You think that your divorce is trudging along like most normal divorces and then, suddenly, you find yourself served with papers telling you that your spouse and children are under an order of protection — from you.
As unbelievable as it sounds, unsubstantiated orders of protection are a divorce’s super-weapon. When neither spouse wants to leave the family home (and potentially weaken their property rights or custody rights as a result), one spouse may take the initiative to obtain an order of protection to force the other spouse out. There are even websites that encourage this kind of behavior in order for one spouse to get “an edge” on the other.
It doesn’t have to be that way. You can make a temporary custody agreement and agreements about the property that will allow one of you to leave the home without legal risk. If the situation is really intolerable (but not actually abusive), your spouse can seek an order from the court giving him or her exclusive possession of the home.
Unfortunately, some spouses don’t want to take that route. Instead, they will claim that they were harassed, verbally abused and threatened by the other spouse to get an order of protection that will automatically:
- Force you to move out of the home, abandoning all of your personal possessions until you’re permitted by the court to retrieve them
- Eliminate any contact between you and your spouse and (probably) your children until a custody hearing has been held
- Require you to stay away from your children’s school and your spouse’s place of work
- Penalize you for any attempts at negotiation or contact with your spouse
Finally, an order of protection will force you to divert your precious time, attention and legal resources away from your divorce and toward fighting the protective order. If you know that the order of protection against you is baseless, make certain that your attorney knows that you believe that your spouse is trying to strategically harm your reputation and damage your credibility with the court so that you can plan an effective defense strategy.