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Noncustodial father hasn't seen child in weeks and was just served with a restraining order

Your Question:
I am recently divorced as of last May of 2005. I now have open visitation which is not working out . The past few weeks I have been denied visitation and am up to date on child support. I have contacted the police and reported it every time. I as well have made several attempts to call my x-wife to find out why? NO RESPONSE from her. This morning (04/05/06) I was served a harassment restraining order on me forbidding contact with my x or my child. What do I do.

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My Answer:

Thanks for writing.

Above all else, DO NOT make contact with your ex or the child. That's gonna get you in deeper.

You provided further information (not posted), and I'll weave some of that information into my response.

I think your biggest challenge right now is that you have a past incident of violence on the books with a prior girlfriend. No doubt this was mentioned when your ex got her restraining order.

You also said that you don't have an attorney, your court orders don't specifically outline when you can spend time with the child, and that the main allegation this restraining order says is that you've threatened to kidnap your child.

Filing false restraining orders is not uncommon in custody fights. More often done by women than men, it's a proven way to get a hated individual out of one's life for a while; and it sets the stage for prohibiting much access to the child for a long time.

Unfortunately, the people who make false accusations contribute to to the plight of true abuse victims. We've got evil people out there -- primarily women -- who make light of domestic violence by using it as a ploy for their own misguided desires. False reports of DV or harassment create a huge burden on the system, sucking up resources that could have otherwise gone to helping true victims who may get lost in the system or dismissed as part of the population just making false accusations. Want to see a loser? Look at any person who has use fraud and deceit to obtain a restraining order.

That said, it's a serious matter you're facing.

I think you should IMMEDIATELY (e.g., tomorrow) seek out an experienced polygraph examiner. If you don't have one in your city, look for one in the closest major city. Ask the local police department for a reference.

It may cost you a few hundred bucks to get a credible polygraph examiner to administer a lie detector test to you and provide a written report on the results. I suggest you have him ask you three or four of these questions:

  • Have you ever hit or struck EX-WIFE'S NAME in anger?

  • Have you ever told EX-WIFE'S NAME that you would hit or strike her?

  • Have you ever told EX-WIFE'S NAME that you would abduct CHILD'S NAME?

  • Has EX-WIFE'S NAME ever struck or hit you in anger? (only worth asking if the answer is "yes")?

  • Has EX-WIFE'S NAME completely prevented you from seeing CHILD'S NAME after March 13, 2006 (or whatever date)?

The polygraph examiner will be able to tell you whether or not you passed. If you can't answer the above questions in the right way, and in a truthful manner, then you won't pass. There's no trickery that's going to work. You should be able to get written results within a day or so, with a cover letter about the guy who administered the test, when it was done, his contact information, etc.

Note: polygraph results are not admissible as evidence unless both parties consent to it. However, there are ways to make the results helpful. Evaluators can look at the results (this was useful in my own case), and I've heard that particularly bold attorneys can offer to produce results of it (and just by such offering, a judge knows what it contains).

While waiting on the results, start shopping for a family law attorney. You want an aggressive asshole of an attorney (note: attorneys with such personalities aren't the best match for every case). Try to get referrals from folks you know. Make sure the attorney has at least 10 years' experience in the county where your case is heard. Before retaining an attorney, check with the state bar to make sure the person has no past disciplinary actions. Interview at least two, if not more.

You'll need $1500 to $5000 to retain an effective, experienced attorney, depending upon standard retainer fees in your area. You have to decide if it's worth this money to stay in your child's life, but you probably can't make things right on your own.

Plop down your polygraph results, and tell the attorney that these are the goals for which you want to hire him/her:

  • Make the restraining order disappear ASAP. As part of this, try to get the mother to pay your attorney fees (not likely, but worth a shot).

  • Get court orders for a specific temporary parenting plan, that outlines the exact days and hours you will have custody of the child.

  • If the attorney feels it's possible and in your best interest (for your long-term goals with this child), see if you can get fast-track custody evaluations ordered. This means that someone like a social worker will interview both parents and will visit each home. Given that you're starting with nothing right now, the outcome can only help you. You outlined some disturbing things about the mother, and this evaluator can bring relevant issues to the court's attention.

Additionally, it may help for you to take a parenting class. It's something your attorney can introduce to the court, if the attorney feels it would benefit you. Else, no one needs to know about it, and it doesn't hurt you.

Further, if you never got involved in anger management counseling or support, you should. Given your past, it's going to be easy for the mother's attorney to portray you as a violent guy. You can largely neutralize this if you're able to say, "That was eight years ago, and I learned my lesson. I've even been involved in anger management support groups to stay on track and help others too."

And, with regard to the couple other nonviolent infractions you've faced... you need to fly the straight and narrow path from here on out, knowing that this mother is going to exploit and twist your every screw-up.

I think your biggest decision is whether you want to stand up for your parental rights against someone you describe (in emails not posted) as a conniving, unstable person. It may be a long road (i.e., a year or two) before you see some pretty good resolution from all this.

So, with this restraining order, you're probably at a fork in the road. Walk away and merely pay child support, or jump in for the fight of your life.

I can tell you that I had the same fork years ago, sitting in a jail cell after being arrested on a false accusation of violence. We know what route was right for ME. I paid the cost (emotional and financial) of engaging such a war. But I couldn't bear the thought of my child being without a good role model for a parent, let alone becoming fatherless. And the outcome has offered me tremendous gifts as well.

Good luck. Time to leave town or strap on the body armor... your choice.


This website gives common sense advice that is not intended to act as legal guidance nor psychological guidance. The author is neither an attorney nor licensed psychologist. For specific legal guidance or specific psychological guidance, consult with a licensed professional.

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