The unfortunate reality is that Domestic Violence remains prevalent in American society. As a matrimonial attorney, I often meet with clients who have previously been abused by a significant other and/or are currently involved in an abusive relationship. Unfortunately, studies show that it often takes years and multiple acts of abuse before the victim leaves an abusive relationship. Fortunately for victims of domestic violence, the law provides protection in the form of a Restraining Order.
When I meet with someone who has or is currently being abused, one of the first questions is if he/she should file for a Restraining Order and if so, when? Assuming one qualifies as a victim of domestic abuse, the answer of when is always As Soon As Possible! Though there is no per se time limit on seeking a Restraining Order, it is generally best to seek the protection as soon after the act of domestic violence occurs.
There are many reasons for seeking a Restraining Order as soon as possible. From a trial perspective, timing is important as a victim’s and possible witnesses’ recollections are likely still fresh, which is important for testimony at trial. The further away from the event the more likely it is for a witness to forget the event or important details of the event. Similarly, evidence, such as pictures, medical records or phone records which prove the abuse be preserved.
In addition to the trial issues, delay between the act of abuse and filing for a restraining order can make it appear that the victim was not in immediate fear of the alleged abuser. A common defense used by defense attorneys in a Restraining Order hearing is that the victim took a while between the alleged abuse and the filing of the Restraining Order. The argument being that if someone was truly being abused, he/she would immediately seek protection from abuse. This argument is flawed, as it often takes numerous acts of abuse and time for a victim to summons the courage to break the cycle of violence. That being said, it is a very common defense and may result in the court finding that the victim does not reasonably fear the alleged abuser and therefore does not need the protection of a Final Restraining Order. It is for that reason that I recommend that my clients seek protection as soon as possible.
All of the above being said, there is no set time period for filing for a restraining order. Even if there is a significant delay between the act of abuse, it may still be appropriate to seek a restraining order. Every case is unique. It is for this reason that it is very important to meet with an attorney who understands the Domestic Violence statute and can advise you appropriately.
Kevin Falkenstein, Esq. is an Associate with Adinolfi & Packman focusing on all aspects of divorce and family law, including the issues of Domestic Violence. Whether you are seeking representation as a victim of Domestic Violence or believe that you have been falsely accused, having experienced counsel is important. Call our offices at 856-428-8334 to schedule an initial consultation for more information.