Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Petitions for Injunction for Protection Against Domestic Violence

Let me state up front that, if you truly feel threatened, or you find yourself the victim of domestic violence, then a Petition for Injunction is a worthwhile and necessary avenue to take, and an option that will allow you to end the abuse cycle and move on to bigger and better things, including one hopes a person who values you as a partner and an equal, rather than as a target.

With that said, I recently spent two mornings in domestic violence court, and in watching several of these Petitions proceed before my case was called the first day, and the second day while I was waiting on copies after my case was called, it struck me that some people do not become aware of the potential repercussions until it may be too late. And these repercussions can be severe. I certainly do not want to discourage anyone who legitimately needs the protection afforded by an injunction. But what I am about to write happens to be the truth.

The fact is, I observed a number of people pursuing Petitions for Injunction in what appeared to be efforts to obtain an upper-hand in divorce or custody battles, or in situations where there were certainly hot tempers and name-calling, but no actual violence and little or no supporting evidence. The problem with these types of Petitions is that the respondent generally files a cross-petition seeking an injunction against the petitioner, and now both face the same fate. A fate which many people seem unaware of, and which brings me to the point of this post.

If a Petition for Injunction is granted by the court, the order then becomes a public record, which will almost certainly appear in any background check or employment screening process. This can be a career-killer, especially in fields where a respondent works with minors, or in professions involving law-enforcement or military servicemembers, where the respondent is routinely entrusted with deadly force. This also carries over to the private sector, which must consider the potential liability in hiring or retaining an employee who, courtesy of the Injunction, they now have actual knowledge may have violent propensities. In this already-flooded job market, that hardly adds to an employee’s competitive advantage. An Injunction also curtails certain rights, for example a respondent is generally forced to declare and surrender all weapons/firearms, and will have violated the injunction if one is found in his/her possession, regardless of whether it had anything to do with the petitioner or the injunction. This obviously presents a problem for LEOs and servicemembers.

My client’s situation was not strategic, however after understanding the risks and potential downsides involved, the parties in my case realized it was better to leave each other alone willingly, and we reached an agreement to dismiss the cross-petitions. This was truly the best outcome for my client, who worked in a field where this would have significantly limited future career growth. In fact, many of the cases where both sides have attorneys tend to be resolved this way, as once someone sits down and explains the long-term risks and downsides involved, anger tends to subside and rational choices can be made, where the parties have all of the information necessary to make an informed decision.

My worry is for the large number of pro se parties who proceed with cross-Petitions, and which Petitions are oftentimes granted against both parties, without any understanding of the long-term effects it may have on their future and career choices. If you are a victim of abuse, or are truly in fear for your safety, then filing a Petition for an Injunction for Protection may well be a life-saver, and you should not hesitate. But if your situation does not involve physical violence or a legitimate threat to your safety, then the downside risks really must be carefully weighed and considered.

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