Posts Tagged ‘Domestic Relations’

It is common for the Courts to issue domestic relations restraining orders to protect parties in divorce and family law cases. Many attorneys and judges feel that they are often given out too easily in these types of situations. However, it is important to remember that the breakup of families is very stressful and emotional. This can often lead to physical violence. Every experienced family law attorney has a horror story to tell and the media is full of stories about people who have been harmed or even murdered in these situations. Therefore, judges tend to err on the side of caution when deciding on whether to issue a domestic relations restraining order.

The standard for obtaining a restraining order may differ slightly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. But it usually involves some fear of imminent potential danger or harm to the party asking for the order. This party should be able to describe specific threats and/or past incidents of violence. Although the Courts are supposed to act in a gender neutral manner, it is much more common to see restraining orders issued against men than women. The actual restraining order itself usually bars or sets limits on contact between the parties and/or their children. If the defendant violates the restraining order, they are subject to criminal penalties and incarceration. The Courts take these violations very seriously and many people have been incarcerated for even minor violations.

If you have a real fear of potential physical harm being perpetrated on you by your spouse or domestic partner, it is very important that you petition the Court for a restraining order to protect you and/or your children. You should also develop a safety plan to protect yourself. The police will serve the restraining order. But they usually won’t station an officer at your residence. In extreme situations, you may need to hide or even relocate to avoid the abusive party.

After a divorce, there are often stresses in a child’s life which an adult may overlook. One of the chief stresses can be the transition from your home to your ex-spouse’s home, whatever the time interval (every few days, weekends, several weeks). This is a constant disruption to a child’s life, and a persistent reminder of the family breakup. So how to best assist your children during these moves?

We can split these transitions into two broad areas: When your child is dropped off, and when your child is picked up. You and your ex should agree upon these basic guidelines to help your child adjust to the changes.

As we see played out in TV and movie dramas over and over, parents may have a difficult time in letting go at the appointed hour. But remember this is about the child, not the parents. So ease this time by adhering to the schedule, departing and delivering your child on time as agreed. Remind your child a day or two before the move so they have time to prepare and be ready for the change. Help them pack, including a favorite toy or game, outfit, or other items that are familiar and comforting. Do not wait until the last minute and rush packing, but be ready well in advance. If at all possibile, drop off your child, rather than having your spouse pick them up, so that you avoid the risk of disrupting some special moment or connection.

When your child comes back from your spouse, again, it’s better that your spouse drop the child off rather than you go to pick the child up. This way your child gets to complete their time with their other parent without interruption. Ask your child what they want to do: spend some intimate time with you doing some favorite activity like reading, cooking or playing; run out to play with friends they’ve missed; or settle into being home with the TV and pets. Give them time and space if they need it, but stay nearby and attentive. Remember that children like routine and patterns, which give them a sense of safety and wellbeing, so establish a “return routine” such as game playing, visiting the playground, or serving a favorite dinner which your child can help prepare.

Watch for signs of stress and anxiety. Some children will adjust to these changes better than others (with much depending on how the parents act and react), so if your child shows any distress or anxious behavior, consider with your ex the benefits of counseling for your child.

Consider some stress reducing guidelines, especially when children are involved:

    • Help your kids manage their feelings: Encourage them to openly discuss their feelingsĀ — positive or negativeĀ — about what’s happening. Talk to your children, let them know that they are not responsible for the divorce. How much detail you go into depends in part on how old and how mature the children are, but regardless of age, they need to know that the divorce is not their fault, and that they will not be losing either parent. Discuss the ways in which custody and visitation will work.
    • Keep conflict and argument aways from the kids; disrupt their lives as little as possible. Maintain a calm attitude and avoid conflict, as parental fighting is very stressful for children. Take divorce conversations outside the home or discuss these matters only when the children are not home.
    • Don’t use your kids as go-betweens. They should not feel like pawns nor be manipulated by either parent. Do not use children to send messages to your spouse.
    • Seek support from friends, church, or organizations like Parents Without Partners, or a therapist with experience with children of divorce, someone that the children can talk to and who can help them address any guilt they feel, however unfounded, about the divorce.

So you’ve decided to proceed with your divorce, to get out from under a situation that has prevented you from fully living your life as is best for you. But now, facing a future without a spouse, you may feel very alone and isolated. You may benefit from some kind of support system to handle your new life alone. There are several places you can turn, from your network of family and friends to more organized support groups specifically tailored to recent divorcees. How do you find such a support group? Your attorney may well know of a group in your area that would work for you. Or you may talk with friends or business associates who have been divorced to see if they can refer a group to you.

Support group notices are often posted on church bulletin boards, in newspapers, or your local library. An advantage to a support group is such groups offer an environment where you can unburden yourself of your situation, without burdening your friends and family members with complaining that they don’t want to hear and that you don’t want to weaken your relationships.

Yes, your friends and family will be part of your wider support group, as opposed to a specific group that meets regularly to share experiences. But they may not welcome what they may perceive as an excess of whining or self-indulgence. Also remember that those friends who you have in common with your ex may or may not choose to continue as your friends. Some may, which you will welcome, but others may feel divided loyalities between you and your ex and side with him or her. It is also good to keep in mind that “mutual” friends may serve as a conduit of information to your soon-to-be ex-spouse, so discretion should be exercised when sharing information with them.

Be wary of advice such as always file first, always get a restraining order – or – you always should try to have an amicable divorce. Advice which may make perfect sense in one situation may be a disaster in another. As you are working toward that amicable divorce, your spouse might be quietly hiding assets – or – that restraining order might unnecessarily jeopardize the employment of your spouse. In short, each situation should be analyzed on its own merit. What has been your spouse’s history? Does your spouse usually follow rules? Is your spouse someone who has real violent tendencies – or – Is this a situation where your spouse is temporarily stressed? What is your spouse’s relationship with your children?

What are your goals and objectives? Given the particular circumstances of your individual case, what strategy makes sense for you? Discuss your options in detail with your divorce attorney.

The information contained in this blog is for educational purposes only and is not legal advice. The use of this Blog does not create an attorney/client relationship between you and the Law Offices of Barry R. Lewis. If you are considering divorce or if you are involved in any legal matter, you should hire an attorney.

Massachusetts Divorce and Family Law
Attorney Barry R. Lewis — Divorce Law Specialist
Locations Throughout Eastern & Central Massachusetts :: 508-879-3262