Abuse, Domestic Violence, and Restraining Orders

1. "What is 'abuse' and 'domestic violence'"?

Domestic violence and abuse are actions taken against a spouse, a person you have lived with or are in a romantic relationship with, and can include:  Hitting, pushing, throwing objects at the person, destroying their personal property, threatening to harm them, harassing them, including making repeated phone calls, emails and/or texts, stalking, molesting, attacking, striking, sexually assaulting, and battering the other person.

“Threats” can include disturbing, repeated messages, texts or emails, including when those threats are made by a person who is intoxicated or delusional, and even if a physical threat is not actually carried out.  It can also be preventing a person from leaving the house, such as holding them, blocking them from accessing a door, or grabbing and keeping their car keys from them.

Physical injury is not required.  However, not every altercation or argument between two people rises to the level of abuse or domestic violence.  Conduct that amounts to “badgering” with no actual or threatened violence or sexual assault and that does not place a person in reasonable apprehension of imminent serious bodily injury to that person or other is not “abuse.”

Even if violence and abuse is directed at the other parent, not the children directly, the children are adversely affected by having to witness the abuse.

2. "What should I do if I have been the victim of abuse or domestic violence?"

Don’t delay in reporting the abuse to the police or seeking legal help to get a Restraining Order because delay may be misinterpreted to mean that you were not actually in fear of your abuser or your credibility or motives might be questioned.  Victims of abuse may feel scared or even embarrassed to report the abuse and may hesitate to talk about all the incidents they been subjected to.  A combination of counseling and legal help can help break the cycle.

Jackie can help you get a Restraining Order on an expedited, emergency basis and take care of all aspects of the case, including giving notice to the abuser, getting them served, and representing you in court.  She can help you get orders protecting your children, pets, and home.

3. "What should I do if I have been accused of domestic violence?"

It is clearly tragic when a family has been impacted by domestic violence.  On the other hand, it also tragic when false allegations are made of domestic violence in order to gain an advantage in a custody case, used to punish the other person, or to claim “victim” status by a non-citizen as a potential pathway to citizenship.

A restraining order can stay in effect for up to five years.  If you don’t show up for your hearing, it is more likely than not that a Temporary Restraining Order will be converted to a permanent Restraining Order and remain in effect for a long period of time.

A restraining order is a matter of public record can impact your life in many ways.  A finding of domestic violence against you triggers a legal presumption that you cannot share custody of the children with the other parent and you may only get supervised visitation with your children.  You can be ordered to complete a 52-week anger management course.  If you are not a U.S. citizen you could be deported.

Don’t try to represent yourself if you have been accused of domestic violence.  Hire an attorney.   Jackie has handled numerous domestic violence cases and can help you prepare your case to achieve the best possible result.  She can also guide you and help negotiate “stay-away” agreements when appropriate to help keep the peace between you and your former spouse or significant other, but which are not as severe as a Restraining Order and don’t require having to go to trial.