Communication between parties is one of the most challenging aspects for people contending with a restraining order. Particularly if the parties have children, questions naturally arise: can I speak with the other party? How do we address issues involving the children? How are we supposed to handle exchanges without speaking? If I reach out to the other party, will I get in trouble? This article explores these questions.
If you are on the receiving end of a restraining order, the very first place to start is by carefully reviewing the terms of the actual Order signed by the judge. You will notice the judge’s initials next to each specific order. If you and the other party have children, more often the not, the judge will issue orders related to custody, parenting time, and communication. Often those orders will outline the scope of communication.
There may also be grey areas. For example, are you allowed to text back if the other party writes you a question? My advice is this: if there is any possible way that writing back may get you in trouble, steer clear of writing or responding. If you end up responding, and it could possibly be construed that it is a violation of the restraining order terms, you may be subject to an arrest.
You could also try to speak to the police before issuing any communication to verify whether a response or communication would violate the terms of the restraining order. The police will more likely than not advise that they cannot provide legal advice, but it is worth a shot. Again, I recommend avoiding any and all non-essential communication with the other party – even if the communication is allowed by the judge’s Order.
It is also imperative to recognize that communication includes those made by third-parties. For example, you cannot have a friend or family member reach out to the Petitioner to ask them to drop the restraining order.
What about a situation where the Petitioner in a restraining order reaches out to the Respondent? Can the Respondent reply? The answer is maybe, although as a rule of thumb I advise my clients to never respond. It is simply not worth the risk of potentially getting arrested.
The bottom line is this – if you have been served a restraining order, give an attorney a call to review the terms and come up with a plan of action. If there are questions regarding communication, e.g. with respect to parenting time in the midst of a restraining order, the attorney can assist with that communication in order to facilitate parenting time and other issues so that won’t fear getting arrested.
At Levine Law Center, we regularly help individuals facing restraining orders. If you have additional questions or wish to review the facts in your specific case, please do not hesitate to give us a call or write us.