When the Restraining Order is Against You

When Marjorie told her husband she wanted a divorce she agreed to his request to hold off filing until after the first of the year. She thought he just needed time to adjust and she was happy to give him that, if it meant they could work civilly through the divorce. With hindsight, she realized he was using the time to figure out how to manipulate her, how he could get custody of their daughter. That became apparent when she was arrested for domestic violence and then faced a restraining order. Here’s Marjorie:

[contemplate1] It’s about 8:30 in the morning and I have to stay in jail for 24 hours.

Finally, I call my eldest daughter at the house, and she is just so upset. I said, “Look, go to school. Try to concentrate.” This is her senior year. I do not want her distracted. I said, “Call a couple of friends and I will be out in the morning. Don’t worry. Check on your sister.”

Take steps to protect your access to moneyBut once my daughter left for school, she never went back to the house. She said she couldn’t stomach it. I spent the night in jail…that’s a whole story within itself, but when I came out the next morning, my husband had closed all the bank accounts.

Not only that, I couldn’t go back to my home. He had filed a restraining order, not only to keep me away from him, but away from our daughter because I “was a danger to her.” He had filed this injunction that said that I had mental illness problems, that I was an alcoholic, I drank a bottle of wine a night. All the accusations were so sickening, so sickening, and for thirty days, I did not have phone or person-to-person contact with my child. Thirty days! My youngest daughter, one day her sister and her mother just disappeared, just disappeared.

When we went to court, which was the early part of December, the judge granted him the injunction because he shows up to court with pictures of injuries. I looked at my attorney and I said, “I didn’t do this!” The police asked him clearly, “Do you need a paramedic, are you injured?” and he said, “No.” And then there are injuries?

He had to self-inflict them when he was closed up in the bathroom or after everyone had left. After they’d taken me away, he had taken my daughter to school, he came back and took pictures of injuries.

Now, I’ve never been in court before, I’m sitting there without hardly any clothing, because I can’t get any of my clothing, I’m probably looking a hot mess, I’m probably looking the way he’s accusing me of looking.

This judge grants the injunction for one year. My husband asked for supervised visitation, based on the fact that he said our daughter witnessed what happened. What saved me, was that my oldest daughter was in the home, and she kept our youngest in the other part of the house and helped get her ready for school, and kept her away from it. She came on the stand and said, “No. She was nowhere near there. We heard some of the shouting, but we didn’t see anything and she was with me the entire time.”

With that, the judge didn’t grant him supervised visits, but he cut my visits down to where I see my child once on a weekday right after school until 8pm and then every other weekend. The minimal amount of time. To go from being a stay-at-home mother from the time she was born to that?

The judge also ordered that the only way my husband and I communicate is through an email system called the “Our Family” wizard.

When he said that, I was happy, because I said.  “OK, what’s going to happen is this man, the way he’s been with me verbally in person is going to show on paper, I know it’s going to show on paper.” So I thought this is going to be a good thing. And I’ll be darned, if it hasn’t shown. His verbal abuse has gone on paper now. The anger, even after a year, you would think that you would come to a point where you would reason with each other, you would understand that, “We need to do what we can that’s in the best interest of the child.”

Not at all. The things that he has said, showing clearly not only his anger towards me, but the verbal abuse, the attacks, the threats and the alienation that he’s trying to do between me and my daughter, that’s exactly the thing we’re using when we go to court.

We’re finally going to court next month. We have gone to mediation twice already and he refuses to do a joint custody agreement. He wants to keep primary, major custody of our child because he knows how much this would hurt me.

On top of all of that, I was homeless.

[contemplate2]

When Marjorie was telling me this, I tried to imagine what it would feel like to have your life change dramatically, quite literally overnight. She’d been arrested for domestic violence, she’d spent a night in jail, lost custody of her child, had no money, and was homeless. No access to money means not being able to hire an attorney to defend you. Remember that Marjorie was also a stay-at-home – it isn’t easy to just go out one day and get a job. This has to be rock bottom.

Granting an injunction for a whole year seems unreasonable to me and it’s hard for me to understand why a judge would not see through this. The best I can conclude is that when you deal with these situations all day, it is hard to know the real truth and so you err on the side of ultra-caution because you don’t want to be the person accused of failing in a domestic violence situation.

Marjorie is an amazingly strong and resourceful woman and in the segments that follow she’ll be sharing how she got pro bono legal help and how the loss of her custody rights hasn’t stopped her from being actively involved in her youngest daughter’s life.

As far as getting cut off from money, Andrea and Grace were also cut-off. They were fortunate because they had financial help from their families.

I read recently a quote from a law firm that they always tell couples to go through counseling first and that the lawyer’s office is the place of last resort. While I do agree that couples should try multiple avenues to try to work through their marital issues, I also believe it is critically important to know your legal rights and I would start researching that as soon as I felt divorce was a likelihood. Knowing your rights isn’t sufficient either – Marjorie had consulted with a lawyer before she told her husband she wanted a divorce – you have to take the steps necessary to protect your rights and yes, sometimes that’s a hard emotional decision.

Photo credit: 401k

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  • http://twitter.com/terek55 Terry Beigie

    Wow. This is such a heart-breaking story for the children. So sad.

  • 8ball

    funny. Men have been saying the family courts have been broken for years. But as long as it was broken in women’s favor, you all were content to stay silent about it. But now that men have been cottoning on to the tricks women have been using (and abusing) for years, decades even, now that the shoe is on the other foot… suddenly it’s “tragic.’

    Welcome to the hell of your own creation ladies

    • http://sincemydivorce.com Mandy Walker

      @8ball, While this blog is targeted to women, I’ve been very conscious over the years of not making it gender-specific or making sweeping generalizations. I have heard many people, men and women, argue that the family court system is deficient and that it isn’t fair. I think that most people would agree with you that it needs reforming but the challenge is creating a system that does work equitably.

    • andrea

      so 2 wrongs make you happy?  when there is injustice in family court; children suffer.  that is not cause for joking or celebrating.  and it certainly is not “funny”.

  • stlouismd

    This article just came few days after my husband (who left me for a younger woman, filed for divorce and has made my life miserable since then as if the rest was not enough) had called me and woke me up to demand explanations of why I was getting his mistress’ deposition. For some reason I didn’t hang up and next I was hearing her insulting like nobody had ever done before and even gave me a death threat and hung up. Because I was stupid enough to try to call back and send a text THEY called the police for harrassment…no report was filed. But now I’m scared I will get an order for protection from her. It is interesting how they turn everything in their own advantage. I once read that the worst thing you could do in your divorce is to play victim- especially when you are the one who strayed. This is what he has been doing and I’m hoping that it will only help my case. However, this story is so similar that I’m scared of what they are capable of doing. And my only mistake was marrying him and they are making me pay for it. She already accussed me of a violation of conduct in my job. Now they called the police after she threatens me and I react to it. I look around everyday when I walk to work and I’m so scared to open my mailbox and find the subpoena to the family protection court. 

    • http://sincemydivorce.com Mandy Walker

      @stlouismd – Argggh – so sorry you’re having to deal with this. I’m glad you’re reading Marjorie’s story. I would also recommend you read Lisa’s and Andrea’s . I don’t want to be alarmist but you really do need to prepare for the worse and hope for the best. Requiring communication via text or email is a good start and then exercising restraint and not responding immediately will also help. What else have you done to protect yourself? Changed your passwords? Opened your own bank account and credit card? Changed the locks? Hired an attorney? Pulled a credit report? Try to always have someone else with you, when you meet with your ex, if you have to meet and chose a public place. You’re welcome to use my community to post questions or vent. Take special care of yourself and be safe.

  • pamela j

    I let my ex bend me over a barrel in a (thankfully) less extreme, but sadly similar way.  He filed for divorce just weeks before the kids started school.  In our state, the person who files gets to maintain residence unless there is just cause why they shouldn’t.  I completely fell for his “we will work together for the kids” routine, and moved out without a fight, leaving the kids so they would have “as little disruption as possible”.  Because I fully bought into the “working together” story, I also did not hire my own attorney – after all, we were only going to continue working together til we agreed, so why waste all the money? I was a student, and getting no support from him believed him that I couldn’t afford it.  What did all my cooperation get me? Blackmailed into signing an agreement that he only had to pay half of the calculated support and maintenance, or he would file (and win according to my attorney once I did finally hire one) for sole custody and I would have minimal visitation and owe HIM child support (he made literally 10X what I did that year.) 

    My advice to women is call a counselor and make an appointment, work out your marriage with all your might if you can, right after your first consultation with your attorney.

    • http://sincemydivorce.com Mandy Walker

      Pamela – thank you for sharing this painful story. Stories like yours really make me wonder about the laws in some state. Which state are you in? I hope you’ve got a second opinion. Do you now have shared custody?

  • brokenhrted

    My wife did nearly the same thing to me, except she didnt file for divorce.. she just pressed domestic abuse oh and threw in sexual abuse as well because I yelled at her about her adultery. She has no intention of divorcing me, why would she according to the restraining order she gets my car, our house, our kids and I have to pay her.

    I have a hearing in a few days to determine if it will become a permanent restraining order or not, but my lawyer who knows the truth of what is going on said we do not have a good chance of winning because a judge will be ultra safe in these situations. There has never been an allegation of misconduct by me, the police have been called one time during our marriage by her mother when I called to inform her of her daughters infidelity. The police left because there was no violence just yelling. I have no criminal record, I have state issued background checks for my last two jobs and my lawyer is informing me that the only way to avoid it becoming permanent most likely is to agree to a mutual no contact so the judge does not have to make a finding.

    I filed for divorce but as it stands right now I have no place to live other than mooching off friends and family. If she does not agree to drop this I will lose my job because I need the license and my visitation with my children will be maybe every other weekend.

    The truly disgusting part of this whole scenario is that I have never hit her or sexually assaulted her or done much of anything that could be considered domestic abuse, I pushed her one time when she was standing too close yelling and waiving her finger in my face. That is the entirety of her claim of physical abuse on the affidavit and unnamed sexual abuse consisting of me yelling at her about sex acts (she says that I dont get from her but in reality the ones she performed in her adulterous relationship)

    ~Broken

    • http://sincemydivorce.com Mandy Walker

      brkenhrted – you’re in an ugly situation. I hope you’re keeping good records, limiting your communication with your wife and I hope your lawyer has experience dealing with situations like this. Before you agree to anything ask lots of questions to determine the potential impact on a future parenting agreement. You already know this .. your divorce is going to be challenging.

  • chris

    This happens to men everyday-no one posting a page about that-Welcome to my world.

    • http://sincemydivorce.com Mandy Walker

      Hi Chris – it sounds like you feel that there aren’t good sites covering divorce from a male perspective? There are many aspects of divorce that impact both men and women and I do my best to avoid stereotypes. I hope you’ll keep visiting.

  • Tracy Poppel Cannan

    oh wow, im two years out from leaving my marriage, and 1 year out from the divorce finalized, and i sit here reading all these stories, and i could add my also.. manipulation, alienation, job loss, an attorney who died, another who bailed cause i couldnt pay my bill, no support during separation and mental, verbal and emotional abuse even after the divorce, we have 15 and 12 year old and he uses them.. ugh.. cant even find a job. its been two years since i lost my job. no legal aid is available ive been turned down by everyone.. im surviving… but i want to live..again

    • http://sincemydivorce.com Mandy Walker

      Aghh .. Tracy, it sounds like you’ve had rock after rock thrown in your path.Do you have a good support network in place? Any job prospects? How is your relationship with your kids/

  • The Network Company

    The only thing I want to point out, is that if you read this story very carefully, it is clear, due to some discrepancies in it, that this person did in fact attack her husband. She does not deny “hitting him” she only alleges that when the police came there were no injuries and that he must have manufactured the injuries later. I’m sorry but a court doesn’t give custody to the father unless there are extremely compelling reasons. There is more to this story than advertised.

    • http://sincemydivorce.com Mandy Walker

      There’s always at least two sides to every story I post and that’s why I encourage my readers not to fall into the trap of trying to decide who was “right” but rather to understand the person’s perspective and to see what they can learn from that person’s experience.

  • Knew them both for years

    Wow! It is amazing that this website would post so much inaccurate statements made by this woman about her former husband. I knew them both for several years, even in Atlanta, and I always thought she was a little off :-). This write up only validates it. People, ask yourself, why would this woman divulge so much personal information about her life and portray herself as the victim? Police reports and Court records don’t lie. They are also public record. Why would a judge give her former husband majority custody of their 7 year old daughter? Why would the judge deny her temporary alimony? After doing the research I found “Marjorie” to be a disturbing, mentally challenged and unstable, manipulating individual. I’m sure if her husband knew that she was sexually abused as a child and that her mother was a crack head, he would have never married her.