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Will a protective order prove help prove my grounds for divorce?

By Spodek Law Group | July 27, 2023
(Last Updated On: October 13, 2023)

Last Updated on: 13th October 2023, 08:21 pm

Will a Protective Order Help Prove Grounds for Divorce?

Divorce can be an emotionally difficult process under the best of circumstances. But when domestic violence is present within the marriage, the situation becomes much more complex for the abused spouse. They may seek a protective order, also called a restraining order, against the abusive partner prior to filing for divorce. So how exactly does obtaining a restraining order against a spouse work, and can it be used as evidence in the divorce itself? Let’s take a closer look.

What is a Protective Order?

A protective order, also referred to as a restraining order, is a court order issued to protect one family member from violence or harassment by another family member. It prohibits the abusive individual (the respondent) from further acts or threats of violence against the petitioner and other protected parties, such as children.Protective orders can include provisions such as:

  • Requiring the respondent to refrain from contacting, harassing, threatening or abusing the petitioner.
  • Directing the respondent to temporarily vacate the home, even if they own the property.
  • Awarding temporary custody and visitation rights regarding minor children.
  • Requiring the respondent to pay temporary child support.
  • Forbidding the respondent from possessing firearms.

Violating the terms of a protective order is a criminal offense that can result in fines or jail time.

Obtaining a Protective Order

To obtain a protective order, the petitioner must file a petition with the family court and appear before a judge to explain why they fear for their safety from the respondent. This usually requires describing a recent incident of violence or threats.If the judge agrees, they will issue a temporary protective order effective immediately. A hearing date is then set for both parties to return to court, where the judge will decide whether to dismiss the order or make it permanent.

The standard of proof for granting a protective order is relatively low compared to criminal cases – the petitioner typically only needs to show it’s more likely than not that abuse occurred.

How Protective Orders Affect Divorce

While divorce in all states is now “no-fault”, meaning no proof of wrongdoing is required, abuse can still play a role in divorce proceedings.


If one parent has abused the other, this must be considered when determining custody arrangements. However, a finding of domestic violence does not automatically disqualify the abusive parent from all custody or visitation rights. The court looks at multiple factors to decide the children’s best interests.

Property Division

In some states, domestic violence can affect how marital property is divided during divorce. For example, if one spouse tried to control the other by hiding assets, the victim may be awarded a larger share.

Spousal Support

Some states presume an abusive spouse should not receive spousal support. Proving domestic violence may prevent the victim from having to financially support their abuser post-divorce.

Attorney’s Fees

If domestic violence played a significant role in the divorce, the abuser may be ordered to pay the victim’s attorney fees.

Using Protective Orders as Evidence in Divorce

While a protective order does not definitively prove domestic abuse occurred, it can serve as persuasive evidence in a divorce case for several reasons:

  • Judges do not issue protective orders lightly – some proof of potential danger is required.
  • The respondent has the opportunity to argue their side at the protective order hearing.
  • Standards of proof are lower than in criminal trials.
  • Medical records, witness statements and other evidence may also be submitted to obtain the order.

That said, a criminal conviction related to domestic violence is generally the strongest proof for divorce proceedings. Other helpful evidence can include medical records of injuries, photographs of injuries, and testimony from witnesses.If abuse is proven, it can have a significant impact on the outcome of custody, financial and other divorce-related matters. Therefore, abuse victims should work closely with an experienced divorce attorney to gather the necessary evidence and build their strongest case.

Avoiding False Accusations

While protective orders serve an important purpose, the relative ease of obtaining temporary orders creates potential for abuse of the system. Some spouses file dubious or exaggerated abuse claims solely to gain advantage in a divorce.

If you’ve been accused of abuse, here are some tips:

  • Avoid any conflicts with your spouse during separation – even yelling can be misconstrued.
  • Record interactions when possible to document what actually occurred.
  • Be prepared to move out of the home on short notice if ordered.
  • Work with your attorney to contest any false allegations and advocate for your rights.
  • Follow all protective order terms – violating an order can lead to criminal charges.


In summary, while protective orders do not establish definitive proof, they can serve as persuasive evidence of abuse in a divorce case. This can significantly impact child custody, property division, and financial matters. Accused spouses should vigorously contest any false allegations while victims should work with an attorney to gather evidence proving the abuse. As challenging as it may be, avoiding conflicts and complying with court orders is critical for both parties when domestic violence enters the equation.


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