Protection and abuse: divorce, restraining orders and domestic violence

In early March 2013, the Bergen County Police Department responded to Dwight Gooden's home after receiving a domestic complaint. The former Mets and Yankees pitcher was subsequently issued a restraining order after allegedly threatening his wife.

Last November, Gooden's wife filed for divorce from the 48-year-old former professional baseball player. After the March incident, Gooden was ordered to limit contact not only with his estranged wife, but also with his children.

With his divorce pending, the restraining order will undoubtedly compromise some rights and responsibilities associated with the former athlete's divorce case. Restraining orders often go hand-in-hand with marital breakups, as some proceedings are the result of a history of violence and domestic abuse. However, it is important to recognize that these legal instruments can also be used to gain the upper hand in custody or other divorce-related matters.

Restraining orders

Restraining orders are critical to the safety of many domestic abuse victims. While some argue that the instruments are no more than a piece of paper, others suggest that the orders are acknowledged and respected by many offenders. When used properly, the orders help protect victims and limit the rights of abusers. Unfortunately, because protective orders are easy to obtain, they are sometimes abused - particularly against men. Men are much more likely than female spouses to have an order enforced against them during divorce proceedings.

Furthermore, protective orders often ruin the reputations of those on the receiving end, linking them with violence or danger. Despite the impact on a person's social, emotional and financial well-being, the U.S. Department of Justice reports that there are approximately two to three million temporary restraining orders issued in the United States annually.

Frivolously obtained protective orders can limit the options of recipients, especially in child custody cases. Although joint custody is presumed in many states, many jurisdictions automatically provide the victim with legal custody if a final restraining order is issued after a finding of domestic abuse. This eliminates the possibility of joint custody unless the other party seeks to overturn the restraining order. It may also require the recipient of the restraining order to have supervised visitation with children or no visitation at all.

Despite the potentially complicating effect on the divorce process, protective orders issued for lawful reasons can help protect the lives of victims and their children. If you are involved in a divorce dispute and domestic violence or false allegations of domestic violence have been part of your marriage, contact an experienced family law attorney. A lawyer can aid you in the fight for a strong and secure future.