We spend a long time getting to know our romantic partners before we commit to them completely. This process is especially important since most people are looking for a potential spouse with whom to share their lives. Usually, this involves getting to know how our prospective partner's ambitions and ideologies mesh with our own. This helps us eliminate partners incompatible with what we want and avoid getting trapped in unhealthy relationships.
Unfortunately, the process is not foolproof, and less-than-ideal partners can pass the initial criteria only to reveal undesirable characteristics later. Sometimes these traits are personality differences or mutually exclusive ambitions. In the worst cases, these issues are abusive tendencies that endanger you or your children.
Abusive spouses are more common than they should be and will use their families as outlets for their frustrations. The worst of abusive spouses take things further and violently strike their spouses and possibly their children. This violent behavior is horrific, endangers the victims, and could lead to death if the abusive party is not confronted. Unfortunately, standing up to an abusive spouse is extremely difficult since there is a natural and reasonable fear.
The question you might have is: what is a DVRO?
This might seem like a strange question to ask since domestic violence is a fairly simple concept to grasp. Unfortunately, there have been situations where the true meaning of domestic violence has been diluted by people trying to demonize their spouses and family members. While false accusations are extremely rare, they have the unfortunate consequence of reducing the impact of the term.
Domestic violence is an incredibly sensitive topic that involves an individual harming their spouse or children. When the average person thinks about domestic violence, they immediately think someone is striking their spouse or child. While this is not wrong, domestic violence does not inherently mean physical assault.
Domestic violence can be broken into 6 major subtypes that meet the definition according to the United States Department of Justice:
As you can see, domestic violence is a broader term than you might have initially believed. The form domestic violence takes will usually vary depending on the type of person rendering the abuse. However, any form of domestic violence represents a danger to you and your children since an abusive spouse is unlikely to correct themselves without serious intervention. Unfortunately, confronting an abusive person is dangerous since they might retaliate with a greater level of violence than they normally employ. That is why you must understand what a DVRO is and how to acquire one.
A domestic violence restraining order (DVRO) is designed to separate you from an abusive spouse or parent legally. These documents are temporary restraining orders (TRO) and are valid for a set period before expiring. Generally, a domestic violence restraining order becomes permanent when the abusive behavior is proven in a court of law. The temporary equivalents are issued when the need for a restraining order is urgent, and there is no time to wait for a judgment.
In urgent cases, a judge can issue a temporary restraining order that expires following a hearing. If the hearing proves that the subject of the restraining order is abusive, a permanent restraining order can take its place. If the hearing does not prove abuse, the temporary order expires without a new order being issued.
Domestic violence restraining orders are designed to protect victims of any previously mentioned forms of domestic violence.
The people against whom a domestic violence restraining order can be filed include:
If someone who meets those criteria has begun abusing you or your child, a DVRO is a viable option until a hearing can be scheduled. Filing a DVRO is not overly difficult but has slightly different requirements depending on the state. It usually involves filling out the proper form and submitting it to the local courthouse, but the best course of action is to retain the services of an attorney who can file it on your behalf. The hearing will be scheduled after the DVRO is filed, and your attorney can represent you when the time comes.
TROs are also used during divorce cases for several reasons that do not relate to domestic violence. When divorcing a spouse guilty of domestic violence, it is possible to have your attorney petition for a DVRO to protect you from retaliation. This is important since abusive spouses will not view you as a person but as property and will likely view the divorce as a personal insult. In these cases, a judge can rush the DVRO process and ensure you are protected until the divorce proceedings are complete.
Until the hearing, you will need to gather as much corroborating information as possible to prove your spouse, relative, or roommate abused you. Otherwise, your chances of maintaining a permanent restraining order against them become almost non-existent. The DVRO is meant to put a legally enforceable distance between you and your abuser while you prepare for the hearing. The result of that hearing could go in your abuser's favor if you lack the proper resources.
Proving domestic violence can be extremely difficult in some cases because the signs are not always obvious. Domestic violence involving physical or sexual abuse is among the easiest to prove since there are physical markers. These physical markers usually include permanent injuries and medical records corresponding to abuse allegations. Unfortunately, those physical markers are useless without an existing police report of abuse or previous claims.
Usually, injuries caused by domestic violence are specific enough that most medical professionals are trained to recognize the signs and will log their observations in official reports. Most hospitals require their physicians to report the suspected abuse to the authorities, especially if the victim is a minor.
Sexual abuse can also be proven but requires consent from the victim since the method for proving this kind of abuse is a little invasive. Nevertheless, proving physical and sexual abuse requires immediate action because the longer you go without reporting it, the harder it is to believe the abuse is a longstanding issue. The other forms of domestic violence are significantly harder to prove because the amount of physical evidence is much lower. This lack of hard evidence is because these types of abuse are abstract concepts that can be executed without physically doing anything.
Psychological and emotional abuse is easier to hide because it leaves no physical marks and affects the victim's psyche. As a result, the most obvious way to prove a history of this type of domestic violence is to subject the victim to psychological counseling and have the counselor present their findings. Fortunately, there is physical evidence that can corroborate claims of psychological or emotional abuse that might be equally as effective.
An abuser will seldom limit their actions to in-person interactions and might extend their abuse to text messages and phone calls. These exchanges provide irrefutable proof of emotionally and psychologically abusive statements. They might even reference previous abusive acts in their messages as "warnings" for defiance. The abuser might try to purge these messages from their own device but cannot control the messages on yours unless you give them access. The only risk is that one of the main tactics an abuser employs is coercing their partners to provide their passwords.
If text or e-mail exchanges are unavailable, the other option is to request witnesses' testimony. Sometimes an abusive spouse will slip up and demonstrate their abusive tendencies while someone is watching or listening. This is rare, but these mistakes generate witnesses who can testify on your behalf. Unfortunately, witnesses are considered unreliable in certain circles and are easy to counter if your spouse has a decent legal team. Nevertheless, witness statements are admissible and can be a powerful tool to prove your spouse's abusive tendencies when combined with other evidence.
Claiming your spouse is guilty of domestic violence and providing preliminary evidence is usually sufficient to get a DVRO issued. The burden of proving how extensive the abuse is so the DVRO is replaced with a more permanent alternative is designed to help with the subsequent hearing. If you fear for your safety during divorce proceedings, having a DVRO against your spouse can help ensure your children are not mistakenly placed in an abusive parent's custody.
Domestic violence is a serious issue that is more common than it should be, affecting 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men. Being the victim of a violent crime is horrifying enough, but the perpetrator being a family member is a devastating scenario. Many victims of domestic violence fear reprisal if they report the crime or try to retaliate, and therefore remain victims until they either escape or their abuser takes things too far.
While this is a terrifying reality, some options can protect the victims while they seek a permanent escape. A DVRO, while temporary, is sufficient for keeping an abusive spouse away until the divorce is finalized and a permanent restraining order can be issued. Unfortunately, an abusive spouse retains rights in divorce court, and they might take advantage in ways you are not prepared to handle.
Divorce is one of the world's most complicated and draining civil proceedings, and some attempt to skew it in their favor. An abusive spouse is already extremely manipulative and will direct that same manipulation to the divorce process to try and leverage a favorable outcome. A DVRO cannot protect against these underhanded tactics, but learning more about divorce and the scenarios it breeds can be effective in protecting your interests and upholding a restraining order against your spouse.
Knowledge is one of the best resources when entering a legal conflict like divorce, and knowledge of TROs will only take you so far. We realize this is a difficult and scary time, but we hope this article is helpful.