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Are you the subject of a restraining order?

From time to time, all couples and family members argue. In most cases, such arguments take place behind closed doors and out of the sight of any witnesses. Consequently, specific details related to domestic disputes are often difficult to verify or prove. In cases where a spouse or family members accuses a husband, wife or co-habitating relative of committing acts that can be classified as domestic violence, domestic abuse, harassment or stalking; he or she can take steps to obtain a restraining order.

The process of obtaining a restraining order is fairly simple and requires that an individual fill out a complaint and affidavit and explains why he or she wants the restraining order. The individual against whom the restraining order is pending is then served the complaint along with a notice to appear at what's called a 10-day hearing to defend against the claims outlined in the complaint.

Individuals who learn that they are the subject of a restraining order would be wise to immediately contact a criminal defense attorney. An attorney can answer questions, provide advice and represent an individual and his or her best interests at the 10-day hearing and in any future courtroom proceedings.

For example, details related to what a defendant wears and how he or she behaves at the hearing are duly noted by the judge and an individual should, therefore, take steps to dress and behave in an appropriate and respectful manner. Additionally, at the hearing, a defendant should be prepared to present any evidence that he or she has or may be able to obtain to refute a plaintiff's claims. For example, if the plaintiff has recently contacted or attempted to contact the defendant; a judge isn't likely to believe that there is a real threat or issue a restraining order.

The consequences associated with a restraining order are significant and often negatively impact an individual's life in numerous ways. In addition to being forced to move out of one's residence an individual may be banned from seeing his or her children and may also encounter difficulties when attempting to secure employment.

Source: Mental Health Legal Advisors Committee, "RESTRAINING ORDERS IN MASSACHUSETTS: Your rights whether you are a Plaintiff or a Defendant," Oct. 2012

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