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Emergencies

You may have no choice but to rush into court. Don’t wait around if there are: outbreaks of physical violence; financial emergencies, such as your spouse’s refusal to respond to family needs; active threats by your spouse to take the children out of the community; or attempts to take assets. You can get orders in a few hours against imminent conduct that would cause irreparable damage.

The most common standard restraining order prohibits one spouse from harassing, molesting, attacking, striking, threatening, sexually assaulting, battering or disturbing the other. This order is seldom refused; there’s no justification for the conduct, and the personal risk is high.

The next most sought after order excludes one spouse from the home. If they haven’t separated, the wife usually would like to get her husband out of the family home. Well, it’s his house too. Unless there is actual or imminent physical violence, there’s usually no chance of getting a kick-out order.

You don’t have to wait until you’re beat up to get an after-the-fact order. Carol, my client, got an order kicking Donald out of the house since he was abusive, though he hadn’t hit her. We were surprised that Robert, my client, was excluded from his home under an order based upon the statements of Mary’s psychiatrist that his mere presence was causing her emotional harm. Mary and Robert were each trying to force the other out of the house. Each stubbornly refused to leave, making the home situation intolerable. The judge may have ruled the way he did because he thought there would be an eruption soon, and my client was better equipped to get a new place to live. Sometimes you can’t understand why a judge ruled a certain way, which is one of the incentives to settle out of court.

Unfortunately, you must expect trouble if you stay in the same house. The two of you can put up with the increasing strain for only so long. Everyone has their breaking point, no matter how stubborn and strong they start out. It may get sad. Fran called me, in tears: "He’s eating my food." Although she and Gabe, married for over 35 years, had partitioned the refrigerator, he stopped sticking by the agreement. Of course, Fran had just picked up his morning newspaper and read it, then tore it into thin strips and left it for him on the table.