An order of protection is a vital tool for safety and security of vulnerable individuals. When used correctly, it is intended to ensure violent or abusive people are unable to contact or be in the same vicinity as their victims. As such, it’s understandable that orders of protection are a common feature of divorce and custody cases in which domestic violence or abuse is involved. Nevertheless, this isn’t to say that orders of protection are always issued fairly, correctly, or for the right reasons.
You may find that your ex, in an attempt to gain an advantage in your family court case, makes false accusations to get an order of protection taken out against you. It may even be the case that an order is successful based on outdated information. Whatever the circumstances may be, this is a situation that can seriously impact the outcome of your custody or divorce proceedings. Given that Florida courts are renowned for favoring women in family law cases, it’s vital that you work with an experienced divorce or custody attorney to overturn this action.
Let’s take a look at how to beat an order of protection. What do you need to know and how can you best prepare?
Review the Initial Order
The bad news is that in most cases, you don’t have much of a say in whether an initial order of protection is issued against you. Your ex or another third party — known as the petitioner — will file a petition for an order with the court. This usually includes detailed personal information about you (including any aliases and the place you work), a description of the alleged actions you’ve committed against the petitioner, and any relevant evidence. A judge will then review this and make a decision about whether a 14-day temporary restraining order is appropriate or if they’re satisfied enough to issue a full order of protection. In either case, they’ll set a date for a full review hearing to take place, at which point you and your attorney will be able to present your side of the situation.
While it’s unfortunate that you are unlikely to be able to halt this initial order, it’s important to take care to review the full details of the application provided to the courts. Calmly collaborate with your attorney to review any evidence provided alongside the reasons given for the order being issued. The earlier you can do this, the better prepared you will be to present a solid case that will help you overturn the order and minimize any negative impact on your custody or asset division case.
Establish the Reasons to Fight an Order of Protection
An order of protection is designed to limit genuine victims from harm. As such, the judge at the review hearing will expect to receive clear reasons for overturning their initial decision. It can’t just be that having a restraining order on your record will affect the outcome of your custody hearing or your future career prospects. You and your attorney have to establish solid reasoning that an order of protection is unjust or inappropriate to the circumstances. The most common reasons to contest include:
THE FACTS ARE INCORRECT. Put simply, your former spouse has lied about the circumstances or exaggerated the severity of the events. This can be made more difficult if your ex has conspired with or duped friends or family to act as “witnesses” to the events. In either case, it will be the task of you and your lawyer to directly disprove the falsehoods or perhaps demonstrate a historical pattern of your ex’s deceptive behavior. Often, this is a matter of your ex’s word against yours and you need to demonstrate your good character and credibility.
THE DETAILS ARE OUTDATED. In some cases, the order of protection might be based on past domestic or substance use-related incidents. You may have taken the responsible route of pursuing significant therapy, anger management sessions, or rehabilitation to overcome these issues. However, to manipulate custody or divorce proceedings in her favor, your ex might seek an order of protection for behavior that no longer reflects your current circumstances. In this instance, you and your attorney will be seeking to show the court that the evidence is outdated and no longer appropriate to the circumstances.
AN ORDER IS EXCESSIVE. While an incident may have occurred, there are some instances in which an order of protection could be deemed excessive. This is particularly the case for misdemeanors or other minor infractions. However, it’s important to consult with your attorney on this, as what may seem insignificant to you may not be so for your ex or the courts. In addition, this circumstance requires your attorney to assert that the judge was incorrect in their initial assessment. Therefore, it’s important not to pursue this line alone unless your attorney is confident that you have evidence to support this.
Gather Sufficient Supporting Evidence
An order of protection is a serious matter, with a lot riding on the outcome. While it’s always expected that the court won’t issue one without due cause, it’s also wise to make sure you and your attorney present the strongest case possible. This will include your personal statement offering your side of the story. However, in most cases, you also need to gather an effective collection of high-quality evidence. This could include:
POLICE OR EMERGENCY SERVICES RECORDS. Police records may be a good source of evidence in your favor. These documents should be an impartial account of the circumstances surrounding an event in which the police have intervened. It may be the case that the police considered there to be no evidence upon which charges could be filed in a domestic dispute. If your ex has a history of making false accusations, multiple records of callouts in which there was no sign of dispute can help support your credibility here. It may even be the case that you provide your own medical or mental health records to show that your ex was abusive toward you at points during your marriage.
EXPERT WITNESSES. In some cases, expert witnesses may be required to support your arguments. This witness may provide a generalized testimony based on their expertise, explaining to the court why a person lies about abuse during divorce proceedings and how the tactics someone might use tally with your own circumstances. An expert could also provide case-specific testimony that highlights inconsistencies between your behavior and your ex’s account or even present your former spouse’s other signs of manipulative behavior throughout your relationship. Your attorney will usually have a network of expert witnesses for these types of cases.
OTHER TESTIMONY. It could be effective for friends, family, or neighbors to be called to offer testimony in your favor. This may be in the form of supporting your good character. They may be able to provide alibis to disprove your ex’s account of events. Some witnesses could offer testimony on your ex’s general behavior that calls into question their credibility on events.
SUPPORTING DOCUMENTATION. Solid independent documentation can be a powerful form of evidence to beat an order of protection. This could include photographs (especially digital photos with time-stamped metadata) that prove your whereabouts at times your ex falsely claims you were acting abusively toward them. Text screenshots, emails, social media posts, and phone records can also be effective evidence. These don’t necessarily have to be directly related to the accusations. They can also highlight how your ex’s depiction of your relationship is inaccurate or that they have a history of deceptive or manipulative behavior.
Call The Family Law Attorneys Men Trust (813) 652-0598
In Law We Trust Divorce and Family Lawyers is a premier firm of divorce lawyers representing men in family law proceedings. We understand how orders of protection can be used to dishonestly influence court cases. Our knowledge and skills help to guide our clients through the challenges of the Florida legal system and reach a fair outcome. Call us today and get the proper representation men need and deserve.