Massachusetts Family Law Blog

What To Do If a Restraining Order is Filed Against You

If you have been served with notice that a restraining order or abuse prevention order has been filed against you, often the court has issued a temporary order on an emergency basis, and the notice you received is for a hearing to extend the restraining order for a full year. Although the issuance of a restraining order is civil in nature, violation of a restraining order is a criminal offense that can result in jail time. An experienced restraining order attorney can stop this momentum by presenting your case in court with the benefit of every advantage available to you under the law.

As the restraining order extension hearing is usually scheduled for very shortly after the issuance of the temporary order, it is critical to contact an attorney immediately to secure representation and allow your attorney time to prepare your case.

You should not try to defend yourself at a restraining order hearing without an attorney knowledgeable about restraining order law. In many cases, the plaintiff’s reasons for filing for a restraining order do not meet the required statutory grounds. Plaintiffs often file restraining orders under pressure from family and friends, because they’ve heard about restraining orders on TV or in the news, or to gain an advantage in divorce proceedings. Having an experienced restraining order attorney cross-examine the plaintiff to elicit the shortcomings in his or her case can be the difference between the judge allowing the temporary restraining order to expire, or issuing a permanent order for a full year. And if the plaintiff has filed for the restraining order for improper reasons, often he or she will not hesitate to falsely accuse you of violating the restraining order, subjecting you to the possibility of imprisonment.

It is also important to be represented by an attorney so that you do not need to speak to the judge or the plaintiff yourself. This avoids the risk that you could unknowingly say something that will make the judge more likely to issue the restraining order, and that your participation in the proceedings may cause the plaintiff to become upset and seem more sympathetic. Your attorney will be able to speak on your behalf, relay your side of the story to the judge, and manage the plaintiff’s portrayal of what happened.

As a family law and criminal defense attorney and former criminal prosecutor, I have extensive experience conducting restraining order hearings. The fact that someone you know has filed for a restraining order against you does not mean that the judge will extend the temporary order after you appear in court to defend against the plaintiff’s accusations. The consequences of a permanent restraining order are severe, as it will appear on your criminal record, can be used as evidence against you in probate court matters such as child custody determinations, and the violation of a restraining order can result in imprisonment. Do not miss the opportunity to prevent the legal repercussions from escalating. Contact an experienced restraining order attorney who will protect your rights.

What Will Happen In My Family Law Case?

Many of my family law clients quite understandably ask whether they will “win” or “lose” their case. Fortunately, family law cases are different than lawsuits. The court’s objective is to approve a plan that accounts for the interests of each family member. Where ongoing family relationships are involved, often the better question is how closely the court-approved agreement or court order will resemble what you ideally would like to happen.

Getting answers to the following questions are essential for an effective attorney-client relationship:

1.     How realistic are your expectations for the outcome? I explain the legal standards the court will apply in evaluating my clients’ case and how the facts of their case can support their position. Often, the points that will help you the most in court are not the ones you expect. Developing a plan for presenting your case and explaining the range of possible outcomes are crucial aspects of attorney-client communication.

2.     What evidence can corroborate your position? Family court judges hear disputes between family members all day, every day. They don’t know the individuals involved, so evidence supporting what you say makes a huge difference. I advise my clients as to what evidence to gather, such as emails and other correspondence, financial documents, police reports, and phone records.

3.     What resources would you like to employ in the investigation and preparation of your case? An investigator or expert witness may be able to add valuable evidence and testimony to your case.  While this will come at additional expense, the time and effort expended in family law cases is an investment in your future. Once the issue has been litigated, often the court requires evidence of a “change in the circumstances” to reconsider previous decisions.
Zealous legal representation and cooperation between you and your attorney should happen from your first meeting. Attorney-client communication is critical to setting expectations for the course of the case, which will guide the investigation, preparation, and presentation of your case in court.


Co-Parenting for the Holidays: Get it in Email

It’s the week before Christmas, and you have booked your children’s flight to Colorado to meet you for a ski trip. The only problem? You find out the day before the flight that your children will not be waking up in their other parent’s home in Boston on Christmas morning, but at their grandparents’ home in Florida.

Such scenarios are all too common, whether due to purposeful subterfuge by your child’s other parent or mere miscommunication. While co-parenting can be at its most difficult during the holidays, there are steps you can take to keep planning on track.

  1. Get it in email. Never has “getting it in writing” been more natural. Confirming plans via email serves multiple purposes: it allows both parents to look up the information as a reminder, prevents misunderstandings, and if necessary can be provided to the court to show your efforts to cooperate with your child’s other parent.

  3. Set polite deadlines. (By email, as per point 1.) “I plan to book flights by December 9th, can you let me know where you will be spending the holiday with the kids by then?” Propose a reasonable amount of time, leave buffer room for an extension, and give the other parent an opportunity to present an alternative confirmation date. Send a reminder email a few days before your requested deadline. If you are still left hanging, you will at least have a paper trail to provide to the court if you seek judicial intervention.

  5. Remember that you can only control you. You cannot make your child’s other parent cooperate or value your holiday plans. Instead of expecting change, revel in your independence and take steps to prevent his or her inconsideration from ruining your holidays.

Post-divorce holidays may not always be easy, but by setting boundaries, you have the best possibility of harmony not only for the holidays but going forward as co-parents.