If you've just been served with a family protective order, you may be feeling a variety of emotions -- anger, frustration and grief among them. However, the biggest thing you may be experiencing is a profound sense of confusion, particularly if you don't think you did anything to justify the order.
So, what happens next? Here's what you can do:
1. Read your order carefully.
The order will spell out the limitations you are under in explicit detail. It's important that you understand them and don't take any further action until you do. A number of people have gotten themselves into deeper trouble by immediately picking the phone up and calling their spouse or partner and demanding information. Don't make that mistake.
2. Take steps to protect yourself from further accusations.
Let family and friends know that you are prohibited from contacting your spouse or partner -- even through third-parties. Make sure that no one from your circle of family and friends tries to reach out on your behalf. Their well-meaning attempts could backfire on you.
3. Turn over any weapons, if you have them.
You're required to turn over any firearms that you possess during this time period. Take them to the police station and turn them over, as required. You'll receive a receipt and you will be able to reclaim them when this is over.
4. Change your passwords and other account information.
It's not unheard of for a vindictive spouse or partner to "manufacture" evidence of threats via social media or email. While you might be able to prove that you weren't the author of those threatening emails or abusive social media posts, it's far better to avoid the issue. Change all your passwords to your social media accounts, get a new email and make sure that you "disconnect" electronically in all possible ways from your partner or spouse.
A family law attorney can help you contest the order that keeps you from spending time with your children during this time. It shows the judge that you are an involved parent when you take a legal stand to defend your right to unfettered access with your kids.
Above all, don't panic. Many judges take unfounded claims of domestic violence -- especially if you're going through a divorce -- with a big grain of salt. Find out more about your legal rights today.