Things may not have been going well between you and your spouse, and you may have anticipated a long and combative divorce. However, when police arrived to enforce a protective order against you, you were probably shocked and confused.
A protective order may have a profound impact on your life. Judges issue such rulings with justification in cases involving domestic violence. Unfortunately, the nature of protective orders allows people to abuse and misuse them.
What evidence did my spouse use against me?
A protective order can be a vital measure of safety if a person's life or wellbeing is in danger because of a spouse or partner's violent history or tendencies. To prevent such a partner from causing harm, courts issue the orders secretly, and police enforce them quickly before the abuser has an opportunity to retaliate.
Additionally, protective orders are relatively easy to get. Because of the potential tragedy that might occur if the court refuses to issue the order, the judge in your case may have required very little convincing, even if the following circumstances existed:
- You did not physically harm your spouse.
- You did not threaten violence.
- You have no previous history of violence.
- You do not own a weapon and made no efforts to purchase one.
Your spouse may simply have expressed to the court that she felt threatened or that she was afraid you might turn violent. Receiving the benefit of the doubt is vital for a woman who is truly endangered, but it also allows others to take advantage of the court.
The consequences you face after the court grants a protective order
Courts issue protective orders ex parte, which means no one notified you that such a hearing was underway. The first inkling may have been the moment police arrived at the door and told you to leave your home immediately.
This means there was no time to pack your belongings, including financial papers, personal property and any evidence that you could use for your defense. The order may also have forced you to leave behind items you need for your job, such as computers or files. Since the protective order denies you any contact with your spouse or proximity to your home, you may have no recourse to obtain those vital items.
What can you do now?
Courts in Washington and across the country issue close to three million protective orders each year to safeguard many people who are legitimately in danger. However, if your spouse is unfairly keeping you from your home, children and livelihood, you may have a limited amount of time to defend yourself.
You will get a chance to tell your side of the story, but when the hearing finally takes place, the burden falls on you to prove your innocence rather than on your partner to prove your guilt. The first step you might take is to contact an attorney so you can begin to build your defense.
The consequences of a protective order and the implication of domestic violence that accompanies it could potentially damage the life you have worked hard to build. Having an advocate with years of defense experience can make a difference in the ultimate outcome of your situation.