If you are married to an abusive spouse, you know what it’s like to fear for your safety in your own home. It often feels like you have nowhere to hide because, unlike most people, home for you is not a safe place. Fortunately, in Massachusetts, you can seek a restraining order to protect yourself if your physical safety is at risk. Still, you may be wondering what will happen to your spouse when you file a restraining order against them and how it may impact you and your family. Knowing what to expect can help you prepare for your spouse’s reaction and maintain your safety. Because our extraordinary team at O’Connor Family Law has over 35 years of exclusive family law experience, we are prepared to help you through this process.
Will My Spouse Know that I Have Requested a Restraining Order?
If you are seeking a restraining order outside of typical business hours, you’ll need to get it from your local police department. An emergency judge can grant an emergency restraining order to help protect you from immediate physical danger. If you need a restraining order while the courthouse is open, you will need to go to the courthouse directly.
If the restraining order is not granted, chances are good that your spouse will not know about your request. However, if your request is granted, then the police will need to serve your spouse with a copy of the restraining order for it to be valid and enforceable. At that point, your spouse will know you requested and were issued an order of protection.
What Happens When My Spouse is Served?
After a restraining order has been issued, state law enforcement will locate your spouse and hand them a certified copy of the order, which many include an additional order suspending any firearm licenses and requiring them to surrender their guns. If your spouse is at your home when they are served, the police will allow them approximately ten to fifteen minutes to pack some basic personal belongings and escort them out of the residence.
If the restraining order was granted by an emergency judge outside of business hours, the restraining order will require that you go to the courthouse on the next open business day to have it extended. At this time, you will fill out the restraining order application and submit it directly to the Court. This will include a written affidavit relating to what happened and why you need the restraining order. If your spouse does not attend that hearing, then the Judge may extend the restraining order for a short period of time and give another chance for the defendant to appear before issuing a longer protective order.
If the initial restraining order was granted by a Judge at your local courthouse during regular business hours, your spouse will then get served. At the hearing, the Judge will pick a date that is approximately ten days from the date the order initially issued to have a return date. You will not have to file anything additional on the return date.
Regardless of which way you first obtain your restraining order, at the extension hearing, your spouse will have an opportunity to present a defense relating to why they believe the restraining order should not be issued on a long-term basis. If your spouse agrees to an extension, then the hearing is not necessary and the Judge will generally simply extend the restraining order, usually for a one-year period.
What Happens to Your Spouse if a Final Order is Granted?
At the final restraining order hearing, your spouse has a right to be present and represented by an attorney. You can also have an attorney represent you at the restraining order hearing if you wish. If a Judge grants the restraining order, they may require your spouse to do the following:
- Leave the home where the two of you were residing, even if the residence is only in your spouse’s name;
- Not have any contact with you, including phone calls, texts, and social media;
- If you have children together and you are agreeable, the Judge could provide for limited communication or visits with your children, but if you are not agreeable, the Judge will usually defer those types of issues to family court;
- Stay away from your place of employment, the homes of your family members, your child’s school, or any other location you listed in your request for protection that you or your children frequent; or
- Order them to continue paying bills or the mortgage.
If you and your spouse share children, a court may grant sole custody to you and, if you agree, the judge may set specific and limited times when your spouse can see the kids. Under Massachusetts General Laws 209A §3, a court can order that exchanges of the children occur in a protected setting, such as a police station, that the visits are supervised, or that your spouse refrains from using any drugs or alcohol in their presence.
Speak with an Attorney to Understand what May Happen when You File a Restraining Order against Your Spouse
Understanding what happens to your spouse after you file a restraining order can help you protect yourself and your children. For more information about this process and what you can do to protect yourself against an abusive partner, call our office today. We are dedicated to helping families create a safe environment. Let our extraordinary team assist you through this challenging time.