The Protective Order Deception

We all know that a protective order provides little to no substantive protection for the purported victim. The joke around the legal profession is that when a bullet, blade, bat, or fist is headed your way, just hold up the sheet of paper on which the order is printed to stop it.  

We also know that while many real victims of abuse seek protective orders for legitimate purposes, many protective orders are often sought (in my opinion most protective orders are sought) in bad faith by people to gain an ill-gotten, unfair advantage over another through a bogus protective order application. 

So if someone is truly afraid for his or her life or safety, why not have the would be protective order applicant get a gun, instead? Some real protection. Not invincibility, not even 24/7 protection, but far, far better than mere sheet of paper.  

Besides, anyone who’s truly fearing for his or her life or safety isn’t going to find any protection in a court order. As they say, “When seconds count, the police are just minutes away.” 

Indeed, if the stories that protective order applicants told were always true (i.e., in fact every protective order applicant has already been abused, or abuse against them is/was being attempted and/or threatened), then shouldn’t the number of people stopped by a mere sheet of paper be remarkably low (i.e., why doesn’t alleged the abuser keep trying to abuse, in spite of a mere sheet of paper telling him/her not to abuse)?  

 It’s not as though a perpetrator reads the protective order after being served with it and says, “Well, as long as this piece of paper tells me I can’t kill or injure, then I have no choice but to respect the court order.” Murderers and determined abusers won’t be stopped by pieces of paper any more than they are stopped by laws already on the books that prohibit murder and abuse.[1] 

I had a client who claims that a bogus protective order was entered against him. I have no reason to doubt what he said (there was no verifiable evidence that any of his wife’s self-serving allegations—made in advance of her filing for divorce, of course—were true). There was no history of violence or abuse in his past (the only thing the wife could use against him when she made her original request for protective wardrobe is that he had received combat training when in the due course of his military service 20 years before she applied for the protective order). The protective order had been in place for 12 years when his daughter, who at that point was now an adult, engaged to be married. He wanted to attend the wedding and the reception. Utah law required that he make a request that the protective order be dismissed. His ex-wife opposed the motions, claiming that she was “still afraid” of him, even though her affidavit stated that she had had no contact or communication with him in 12 years (in other words, he had obeyed the protective order without exception).  

No contact with him in 12 years. No incidents of violence or attempted violence or even threats of violence. In 12 years. But all it took was her claim she was “still afraid”. No evidence he had in fact committed, attempted to commit, or threatened to commit any abuse. No evidence he was in fact a threat to her in any way. Indeed, all evidence was to the contrary. She said she was still scared, couldn’t explain why, but that’s all the judge needed. The protective order stayed in place (not even amended to make it possible for him to attend the ceremony or reception), and this man missed his daughter’s wedding. That’s real abuse.  

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277  

[1] Indeed, something can be said for the idea that falsely accusing someone of being an abuser and then ejecting him from his home and subjecting him to public ridicule and scorned maybe one of the best ways to foster abuse in situations where, but for the issuance of the ill-gotten protective order, no abuse would have ever occurred. Being falsely accused and falsely slapped with a protective order is humiliating and destroys an innocent’s faith in the legal system. Falsely-obtained protective orders create a sense of betrayal and anxiety that causes many an innocent person to reason that if innocence isn’t a protection against false allegations that kill reputations and careers and separate loving parents from children, then I might as well become what I’ve been accused of being. “The way you see people is the way you treat them, and the way you treat them is what they become.” — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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