Do not withdraw restraining orders when custody is at issue. (Domestic Violence and Child Custody – Part 2).
Yesterday, I blogged about the importance of securing a domestic violence protection order or restraining order if you’re a legitimate victim of domestic violence. Not just because you may need one to ensure your safety, and not just because judges often issue temporary custody orders as well. I recommended that you secure the domestic violence orders as a tactical maneuver in the event that have – or expect to have – a child custody dispute on the horizon.
I also cautioned against using the domestic violence system improperly: Court orders are intended for real victims of domestic violence who can use the orders as a shield against further harm, not for imagined “victims” who see a domestic violence order as a sword to be wielded to gain an advantage in divorce court.
If you obtain a protection order or a restraining order, do not forget about it. Don’t bury it. Don’t re-write it on your own. Don’t voluntarily disobey it (or permit the assailant to do so), and most importantly, don’t agree to dismiss it. Too often, when parties reach an agreement on child custody or visitation time, they include a provision withdrawing or dismissing the domestic violence protection order. In fact, such a provision may seem necessary in order to carry out the visitations. After all, how can the parents exchange the children between their homes if they’re restrained from communicating with each other or entering upon each other’s property?
The better practice is to return to the domestic violence court and to narrowly modify the protection order or restraining order to permit the kind of custody and visitation arrangement you wish to have. Modify those portions of the order that must be changed to make the custody arrangement meaningful, but retain the remaining language in the order. For example, a modified restraining order could state that the non-custodial parent is permitted to communicate with the custodial parent, but only via email or texting, and only for the purposes of transmitting informational updates concerning the children. A formal modification of the court order, best accomplished with the advice of legal counsel, will promise the greatest amount of protection while enabling the custody and visitation plan to be put into force.