Divorce and Protective Orders

Can I represent myself in a divorce if there’s an active order of protection?

Yes. Regardless of the circumstances in your case, you have the right to file for divorce without an attorney, and that includes cases when there's a protective order preventing one spouse from abusing, harassing and sometimes even from contacting the other spouse. Whether it’s always a good decision to do so is another matter. Having an active protective order during a divorce will likely complicate the case, at least to some extent.

Include the Case in Your Paperwork

Almost all states require you to list any related cases involving you, your spouse and your children in your divorce paperwork. This includes any prior divorce filings between you and your spouse as well as cases like paternity, child custody, child support and restraining/protective orders. This may be requested in a separate document or may be contained within the Divorce Petition/Complaint. Provide the case number, the court name, judge name and date the order was issued. Then, attach a copy of the order signed by the judge to the divorce document that contains information about it.

Will Your Spouse Cooperate?

Another thing that complicates divorce when there's a protective order is the relationship of the parties. Ideally, divorces are uncontested and the parties reach an agreement on all of their issues without having to involve the judge or a mediator. That’s the fastest and least expensive way to get divorced. However, if your relationship has been so volatile that you had to get a protective order, chances are you’re going to have a hard time reaching an agreement on things like division of property and debts, let alone child custody and support.

Communicating May Violate the Protective Order

Even if both spouses are motivated to work toward an agreement, the spouse with the order against him or her may be violating it just by texting or talking to the other spouse, even if the innocent spouse initiated the contact. Before any communication is made, make sure the order doesn’t contain a no-contact provision. If it does, you will either have to have that lifted by the judge, which may not be in your best interest at the time, or find another means for communicating about the terms of your settlement that doesn't violate the protective order, such as through an attorney or mediator.

The Judge May Order a Hearing

Many states already require a hearing before you can get a divorce, but in those that don’t, having an active protective order could prompt the judge to schedule a hearing before granting the divorce, especially in cases involving minor children. In some states, if there has been domestic violence, even if there isn’t an active order of protection, it needs to be stated in the divorce papers.

When Minor Children are Involved

Some states have laws prohibiting a spouse who has committed domestic violence against the other spouse from having custody of minor children, even if it's joint and is agreed upon by both spouses. All states allow someone filing for divorce to keep the address and phone number of an abused spouse confidential if there has been any domestic violence. You generally have to get the judge's permission to redact this information from the divorce papers before you file if you want to keep an abusive spouse from locating you.

DivorceWriter is designed for couples who have reached an agreement on all issues and are both willing and able to sign the documents needed for divorce in your state. If you and your spouse are unable to communicate or agree on the terms of your settlement or matters involving your children for whatever reason, DivorceWriter may not be the right product for you.