My Ex-Spouse Filed a Protective Order based on False Allegations against me?!  What Should I Do?

Protective orders, frequently referred to in Georgia as Temporary Protective Orders (TPOs) and Permanent Protective Orders (PPOs) are frequently filed with false allegations of abuse, etc.  Below we address how a Protective Order filed with false allegations should be responded to.

What Should I Do?

Accept the service of the Protective Order as soon as possible. You will only have a short amount of time to prepare for your defense and the sooner you learn about the allegations in the petition the more time you will have for preparing your case. It is not uncommon that an abuser will try to file for a Protective Order against a victim – especially in instances in which the victim may have in the past had the petitioner arrested or had obtained a Protective Order against the petitioner previously. An abuser may use a Protective Order as a legal weapon to try and get a victim arrested for revenge or to use as leverage in another court case like a divorce, child custody case, or visitation. If you intend on fighting the Protective Order it is important to hire a legal representative (divorce / family law attorney) as the Protective Order may negatively impact decisions in future court proceedings and have constitutional right limitations; as well as, criminal consequences if the perpetrator accuses you of violating the order. Be sure to appear to your court date and prepare for defenses to all accusations specifically listed in the abusers petition.

Typical Characteristics of a False Protective Order:

A False Protective Order generally has characteristics that a legal professional can identify which indicate that the document is based on fabricated allegations. In a Protective Order the petitioner generally must state each incident that occurred and the specific information concerning the incident. A false Protective Order may list the incidents but may be exceptionally vague as to details and may not even include the dates and times that the supposed incident occurred. This is intentional because the petitioner does not want to be pinned down on information before testifying in court. By being vague they are able to prevent you from defending yourself from their false claims by providing contrary information or providing evidence that you were participating in another activity at the time of their claims. Another characteristic of a false Protective Order is that the abuser may state that they feel in fear of physical immediate harm and fear for their safety without any supporting evidence that places them in this type of fear. Abusers have researched a Protective Order before they will file and will know what they will need to say to achieve their goal – however they typically mess up by not substantiating their claims for reasonable fear. For example they may state their fear comes from them being arrested or fear of a legal court proceeding which does not warrant a Protective Order or they may state fears that something will happen without any precedent of that activity previously occurring. Lastly, a false Protective Order will not have any supporting evidence other than the petitioner’s word that the events occurred. Generally the petitioner will not bring any witnesses to court, will not have necessary documents (police reports) to substantiate claims, and or will divert from previous claims contained in petition once in court.

How Your Attorney Can Help Defend You:

Although it appears that the abuser may have a weak claim it is possible that once in court the abuser/ petitioner can use this weakness to their advantage. It is easy to defend yourself from false allegations when the facts are clearly stated so you know how to defend yourself i.e. providing video tape, providing an alibi, demonstrating facts to the contrary. The abuser will use this vagueness to their advantage in court so you will be unprepared to counter their claims. It also allows them to alter their claims in response to your defenses as they may quickly change the story on the stand to counter against your defense. Their lack of information presented in their pleading allows for them to alter their story and is your biggest challenge in defending yourself. If you believe that their claim is unwarranted and you would like to point this out to the judge you should do so upfront. You may do this by pointing out any overarching flaws in their pleading:

• The petitioner intentionally was vague in their claims and was not specific with incident times and dates to prevent you from defending yourself.
• The petitioner is using this Protective Order to impact the decision of a current or pending case in the legal system.
• The petitioner is using this Protective Order as a source of revenge for a past arrest, court action, or Protective Order that was against them.
• The petitioner has stated unreasonable facts that they are put in fear for their safety- such as a fear of legal action, fear of arrest, or fear without reasonable support/ irrational fear without basis.

Why should I Fight a False Protective Order?

A Protective Order may be presented to anyone involved in your life or child’s life and may be used to discredit your character. A Protective Order may be presented to your work or at your child’s school or daycare and may negatively impact your relationship with teachers, employers, or other care providers. A Protective Order may label you as an abuser and impact your civil rights to move freely as you wish in regards to public places, particular driving routes, and or even impact your living situation. In some situations a Protective Order may even warrant for minor children to be placed into temporary custody of the abuser or for the minor children to be removed from the home and placed into the Department of Child and Family Services custody. Furthermore, a Protective Order may minimalize your constitutional rights according to your freedoms of speech and your second amendment right to bear arms. And in the worst case scenario a Protective Order used as a weapon may be used for you to get falsely arrested and charged with a violation of the court order. The goal of an abuser is to use the Protective Order to distract from their abusive behavior and to use the Protective Order as a weapon to continue to victimize its target.

What are some solutions to dealing with a False Protective Order?

A victim of a false Protective Order may file a response with the court to counter claim against the Protective Order by answering the motion for Protective Order, motioning for additional relief, or a dismissal of the case. This will allow for your objectives to be known before the hearing for the resolution of the case. One strategic counterclaim in a false Protective Order hearing is to also motion for a Protective Order based on your own provable claims. In this type of situation a judge will generally grant a mutual restraining order explicitly stating the reasons granting a restraining order for either party and a ruling on which individual is most likely to be perceived to be the aggressor or perpetrator in the case. A judge will need to list one person to be more likely to be the perpetrator in the case so that in the event of an attraction the police will be able to identify who is most likely the aggressor- this will be identified in the judges “findings”. In the event of a Mutual Restraining Order you will need to obtain a copy of the judge’s findings to use for your defense if a dispute were to occur. The second solution is to attempt to get the case dismissed based on false contingencies- you will need a lot of hard evidence to counter this type of claim. Lastly, whether the case is dismissed or granted – if the abuser attempts to cause conflict or have you arrested based on false claims notify the District Attorney’s Office and the Court involved in issuing/ denying the past case. Inform these legal agencies that the abuser is doing this as a form of harassment and is being malicious- provide their motives for doing their actions and reasons as to why they need to be investigated/ prosecuted based on false claims and perjury. If it is provable that this is a retaliatory case then it is likely that the DA or the Court system can drop the legal issue or dismiss the Protective Order action. The court may even issue a warning against the abuser to cease all activities or they will face possible legal or criminal repercussions- this generally acts as an effective deterrent against future false claims with the court system or other authorities.