Can a divorce judge order me to have no contact with my separated wife?

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Question:

I decided that I want to divorce my wife, and we separated.  After filing for divorce, we’ve had some heated disagreements.  My wife is angry because I’ve started dating someone, and she says that she’s going to get a “no contact” order, to prevent me from being able to see my children, if I won’t stop seeing this woman and go home.  Can a divorce judge order me to have no contact with my separated wife?  If so, will I be able to see my children?  How will we work out the rest of the divorce issues?

 

Answer:

A divorce judge can order you to have no contact with the wife you’re separated from, if the wife claims that you have harassed or threatened her with violence.  A no contact order can come about in a couple of ways, and though the factual claims are similar, the results are very different.  One is simply a civil action for a restraining order, a kind of injunction forbidding certain behavior.  It might prevent you from contacting the wife or children, or even restraining you from disposing of property.  A judge can punish a violation of a restraining order as a civil contempt, imposing fines or even jail time. 

Another situation that often results in a special kind of no contact order is that of domestic violence.  Most states have adopted uniform domestic violence laws that conform to the federal Violence Against Women Act (1994), creating a special procedure for restraining a person from harassing, stalking, or threatening an intimate partner or the child of one.  You can be charged with state or federal crimes for violating a domestic violence order (DVO), you will be listed in a nationwide database of abusers, and it is a federal crime, with a minimum 5-year sentence, for a person to possess a firearm while subject to a DVO.  Such orders often prohibit contact or even coming within a set distance of someone – even if they are pursuing you.  Some judges will order supervised child visitation as part of the proceeding.  Unfortunately, many spouses seek restraining orders or DVOs offensively, to punish an estranged spouse for finding someone new, or they may seek the order as a matter of strategy, to try to prejudice a judge’s opinion about the other party in hopes of obtaining favorable rulings on child custody and property issues, or to leverage the other party to settle such issues. 

Allegations of domestic violence are serious.  You could go to jail for accepting an invitation to “come home,” unless the DVO is amended.  If accused, you should immediately contact a domestic violence attorney for advice.

 

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