suspect of women’s withdrawing allegations. Chances are very slim that you’re going to be taken seriously. In the eyes of the state, your boyfriend acted in contempt of court by moving in with you after being forbidden to near you at all. The change of address doesn’t matter, unfortunately, and the law doesn’t care about what you did, only about what he did. It’s possible the order could have been rescinded upon y0ur moving the court to vacate it. If you try to vacate it now, you’d probably be wiser not to mention that your boyfriend violated the order. Either way, though, the police know, so it’s probably out of your hands. Obviously if you can afford an attorney’s counsel, getting one on board would be your best shot of minimizing the fallout. Money is the surest remedy—as is usually the case—and not having it is why most people are steamrolled by these processes. Their immunity to reason is why this site and others like it exist. If you can’t afford an attorney, you’re probably going to have to hope that your sincerity counts for something. Calling an attorney, however, is free. Trying to arouse the interest of a black criminal attorney, if you could find one, might be worth a shot (or might give you a lead). If there’s someone in your boyfriend’s family you could turn to—assuming no one in your own family would be sympathetic—that might be worth considering, too, as agonizing as it might be. I wish I could suggest something more promising.

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  25. My wifes ex boyfriend has filed an ex parte against my wife. In it he alleges alligations of abandonment, drug use, neglect, arrest (that never happened) and the usual lies that people claim. However the most disturbing lie he claims is that he is the father of my wifes oldest son. He even checked off the box claiming he was listed as the father on the birth certificate.
    Therr was a dna test done that proves who the father is and the child was born well before my wife dated or slept with her ex. So immediatly after me and my wife were notified that her son was removed from school by the marshalls and given to her ex we rushed to the court and filed an ex parte in order to get back her son. The judge denied our ex parte although we explained how this man grossly lied to obtain custody of the child. They even denied to look at the birth certificate that would prove he is not the father.
    So now this man has my wifes son and we have to wait a week for the hearing to present our evidence. Which we have proof of my wife not being a drug addict. ( random urins for the past three months all of them clean) she was never arrested. The child has been unde r her state insurence since birth ect.
    I am disgusted at the injustice and criminality of this whole situation. We are both in couseling and are explaining to our counselors the adverse mental and emotional effects this is having on us. i was told by the court clerk that he need not present any evidence as to any of his claims and that they take him by his word and assume he is telling the truth. However it is common knowledge that people, esspecially vengeful and jealouse people lie. This man didnt even need to show a form of identification as to who he was. When it comes to a child the plaintiff should have to prove a relationship or guardianship in someway shape or form.
    I am looking into our options of having him arrested but have yet to find a hopeful avenue. The police habe been no help and actually have been quite rude and disrespectful. So I am also looking into whom I am able to sue and what I am able to sue them for.
    I would also like to become a voice in changing the system.
    Another avenue I am looking into is my rights as their stepfather. If any.
    Anyone with advice or comment I will be greatly appreciative.

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    • I’m not an attorney, Sean, but unless I’m missing something, the ex-boyfriend is guilty of felony kidnapping (“simple kidnapping” or “child-stealing”)—and perjury, that is, lying about a material fact to a judge, which is also a felony crime. Nobody cares about perjury, but everyone should care about kidnapping. You can’t just represent yourself as a child’s parent and lay claim to someone else’s kid and have him delivered to you. If anything happened to a child whom a judge authorized to be taken away by a nonparent/non-guardian, the judge would be vulnerable to criminal prosecution besides civil prosecution, I would think.

      Is this actually the scenario?!:

      Guy: “I used to [date/live with] his mom, so I want a restraining order against her, and I want the boy.”

      Judge: “Here you go. He’s all yours.”

      If this guy has no legal entitlement to your stepson other than a restraining order issued by a judge who didn’t even check his credentials or confirm paternity, call the state attorney general’s office, FBI, and/or your local city/county attorney’s/prosecutor’s office. Again, unless I’m missing something, priority one should be getting this boy home safely.

      Also, call and talk to some lawyers, Sean (look under ATTORNEY in the phonebook). There’s no charge for a phone consultation. If your stepson has been (in effect) kidnapped, start the conversation off by saying, “My stepson has been kidnapped. He’s in the custody of my wife’s ex-boyfriend who petitioned a false restraining order against her and falsely identified himself as the boy’s father. We’ve been told we can’t do anything about it, and we’re going out of our minds.” You might find someone (maybe a personal injury lawyer) who would sue the city/county for a percentage of the potential award (30%). If you’re saying federal marshals (?) removed the boy from school, then you could sue the U.S. government conceivably. Depending on what a lawyer says, consider calling a local news station, too.

      Don’t expect court staff or police officers to know the law. I don’t think they’d steer you wrong intentionally, but their information is limited. They’ve been conditioned like everyone else to say, hey, if that’s what it says, that’s what we go by. And they’ve been conditioned to regard restraining order defendants with suspicion or even contempt. You need to get some other authorities involved.

      I have a very hard time believing judges can legally award custody of children to nonparents/non-guardians (essentially strangers) based on a five-minute restraining order interview.

      Do you know if the boy’s okay? Do you know where your stepson is?

      Regarding your rights, it would probably depend on whether by “stepfather,” you mean you’re the boy’s de facto dad or you mean you’ve adopted him. If you’re this boy’s legal guardian, I would think your rights are absolute.

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