Kathy is a freelance writer for Textbroker, Verblio, and Constant Content and published author in Neon Rainbow Magazine.
Some Restraining Orders Are Filed Abusively
My eyes were opened to the potential for abuse with restraining orders after someone I love was accused of things they did not do and had a restraining order filed against them based on these false allegations. When you have personal experience with retaliatory or abusive restraining orders, it begins to appear that we've made the system easy to abuse, which is concerning both for those who are falsely accused and those who are truly in need of protective orders.
Until you find yourself or someone you love on the receiving end of one of these, it's hard to understand the frustration and the feeling of unfairness, especially when you are 100 percent certain that the things the person is accused of never happened.
Some women out there—notice I said "some"—use restraining orders to try to ruin another person's (usually a man's) reputation. In the worst-case scenario, he could even lose his job, especially if his job requires the use of a firearm. He can also lose his home and access to his children—all because of made-up, spiteful lies, or lies that are crafted in retaliation.
In our case, we are among the lucky ones. We are among the respondents who were able to catch this petitioner in several lies, and when they called her witness to the stand, he also lied. Their stories about the same event were different. The court commissioner said that she could not believe these allegations and that the person who filed them was less than credible.
After researching this problem on the Internet, it seems that this is a more common occurrence than I ever believed possible. Virtually any woman who gets angry with a guy for something is capable of using this legal process as a weapon. And it can be a devastating thing if they're able to lie well enough that the restraining order is granted.
Why Do People Use Restraining Orders Falsely?
The burden of proof to obtain a temporary restraining order is fairly low, so it's a quick, cheap way to retaliate or create drama in the midst of an already tense situation, such as a divorce or domestic dispute. Some reasons women make up false allegations to get a restraining order are:
- To force a man to move out of a home
- To allow a boyfriend to move into a home easily without a fight
- To take away a man's rights to see his children—sometimes permanently
- To cause a man to lose his home
- To disarm a man for a length of time (depending on the state you live in)
- To get the upper hand in a divorce case
- The satisfaction of getting revenge
The thing that keeps women unafraid of being caught in these lies and false accusations that they are making under oath is that many district attorneys don't prosecute perjury.
What Are the Consequences If Someone Lies to Get a Restraining Order?
While it is true that lying to get a restraining order is perjury, it is hardly ever prosecuted in civil cases such as restraining orders. Perjury is a serious crime but hardly ever treated as such in these matters; American courts are overburdened, and it's highly unlikely that a district attorney will choose to prosecute the perjurer.
If a judge refuses to grant a restraining order because you were able to prove the petitioner's claims were false, their credibility would be very low should they attempt to do something similar in the future.
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Proactive Ways to Fight False Accusations
One of the best things you can do when you plan your strategy with an attorney is to go through each allegation in order and explain each incident or made-up allegation. Let the attorney know what the circumstances were at the time, where this happened (in a public place or the privacy of a home), and the truth about what actually happened. This will help your attorney see how the person filing for the restraining order embellished incidents to make them sound as bad as possible. At least, this was what happened in our case.
What to Do If You Are Served With a Restraining Order Based on False Allegations
- Contact an attorney immediately. If you are unable to do so, many courts have self-help centers that may be able to assist you in filing a response or prepare for your hearing.
- The temporary restraining order you were served with has a hearing date—make sure you attend it and any other scheduled hearings. If you don't, a judge may issue the requested order, and you won't be there to fight the false allegations.
- Read the temporary restraining order closely and all allegations made so that you can be prepared to refute the false claims. You also want to understand exactly what is expected of you before the hearing date—do not do anything to violate the order before you have a chance to prove your innocence in front of a judge.
- Gather evidence that proves your innocence. Below you'll find some tips for preparing evidence of your innocence.
How to Collect Evidence to Prove Your Innocence
- Be able to provide evidence of where you were at certain times—meaning if you were at work and can show with a time card that you were there during the time when something allegedly took place.
- Supply phone records or email records of where you were at a given time.
- Let your attorney know if you have witnesses who were actually there when an event supposedly took place.
- Co-workers, neighbors, or your friends can be helpful if they can testify about where you were on certain dates and at certain times.
- Request police reports or hospital records if the person is claiming to have been physically abused or injured. If they can't produce anything, this can be a red flag that they're not being truthful.
- Social media can even be a tool. If a person is claiming they were under great distress, and at the same time, social media shows pictures of them partying it up with the new boyfriend, this can help to discredit them and their story.
The idea is to be able to give your attorney anything he or she can use to discredit the claims that are being made against you and to discredit the person making them. The more proof you have of false allegations, the better off you'll be.
How to Behave If You Are Falsely Accused
Here I thought I'd share a few tips for how to conduct yourself in a courtroom if you or someone you love is ever falsely accused, and your presence is required in the courtroom. This can be an intimidating experience, especially if it's something totally new to you.
One of the best pieces of advice I can give is to do your best to remain calm, polite, and respectful. Yes, you're angry, especially if you're on the receiving end and are the one being accused of something you know you didn't do. If you're there as moral support for a falsely accused person, anger can be a prominent emotion for you as well. Try to stay calm, and if you're called to speak in front of a court commissioner or judge, be polite and truthful.
Restrain yourself from being sarcastic, no matter how tempting it may be, and truthfully answer any questions that are asked of you. We hired an attorney and used his wisdom and good advice in all dealings we had with this false accuser. It came down to all communication being handled through the attorney, which was fine with us.
The accuser in our case was mentally ill and was institutionalized three times in the year leading up to her filing for the restraining order, which gives you a bit of an idea of what we were been dealing with. Dealing with an unhinged person is never easy, but it's even harder if they decide to file false accusations within the legal system. This can happen, however, even if a person is thought to be sane and is simply flinging false charges at another person out of pure retaliation, rage, and to achieve some idea that they are "getting even."
Additional Information and Assistance
Below I've shared some resources for getting out of a false restraining order and some of the reasons some women go so far as to file them.
Best of luck to you if you're going through this process right now. I have been there for moral support for someone I love, and I know exactly what you're going through! Hopefully, the truth will win out over spite.
Restraining Orders Are a Critical Tool for Those Who Really Need Them
I totally understand and empathize with women in abusive relationships who truly need a protective order. In those cases, restraining orders are entirely valid and a good thing for these women to have access to.
What I'm talking about are women who are NOT being abused in any way who simply do this for spite and blatantly abuse the system. I'm talking about filing one order right after another even after one is denied, just out of spite and harassment. In our case, it was so blatant, and a filing for divorce happened to fall in between two attempts to get this order, so it was dropped.
It was such a blessed feeling of relief when this thing was dropped. But I thought about cases where it doesn't get dropped. Usually, they are brought against men, resulting in $10,000 or more in legal fees for some men.
In our lawsuit-happy society, I guess this is one of the unfortunate side effects. The legal system today is sometimes abused for perceived retaliation and spite. I guess just getting a divorce and moving on civilly is too much to ask in some cases.
Advice for Handling False Restraining Orders
- How to Fight a Restraining Order: Do I Need a Restraining Order Lawyer? | CriminalDefenseLawyer.com
A temporary restraining order in a domestic violence situation can restrict contact with the petitioner, as well as child visitation. A hearing for a permanent order usually follows soon.
- How to Fight a False Allegation Retraining Order
Fighting the issuance of a restraining order is very difficult, but it can be done. This article reviews the restraining order process and some strategies and tactics that non-lawyers can use to possibly stop an order from being issued or extended.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2018 KathyH