Restraining Orders - How They REALLY Work
Restraining orders are often used for ulterior motives, such as throwing out a boyfriend, revenge, ending a marriage, or out of spite. Why? Because they can, and courts enable it.
Scenario Number One - Has This Happened to You?
Meet Joe. He has a wife and two kids. Joe and his wife Mary have been going through a bad time in their marriage, and they have been arguing, sometimes loudly. He loves his wife, but he can't understand how things have gotten so messed up. Neither of them know what to do to fix things between them. Mary is really sick of the hassles too, and her girlfriends have been urging her to get a restraining order against Joe under Chapter 209A. They tell her that all she has to do is go down to the District Court, fill out a few forms, claim she is afraid of Joe, and tell the judge that she is afraid, too. Then the judge will issue a restraining order, which will throw him out of the house for a while, and give her some breathing room, some space. So the next day, Mary goes down to the District Court, and talks to the victim-witness advocate there, who sympathizes with her “oppression” by her “abusive” husband, and helps her write up the paperwork to get a restraining order. She writes and signs an affidavit, which is a statement under oath, attesting to the fact that she is afraid of abuse, and “just doesn’t know what he may do.” That should be good enough to get an order”, said the victim advocate. Despite some misgivings, Mary then goes in front of the judge, (without Joe there) and
tells him that she is afraid of Joe. In a New York minute, she is the proud owner of a new restraining order, requiring him to get out of his house, and giving her custody of their two children. The local police bring the order to Joe after he gets home from work, who is completely taken by surprise. He can't believe that Mary did this without any warning. Once of the police officers, who knows Joe, apologized and told him this happens all the time, and he understands that Joe isn’t an abuser. But, he still has to do his job.
The officer could give Joe only a few minutes to gather some bare necessities, before taking him out of the house: some clothes, his wallet, a picture of his kids. They then escorted Joe from his house, took his guns and gun license, and set him on his way, stunned and in shock. His crying kids' little fingers had to be pried off of his legs as the police pushed him out the front door, with Mary hiding upstairs. "I'll keep the order on long enough just to teach him a lesson", thought Mary, and then I'll drop it. Side one of the Iron Triangle was now in place. Neither Joe nor Mary expected what came next. The Police notified the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF) that a restraining order was issued. That is the state agency which investigates child abuse. A week later, as Mary came back from court where she had dropped the restraining order, a social worker from DCF demanded to be let into Mary's house, and issued a command that she get the restraining order renewed, or the agency would take her children from her! “Choose between your husband or your children”, she told her. “Having Joe here puts your children at risk. If you let him into the house, or even let him see the children secretly, we will charge you with neglect, and go to court to get an order to take your children.” The DCF social worker opened a case, and told Mary that she would be monitoring her progress often, and visiting her home. Side two of the Iron Triangle was now in place. Outraged, but terrified of the threat by the social worker to take her children, Mary gave in, and got the restraining order again. Now, she was in trouble, because she had no money to pay the mortgage or buy food, and she could not speak with her husband, since the order prohibited all contact of any sort. The social worker told her to go get Transitional Assistance benefits, food stamps, housing assistance, and MassHealth, along with therapy for the children, since they were exposed to ‘abuse'. Once therapy, the children were coerced into making “disclosures”, saying that their Daddy was abusive, and that he made them afraid. The social worker referred the case to the local district attorney to investigate whether Joe had criminally assaulted his children. The social worker now demanded that Mary file for divorce, since there was no question that she and the children were victims of abuse. The social worker had never spoken to Joe, but was certain he was just like all the other abusers which she had met. Divorce was the only answer for Mary, since to go back to the abuser would mean the children would be taken into custody by the state and put into a foster home. The social worker hooked Mary up with a legal assistance outfit that gave free legal representation to abused women getting divorces. When Mary met with the woman lawyer, the lawyer told her she should get custody, child support, a permanent restraining order, and stay in the house. Mary reluctantly agreed to file for divorce with the help of her new lawyer. Now the third side of the Iron Triangle was in place. This isn't what Mary bargained for, or even wanted. Joe was now living in his parent’s basement, and was getting increasingly depressed as each new horrible development in his case unfolded. He was being investigated by the DA and the DCF, and was worried about losing his job. After a month of not seeing his children, and having no contact with them, Joe couldn't stand it any more and decided to call them at his home. This was illegal, since the 209A law does not any contact whatsoever, nor does it allow a visitation order to be issued by the District Court. However, he was hoping his wife would cut him some slack. Mary answered, and wouldn't you know - the DCF social worker was there in her house, and demanded that Mary file a criminal complaint for violation of the order. Dutifully, Mary called the police and reported the contact by Joe with her, and that it violated the restraining order. The social worker smiled an evil grin. The police dispatcher asked her what Joe’s new address was. Later that night, the police raided Joe's dank basement room where he was staying, dragged him out of bed, and threw him in jail, with no clue as to why. No warrant, no explanation, just all scowls and cuffs that were too tight, a lot of banging and bruising, and a hard metal bench in a cell for the night. Mary was appalled. They wouldn't let her post bail, because he was an abuser, and abusers don't get bail. Now, that fourth point in the Iron Triangle was in place, making it a 3-D triangle, and fully entangling Joe in four different problems, all started by the restraining order. This definitely isn't what Mary wanted when she started this process. The next day, Joe was arraigned, still without a clue as to why this was all happening to him. How would he tell his boss? He is going to miss a lot more work, too, with all the court dates in various courts. Will he keep his job? How can he afford a lawyer? Need I go on? It just gets worse and worse. It will be a long time, if ever, that Joe and Mary's family returns to normal. Every person in that family has been harmed in some way by the restraining order law and its political parasites. The law did not prevent abuse - it allowed the law to abuse them. The children became permanently dependant on therapists, drugs, government, and the DCF, and their relationships with their parents were harmed. Joe and Mary’s marriage was wracked with distrust, bitterness, anger, and other emotions. Joe's heart and soul are damaged, maybe forever. The family is broken financially, emotionally, and spiritually.
Scenario Number Two - Even Worse
Now, meet Dudley Doright. He has a wife named Lucretia MacEvil, who is afflicted with borderline personality disorder, and alternates between hating Dudley with seething anger, and begging him to stay. Lucretia has a child by a previous marriage whom Dudley adopted, and whom he treats like his own. Living with Lucretia is erratic, volatile, and emotionally distressing. She must be in control at all times, and woe be unto Dudley if he crosses her. Dudley and Lucretia have also been arguing a lot lately, just like Joe and Mary. And like Mary, Lucretia's girlfriends have been telling her to get a restraining order against Dudley. She also secretly consulted a divorce lawyer, who also told her to get one, because it will give her an advantage in getting custody. However, unlike Mary, Lucretia has a really mean streak, and she thinks that getting a restraining order is a great idea - it will teach him a lesson, and show him who is boss - her. So Lucretia smugly drives down to the court, and does not need any persuasion by the victim-witness advocate there to get a restraining order. She can play the victim just fine, almost on cue, without any prompting. She fills out the paperwork, goes before the judge, and whines about being afraid of Dudley. The judge issues her restraining order, with the beaming victim advocate looking on with pride. Dudley is served at home with order, and escorted out of his house, just like Joe, and with the same bewilderment. "What did I do", he asks? "That will teach you,” she says. “You need help. Now maybe you’ll get some.” Of course, it is Lucretia that needs the help, but the system enables the aggressor if she claims abuse. Now, Lucretia can get public assistance, food stamps, MassHealth, and lots of attention from the maladjusted people affirming her victimhood. She begins to believe their propaganda. This is the life - victimhood is a good career move.
Victimhood is a good career move.
Soon after settling into a dank basement room with his meager possessions at the house of some friends, Dudley begins to get calls from Lucretia, taunting and threatening him. He says nothing, out of fear of the order. Finally, he tells her to stop, or he'll do something about it. Faster than a bureaucrat leaving the government office on a Friday afternoon, the police are there, dragging Dudley into a cruiser, to the same cold metal cell in which Joe had spent some time before him. During his criminal trial for violating the order, his lawyer tells him to plead guilty, and take probation, or it will be worse for him. He takes his lawyer's advice, and now he has a record. Soon, he finds out from friends that Lucretia has moved in with a new boyfriend who is a lot smarter, richer, and better looking than Dudley. The restraining order law was a good way to get him out. What about his adopted son? Who will raise him? In an attempt to fully rid himself of Dudley, the new boyfriend urges Lucretia to call DCF and report child abuse. “What did he do”, asked Lucretia. “Tell him he molested the kid”, said the boyfriend. “Awesome,” said Lucretia, and she called the abuse hotline with a sad, sad story of how the child finally disclosed how Dudley had been abusing him all along. A masterful acting job, she thought. Scared, tired, and lonely, he drives slowly by Lucretia's house, to see if he can catch a glimpse of her. Wouldn't you know, she is looking out the window as he drives by, and locks onto his gaze. Here come the police again, and now Dudley is a two-time loser and convicted abuser, and he will do some time. Lucretia's restraining order comes up for renewal, and, having mastered the art of playing the victim, she tearfully mumbles something to the judge about being afraid, because Dudley has violated the order twice. The judge can't sign it fast enough, and gladly increases the distance Dudley must stay away to 500 yards. If he even gets in the same city block as Lucretia, it's back to the can for a long time. In divorce proceedings a few months later, when Dudley tries to get joint custody of his adopted son, the judge looks at him and says, "Mister, you are an abuser. No way will you ever get custody of this child. You will pay child support, but you can only see him once a month for two hours, at a supervised visitation center, the cost of which you will bear." And yet another victim of the iron triangle trudges away from the courthouse, beaten, broke, and alone.
Tyranny of the Worst Sort
The stories of Joe and Dudley are true -they are composites of many actual families whom I have represented, some with even worse situations. With a little help, people going through family trouble can often be restored. However, when you introduce the 209A law into the mix, along with the maladjusted social workers who accompany it, it is more often fatal than not. The abuse restraining order law is one of the worst tyrannies ever foisted upon the people in this Commonwealth. It has destroyed more families, scarred more children, and caused more pain, than any law except the parallel child abuse statute. (Chapter 119, Section 51A) It rarely prevents abuse - it divides and destroys families who are going through a bad time. With a little help they could be restored; With a restraining order, they are often doomed.
The Most Unconstitutional Law
The restraining order law is one of the most unconstitutional acts ever passed by the Massachusetts legislature. Under it, a court can issue an order that boots you out of your house, never lets you see your children again, confiscates your guns, and takes your money, all without you even knowing that a hearing took place! Then, when you do finally get to talk to a judge, if your accuser merely whines about feeling afraid, the order will usually stay in place, and your life may be ruined.
No Epidemic of Domestic Violence
"There is not an epidemic of domestic violence", said courageous retired District Court judge Milton Raphaelson. "There is an epidemic of hysteria about domestic violence." A large percentage of the restraining orders which are issued by courts do not come close to meeting the requirements in the law. Judges issue them, not because the complaining witness makes a legitimate case for abuse, but because they are afraid of the abuse ‘victim' industry or the feminist lobby, or they believe men are likely to be batterers.
There have been about 40,000 abuse restraining orders issued in the Commonwealth each year, for the last many years. Forty Thousand families disrupted. Forty thousand homes destroyed. Many more children affected.
If most, or even many of these orders were legitimate, maybe the abuse mongers would have a legitimate claim. However, MOST are given out wrongly, in my experience. And, where there is genuine abuse, an order doesn't do any good, anyway. Can you stop a fist or a bullet with a piece of paper?
We already have laws against abuse. Plenty of them. Abusers should be prosecuted. However, the 209A law adds an additional layer of burden on the law abiding, and turns them into criminals, when they usually are not. It also deprives defendants , as shown in the next section, of all the traditional protections given to defendants in other cases.
Restraining Order Law Throws out all Legal Protection
In a criminal trial, defendants have rights protected by the Massachusetts and Federal constitutions. Defendants are presumed innocent. They have a right to a trial by jury. They have the right to face their accusers and have evidence presented, and cross examine any witnesses. They may not be deprived of property or liberty without due process of law. The Commonwealth must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The law has to be clearly defined. They have a right to a lawyer, and to be provided one if they cannot afford one.
The abuse law throws out all of those protections, and turns our system of justice on its head. With mere allegations, no proof, and virtually no opportunity to respond, a defendant can be deprived of family, property, guns, money, children, job, future employment, and reputation, all in a matter of seconds, without having a clue what just happened.
A person who commits the most trivial "normal" crime has all his or her rights preserved and carefully guarded when before a court, even when the penalty, if found guilty, is only a few dollars. Never is the loss of that person's family, liberty, guns, home, job or children at issue, and yet the court is careful to explain and watch over every constitutional right of that defendant. Not so with restraining order hearings, where a defendant may lose all those things, with NO due process at all.
As bad as this is, it is only half of the story! A Violation of one of these orders is a criminal offense, and you don't have to even have known or intended to violate it. The ‘victim' could have even asked you to do it! All a ‘victim' has to do is allege a violation, and the defendant is arrested, and prosecuted, regardless of the merits of the case. The District Attorneys in the Commonwealth all have a "no-drop" policy on violations of restraining orders, to satisfy the clamoring abuse victim lobby.
Many of these prosecutions are pure political lynchings, rather than prosecutions of crimes. Because of the stupidity of this policy, it allows unscrupulous ‘victims' who know how to manipulate the system to get the state to prosecute you as a free method of harassment, which costs them nothing. No wonder it is done so much!
"Victims" (Meaning "Women") Get All the Help They Need
The deck is stacked against you in this process. The state now hires ‘victim-witness' advocates, mostly for women ‘victims'. Even though studies and statistics have proven that women abuse men more often than the reverse, the system still assumes that it is men who are the abusers. (Some of these "advocates" are far more troubled people than those they are supposedly helping.)
The best proof of that fact is that ALL programs for victims in the Commonwealth, such as shelters and battered victim programs, are for women. ALL batterers programs are for men. Right now, there are no exceptions to that rule. Even the official film produced by the Commonwealth to instruct people how to obtain a restraining order features three ‘victims' who are women, and no men.
You May Need Help
Given the odds against you, you may need some help, since the Pharisees who run the court system have loaded a heavy burden of complex procedure onto the backs of those who merely want a little simple justice. Even though this Website can give you much of what you need to sue successfully, you may still need a guide. Our office can provide such help.
We Can't Change the Law, but We Can Make it Cost to Abuse it.
We can't seem to change this wretched 209A law, even though many have tried. However, we can make it cost the person who misuses it. Right now, there is no cost, and no accountability. The state and its victim-witness advocates, district attorneys, and other apparachiks are all willing to do it for the ‘victim'. So why not use the system? It's free, it's fun, and it's a big club.
See the section of this website about "Fighting Back" for some practical help in doing so.