If your spouse has been physically abusive or threatening to you in the immediate past, you may qualify for a Temporary Restraining Order. The general standard for such a restraining order is that the person against whom it is granted must be a relative of yours by blood or by marriage, or someone with whom you have lived. That person must have put you in a position where you are under a present threat of physical abuse. That means that if your spouse abused you 2 years ago, and in some cases 2 months ago, you will not qualify. You do not need to have bruises, black eyes, or broken bones in order to qualify. Threats such as “I will burn down the house before I give it to you”, menacing actions with handguns, pushing, shoving, and physical restraint may all qualify as abuse sufficient for a restraining order. You need not have the police involved in most cases in order to qualify. Click here for more information.
Most courts have set up the process so that you can apply for and obtain a Temporary Restraining Order without hiring an attorney. You can hire an attorney to help you obtain such an order, but it isn’t necessary. The procedure includes filling out appropriate forms, available at the Court Clerk’s office. You then tell a judge a brief explanation of the history of abuse and why you are afraid at the present time. The order goes into effect immediately. The order forbids your spouse from coming near you, into your home, or into your place of work, calling to harass you by telephone, placing any physical restraint on you, or assaulting you. Even coming near you is a violation of the restraining order, and your spouse could be arrested for doing so.
Thus, you may wish to obtain a TRO before the divorce papers are served, in order to protect yourself. For many, seeking a restraining order will be the last step towards a divorce after many episodes of abuse or threats, or both.
A follow-up hearing is then scheduled within a few days or weeks to give the person against whom you have the order a chance to tell his or her side of the story. If the restraining order is continued after the hearing, it usually stays in effect for several months, depending upon your state’s laws. These orders provide special relief for special circumstances, and should not be used in- appropriately in an effort to simply have your (non-abusive) spouse removed from the family home. Click here for another article on temporary restraining orders.
Excerpted from Your Divorce Advisor: A Lawyer and a Psychologist Guide You Through the Legal and Emotional Landscape of Divorce (Simon & Schuster/Fireside 2001). For more information: http://www.yourdivorceadvisor.com/.
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