Domestic violence (DV) is a serious charge that carries serious consequences. If you’re a victim of domestic violence, a domestic violence restraining order (DVRO) can help you escape abusive situation and prevent further abuse in the future. If you’re on the other end of a domestic violence allegation, you are well advised to seek the help of an attorney because you may be in very serious trouble—especially if those allegations are backed by facts and evidence.
It should be noted that domestic violence extends beyond physical acts. Domestic violence encompasses harassment, stalking, threats of violence, punching walls, destroying property, and other forms of disturbing someone’s peace. All are very serious allegations that should not be pursued frivolously. However, in emotionally heated situations like a divorce or separation, and due to the many serious effects of a restraining order, vindictive individuals are compelled to try and take advantage of systems designed to protect those who are vulnerable.
Consequences of a DVRO
Consequences of DV are not to be taken lightly. A domestic violence charge hinders getting any custody and visitation with children. Victims of domestic violence have enhanced ability to get spousal support. A DV charge may affect your Second Amendment rights up to 10 years. Someone with a domestic violence charge may be required to attend a 52-week anger management course and parenting classes. In addition, you may have a Department of Justice notation together with diminished employment opportunities.
Defending Yourself Against DV Allegations
Because the effects of domestic violence restraining order are so severe, too often parties drum up false accusations of domestic violence in an attempt to gain leverage in a divorce or separation.
If you have been falsely accused of domestic violence, immediately stop having contact with your accuser. Do not destroy any potential evidence, and start gathering evidence that supports your innocence. Never talk to police without an attorney present, and seek out competent counsel to defend you in family court and/or criminal court.
Every case is different, but broadly speaking, there are a few different ways to defend against false accusations of domestic violence.
- Lack of willful intent, or showing that harm to the other person was not intentional, but rather accidental.
- Lack of evidence, or showing that abuse never occurred.
- Show that it’s not a relationship that qualifies for protection under domestic violence laws.
- Show that the incident was an act of self-defense.
What Are Temporary Restraining Orders?
An initial step in establishing a domestic violence restraining order is to pursue a temporary restraining order (TRO) in the courts. To obtain a TRO, a person claiming abuse files forms at a county courthouse showing that domestic violence is taking place. A judicial officer reviews the claim, and decides whether there is sufficient reason to believe domestic violence is occurring. At that time, a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) may be issued, which goes into effect once it is served on the party accused of domestic violence.
A TRO establishes rules prohibiting contact until an evidentiary hearing before a family court judicial officer, which usually occurs three weeks after issuance of the TRO. If you have a TRO served on you, you may be:
- Ordered to leave a residence share with your accuser
- Ordered give up custody and visitation with any children you have with your accuser
- Ordered to pay spousal and child support immediately
- Prohibited from possessing firearms and ammunition
Until the court hears your side of the story at a DVRO hearing and decides differently, the temporary DVRO remains in place. Courts typically schedule a DVRO hearing three weeks after issuance of the TRO.
Conducting Yourself at a DVRO Hearing
If you have received a TRO, you will have a chance to respond to the accusations in a DVRO hearing. Depending on the nature of the accusation, and the judicial officers presiding over the case, you may be asked to submit a written response to the court, and/or verbally testify on your behalf.
When giving testimony in court, it is imperative to conduct yourself in a professional manner and follow these basic best practices.
- Never, under any circumstances, lose your temper. Always keep a cool demeanor even if the opposing party tries to provoke a response from you.
- Speak only to the question asked of you, and never offer any background narrative you might think is important. It is likely unimportant to the court, or it will lessen your credibility.
- Do not make negative or nasty comments directed at the other side. Keep your demeanor polite and business-like.
How Does an Attorney Help You?
If you have been served a temporary restraining order, working with a competent attorney will take several actions that help you case immensely. Attorneys know how to prepare a response to a TRO in a manner that discredits false accusations of domestic violence. They are familiar with how judicial officials operate in the courts, what their concerns are, and how to collect and present evidence in line with those concerns. Having a competent attorney on your side will level the playing field for you and will afford you the opportunity to know that everything possible has been done to defend your rights.
About the Author
William A. Hinz has over 35 years if experience practicing law in California. He has specialized expertise in areas where family law and criminal law intersect, such as incidences of Domestic Violence and Contempt of Court.