When your ex decides to file phony abuse allegations so that you’re fighting a restraining order during a divorce case, the legal process is in two stages. The first “ex parte” hearing is one which only needs to be attended by the plaintiff, and a temporary order can be filed against you, which is then served in person. The second formal hearing is where you get a chance to defend yourself against it becoming a permanent order. In-between those two dates you are under the restraining order’s standard restrictions (firearms confiscation, a no contact order, and so on).
Unfortunately for those of us fighting an order because of false accusations, the first hearing is one where judges prefer to “err on the side of caution”. In practical terms, this means that the temporary orders are almost always granted against the defendant. Whilst in legitimate cases this is a good thing, it does lead to sly divorce tactics being employed during many breakups.
One prominent example of where the judge’s tendency to automatically grant the temporary order was abused is in the case of television presenter David Letterman. It reminds us of the ease with which the ex parte hearing judges grant restraining orders, effectively cutting fathers off from their kids until those fathers have a chance to respond in court several weeks later.
Basically, a deranged female fan from New Mexico filed restraining order paperwork against him in 2005. At the ex parte court hearing, Colleen Nestler of Santa Fe explained that the defendant (Letterman) had been harassing her since 1994 into marrying him, as well as exerting pressure to become a co-host on his talk show. He’d been responsible for her bankruptcy declaration and ongoing sleep deprivation problems. The temporary restraining order was granted against Letterman, and a court date set for a second hearing so he could argue his defense.
The method of Letterman’s harassment of this lady was… coded messages and facial expressions in his television presentations. Even more disturbing is that when asked if he might have made a mistake, Judge Sanchez stated in the negative.
The fact is that an applicant need only assert a “fear” of violence in most states for the judge to grant the temporary order, even if none has occurred. A new development in some counties is that applications can be made by telephone, without the need to attend county court the same day.
This situation sums up what fathers are up against when fighting a restraining order as part of strategic divorce maneuvers. The only difference is that their stories aren’t widely publicised to mass outrage, and they often don’t have expensive lawyers to descend upon the case to petition a dismissal before the second appointed court date. Meaning that they don’t get to see their children in the meantime.