Few weapons in the dirty divorce and custody fight arsenal have as swift and devastating an initial impact on a target that the restraining order (a.k.a. RO, protective order or PO, temporary protective order or TPO, temporary restraining order or TRO). You’ve read several places throughout this website and our blog that “temporary orders have an uncanny way of becoming permanent orders” which makes them very handy when you’re trying to separate children from the target parent.
Restraining order abuse is rampant in the United States as a result of their immediate and substantial impact on the falsely-accused.
One of the single most glaring examples of how easy it is to obtain restraining orders against anyone without any supporting objective evidence of an actual threat would include:
- The David Letterman restraining order. Colleen Nestler alleged that the Late Show host had forced her to go bankrupt and caused her “mental cruelty” and “sleep deprivation” since first sending her secret messages through her television set in May 1994. Nestler asked the court to require Letterman to keep a distance of at least three yards and to “release me from his mental harassment and hammering.” The restraining order was granted!
What is a restraining order? It is a court order that instructs a person to cease and avoid certain behavior(s). For example, a person may obtain a restraining order against his or her spouse in an effort to put an end to domestic violence. A restraining order may be granted not only to prevent physical or sexual abuse, but also to prevent verbal abuse, stalking, and other threatening behaviors. Too often, domestic violence need not even have occurred or been threatened and the restraining order will be granted, often at an ex-parte hearing where the accused has no knowledge of the accusations nor ability to defend themselves.
In an alleged domestic violence situation, a restraining order will likely forbid the accused from being within a certain physical distance of the alleged victim. It may also prohibit phone calls, written communication, and other types of contact. In the event that the defendant violates the restraining order by contacting, harassing, or appearing within a certain distance of the victim, the accused could face imprisonment and/or fines.
Truth be told, restraining orders fail to protect anyone from anything. Why? Someone has to violate the restraining order in order for anything to be done about it. That can have tragic consequences for victims who are truly fearful of an actual threat. If someone wants to hurt or kill someone, you cannot defend yourself against a determined attacker with the paper that the restraining order is printed on.
The falsely-accused isn’t that person, which is why they are used so frequently as the tool to get a parent, usually the father, out of the house, out of the kids lives, separating him from family, home, and assets. That person isn’t really a threat to the false-accuser, but the actions of the court make quick work of putting distance between a parent and the family, setting the table for making that separation permanent.
We, as a society must accept that there is gender bias within the system. While our family laws are generally written in a gender-neutral way, they are often carried out by people in a system that has been rife with gender-biased stereotypes and outright lies about men and women. Police, prosecutors, judges, social workers, psychologists, parenting evaluators, counselors, guardians ad litem, and all of those “authorities” who operate within the system have been indoctrinated with propaganda by certain women’s and victim advocacy groups that men commit 95 per cent of all domestic violence. Whether people want to admit it or not, it is simply the reality of the situation. Men are considered:
- More likely to abuse their children.
- Don’t care about children as much as mothers.
- Cannot parent as well as mothers.
- Are predisposed to violence.
- Live to control and dominate women.
It’s no wonder that women file approximately 85% of all restraining orders issued. We know people with vast experience in the legal system and the family court system who, albeit hesitantly, will admit these realities about the anti-father bias within the family and divorce court system. They’ll tell you that not everyone is biased, but it is the norm for most players in the system.
Having said that, women – do not make the mistake of believing that you are immune from the same types of dirty tactics! Although you are statistically far less likely to suffer from the use and abuse of false-allegations and restraining orders – it can and does happen!
Exacerbating the problems associated with false-allegations and restraining order abuse is the ever-expanding definition of what constitutes “abuse.” Further, when it comes to restraining orders, it’s one of the few situations where the accused is “guilty until proven innocent.”
The definition of what is “abuse” has now been expanded to include almost anything that the accuser describes it to be (assault, harassment, stalking). Some examples taken from various state’s DV-related statutes:
- To place a person in reasonable apprehension of imminent serious bodily injury to that person or another. (CA)
- Placing another in reasonable fear of serious bodily injury. (PA)
- “Extreme psychological abuse” means an intentional or knowing course of conduct directed at an individual that seriously alarms or disturbs consistently or continually bothers the individual, and that serves no legitimate purpose; provided that such course of conduct would cause a reasonable person to suffer extreme emotional distress. (HI)
- “Harassment” means conduct directed toward a victim that includes, but is not limited to, repeated or continuing unconsented contact that would cause a reasonable individual to suffer emotional distress and that actually causes the victim to suffer emotional distress. (MI)
- “Harassment” means a knowing and willful course or pattern of conduct by a family or household member or an individual who is or has been involved in a dating relationship with the person, directed at a specific person which seriously alarms or annoys the person, and which serves no legitimate purpose. (OK)
- (Stalking) “significant mental suffering or distress that may, but does not necessarily, require medical or other professional treatment or counseling.” (MI)
These are just a few examples where the accused doesn’t actually have to have committed anything against the accuser. How does one defend against an accuser’s “fear?” If I stand 6’4″ and weigh 240-pounds and my soon-to-be ex-wife is 5’0″ and weighs 100-pounds and she intends to file for full custody of our children, wouldn’t she potentially fear my reaction for no other reason than because she’s trying to separate me from the children?
In the Oklahoma example, how many of us reading this page would be subjected to a restraining order on the basis of being “annoying” to our spouses (and vice-versa)!
It’s not enough to question here how one defends themselves against such broadly subjective definitions designed to make it very easy for courts to impose a restraining order (up to 3-million per year, over half of which don’t even include an allegation of violence), but how does one prove they have “fear” or are “annoyed?” The truth is, they don’t have to, which is why restraining order abuse is such a problem.