We recently had the opportunity to defend a client against a Temporary Restraining Order and Harassment charges filed by his ex-wife. Final Restraining Orders are serious judgements that are permanent in nature. FRO hearings are actual bench trials during which evidence is introduced and each party has the opportunity to testify and be cross-examined. In this case, the FRO hearing lasted for two days and was comprised of lengthy testimony and voluminous discovery involving hundreds of emails and text messages. Ultimately, the judge found that the predicate act of Harassment did not exist, and therefore did not give rise to the necessity of the entrance of an FRO against our client.
Similarly, we were able to have the harassment charge dismissed at the municipal court level. The burden of proof on the plaintiff to find that a predicate act existed for the purpose of an FRO is preponderance of the evidence. This may mean that the judge finds one party only slightly more or less credible in order to grant or deny the FRO. At a criminal trial, the burden of proof on the State is beyond a reasonable doubt. As a result of the higher burden at the criminal level, a predicate act dismissed at an FRO is often fatal for the State to prove.
In this case, we were ultimately successful at the FRO and criminal hearings. Restraining orders are serious and are intended to protect alleged victims from physical, emotional, and mental abuse. Many are and should be granted on very valid grounds. However, it is an unfortunate reality in cases such as this, that FROs are filed by plaintiffs to gain leverage in divorce or custody proceedings or for one party to “teach their ex a lesson.” This is unacceptable and we enjoy representing individuals who are facing FROs on these grounds to preserve their rights.