Let’s start with taking some steps to attempt to prevent you from being slapped with a restraining order in the first place. It is virtually impossible to avoid one given the broad definitions of what constitutes abuse and the swiftness with which obtaining a restraining order can be completed. Still, we can offer suggestions that may help in avoiding being on the receiving end of one in the first place.
If you’re here, you’re likely in a high-conflict divorce and custody situation. Still, it bears mentioning: whenever you put your access to your children, property, and assets in front of an authority in the system, you are vulnerable to being treated in a biased way (particularly men/fathers). You’re essentially putting many of your freedoms in the hands of someone else. It’s advantageous to avoid “the system” whenever possible. Try to resolve disputes through negotiation, mediation, or collaborative divorce process. If you’re way past that point, let’s move on.
- Always be on guard. Always be cognizant of how any given situation can quickly get out of hand. Anything you do or say can be turned into something sinister by a potential accuser.
- Have a plan/goals. We’re here to try to help you plan your custody goals and be able to do so as quickly and at a manageable cost. Know what you want with regard to the custody of the children. Plan for “the most favorable outcome” with “the most realistic outcome” in mind. The point being, if you have a plan in mind with goal – there is no need to engage in arguments about the children and custody. That matter will be settled in court.
- Be an involved parent. Read some of the tips and recommendations on our Communicating with a Custody Evaluator page. The more you are able to demonstrate to the public that you are not a violent, abusive individual, the less likely the court will be able to be convinced of it.
- Remove yourself. If only temporarily, from a situation that you see potentially escalating. If you’re not on site when your potential accuser is getting out of control, the less likely you’ll be tied to a domestic violence situation.
- Always stay in control. You must always keep your wits about you and stay in control. Contributing to escalating screaming matches, verbalizing threats (no matter the justification), gesturing wildly: all can be eye- or ear-witnessed. Remain calm. Stifle negative emotions until you can find a safe, private outlet. Remove yourself to a safe place. If it’s bad enough – call the police and file a report.
- No physical confrontations!
- Don’t be tempted or “baited” into poor decisions! “S/he made me do it” won’t help your defense!
- Leave no documented evidence of anything. No angry letters. No angry voice mails. No angry videotapes. Nothing.
MOST IMPORTANTLY – If your potential accuser has been physically violent with you, please do remove yourself from the situation and then call police. While this can be scary for men due to the previously discussed biases, you must make the reports. You must file a restraining order. A failure to do so can have devastating consequences such as when you have a real need to defend yourself and you cause damage. Call the police every time and file a restraining order if you’ve been violently attacked. The life you save may be your own.
Keep in mind that are those out there who would suggest that you not call the police unless they still have the weapon in their hand and you have suffered visible damage. It’s a tough tightrope to walk, but we prefer to suggest that you not wait until it reaches that point necessarily. No, it’s probably inadvisable to call the police due to a simple argument. An actual attack should have taken place. A serious threat with a weapon should have taken place. The police won’t do anything to anyone (typically) without some signs of an altercation.
Yes, many men have called 911 for help and have been arrested for DV. Yes, sometimes, even if she has assaulted you, by the time the police arrive she can create a fictional story that you are the real abuser, and she was only defending herself.
Yes, sometimes, even if the police actually do arrest her, the prosecutor may decline to charge her. Yes, and sometimes she’ll become so angry as a result of what has happened that her next stop becomes the DV advocate at the district courthouse or local woman’s shelter to file for a protection order against you.
Still, we read too many stories about men who are killed at the hands of their abusers and they never took the chance to defend themselves with help. As difficult and as risky as this may seem to you – we still choose to err on the side of calling. Further, if more people called for help, especially men, the tide may actually turn towards the equality that many reputable studies have demonstrated: domestic violence is initiated as much by women and by men. Men also suffer 1/3 of all reported major injuries due to domestic violence perpetrated by women.
Some day, calls for help will be treated seriously and equally and the only way that is going to happen is if we all call when confronted with domestic violence.
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