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Author Topic: Anyone have experience with filing PFA order?  (Read 186 times)
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« on: March 11, 2019, 06:13:18 AM »

I was able to meet with a DV advocate and attorney at the same time. They both suggested I file a PFA order against my H on behalf of my S3 and myself and file for divorce. H has not left bruises, burns or scars (significant evidence of physical abuse that can be photographed) which is what one attorney told me would likely be necessary for supervised visitation between H and S3. My fear is that if I file and testify it may not be granted and only end up making things worse. Does anyone on here have experience with filing for a protective order and divorce at the same time?
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« Reply #1 on: March 12, 2019, 12:05:24 AM »

I seem to recall that at least one state includes on it's divorce filing checklist whether you want a PFA.  So asking for protection when filing for divorce is not going to make you look bad.

What looks bad is if you seek protection then later get back with the perp.  Courts and those working with the court will go the extra mile for you if you work with them and listen to their advice.  If you return and become a revolving door litigant, then their zealous assistance will dissipate rather quickly.  You can imagine what goes over the airwaves in such cases, "Hey, slow down, no need to rush, it's yet another call from the Arguers residence, why in the world do we separate them when they just get back together again, over and over?"

Also, be aware that claiming "he always..." or "she always..." get's little attention, it's vague and could be considered hearsay and not 'actionable'.  Be as specific as possible on incidents with dates, times, locations, witnesses if any, etc.

I've been here on the boards for more than a dozen years.  Yes, many had been warned not to record, especially recording the children.  But I don't recall any members getting arrested for recording.  At most a handful were strictly told by the court not to record their children.  So my conclusion is this (fear of terrible consequences for record) is a case where generally there's more mental bark than actual bite.  You may get lectured but as long as you handle it reasonably there are unlikely to be negative consequences.  As I wrote, one approach to deflect suspicions of bad motives is to maintain a stance that you're recording yourself to protect yourself from false allegations, like an insurance policy.  That way your stance is that you're not being aggressive.
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« Reply #2 on: March 12, 2019, 12:38:04 PM »

My fear is that if I file and testify it may not be granted and only end up making things worse.

There is a good chapter about restraining orders in Gavin de Becker's Gift of Fear that you might find helpful as you work through this hard decision.

I understand the agony. What is good for us legally may also make things less safe for a short period. This can feel unbearable for us when a child is involved.

One thing that sometimes happens when we shine light on a situation is that the disordered partner pulls it together and behaves impeccably as a parent, which can be possible for a short while and to a limited extent. It was a surprise to me that my ex became relatively calm when I filed for divorce. When I left I effectively went into hiding and didn't disclose my location until lawyers were involved and the temporary order was in place. At that point, the light was shining like disinfectant and we had a lot of people involved, watching and stabilizing and documenting how we moved forward. Like a lot of bullies, my ex was able to hide his behaviors until he couldn't. During that relatively short period of stability we brought in other sources of sunshine like deposition, coparenting counselor, a psychiatric evaluation for ex, and eventually a parenting coordinator.

You know your H best. What is your best guess for how he would respond to the PFA?

I asked my attorney, What will happen if I leave abruptly. She walked me through the scenarios. When I did leave, I knew to put our son on the phone with his dad immediately that night and every night until we were able to get a temporary order in place. We avoided the restraining order because both lawyers were assertive, not aggressive, and wanted to stabilize us, and ex agreed to the interim terms, which was to not press visitation until our son had a counselor, H had a counselor, and a few other things. We did the exchanges at H's house (previously mine, I had left) and H had to wait until mediation to determine our legal temporary custody status.

Do you have a journal or anything else documenting your concerns about H's behaviors?


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« Reply #3 on: March 13, 2019, 04:44:05 AM »

I seem to recall that at least one state includes on it's divorce filing checklist whether you want a PFA.  So asking for protection when filing for divorce is not going to make you look bad.


Thank you for replying. The attorney did give me a copy of papers that would need to be filled out when filing D. There was a small line on there that asked if there had been a history of abuse. At this point, if I answered no I feel like it would be lying. I am just afraid of testifying because nothing was recorded (video or audio) and he is very skilled at twisting things around. He would have the opportunity to do so and there's no telling what he would claim happened.
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« Reply #4 on: March 13, 2019, 05:15:04 AM »


I understand the agony. What is good for us legally may also make things less safe for a short period. This can feel unbearable for us when a child is involved.

Like a lot of bullies, my ex was able to hide his behaviors until he couldn't. During that relatively short period of stability we brought in other sources of sunshine like deposition, coparenting counselor, a psychiatric evaluation for ex, and eventually a parenting coordinator.

You know your H best. What is your best guess for how he would respond to the PFA?

Do you have a journal or anything else documenting your concerns about H's behaviors?


Yes, it would be so much easier to just try to walk away if S3 weren't involved. I constantly worry about how each decision I make will affect him short and long term. I am not able to sleep more than a few hours at night and have been this way for months now. I know it is taking it's toll on my health. When H is around my stomach aches, and he pops in randomly and seldom says how long he will be home for. S3 right now thinks H is wonderful and at times and it appears he has forgotten all the times he pinned him to the floor and made him screach and other things, although he does still act scared and clings to me and doesn't want to go to him at times when he wakes from his nap and sees him sitting there.

H is also very good at putting on his best act when neccessary. At times he does appear to be the best father in the world, and I think he would do a good job of pretending if he were being watched.

I believe he would respond to a PFA with anger, although that could depend on where it were served. If someone were around he might laugh and start making accusations about me. For sure his BPD mother would get involved and probably try to help him make up lies. She was institutionalized several times throughout his childhood, and put in jail, yet somehow she got and kept custody of him.

I do have a journal. I wrote down some of his behaviors toward me and concerning behaviors toward S3. He is not as physical with S3 now, as S3 can speak more clearly and say specifically when he doesn't like something H is doing to him, but H still does little things that I would consider bullying, like taking toys he's playing with out of his hands and calling him spoiled when he gets upset. H doesn't see this behavior as antagonistic, but if I am out of the room I hear screaching a lot. I walk back in and catch him in the act. I can't do anything to stop it because H sees nothing wrong with it.
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« Reply #5 on: March 13, 2019, 12:16:55 PM »

Has your lawyer recommended a custody evaluation?
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« Reply #6 on: March 13, 2019, 12:56:03 PM »

Has your lawyer recommended a custody evaluation?

I believe she did mention one. She was more concerned about the pfa, as the advocate set up the meeting with her and we didn't have a lot of time. I did not retain her yet. I was able to speak with a different atty almost a year ago already, and he did mention one back then.
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« Reply #7 on: March 13, 2019, 01:50:17 PM »

A custody evaluation can be helpful if the professionals involved are good. That way, you have someone observing your H with S3 and asking questions. If the abuse is subtle it can be harder to detect but when there are many data points all pointing in the same direction that tells a similar story, that's when things start to turn and begin working in your favor.

I would want to know exactly what happens after filing the PFA. Do you then have S3 under your care until a hearing is held? Can you arrange for supervised visitation until a custody evaluation is completed?

Keep asking questions until you see a plan form. It may seem like all or nothing, this or that,  but sometimes there are ways through that don't make sense until you ask the question the right way.

Meanwhile, try to document as much disordered behavior as you can. What you're going for is a complete picture of the abuse and each piece of documentation helps. Third-party professionals tend to carry a lot of weight, and so does prior documentation.

I also found that proposing solutions went a long way. I proposed that my ex do parenting classes, anger management, undergo a psychiatric evaluation. It effectively put him in a position where he had to defend that he had those issues (which matched my documentation of the same behaviors). We also did a deposition where it became clear I was a credible witness and ex was not.

I didn't get full custody right away, but I did get there eventually. Sometimes the middle way is how things work out. It isn't preferable, and it isn't the worse-case scenario.

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« Reply #8 on: March 13, 2019, 09:32:07 PM »


I would want to know exactly what happens after filing the PFA. Do you then have S3 under your care until a hearing is held? Can you arrange for supervised visitation until a custody evaluation is completed.


These are great questions. I believe she said S3 would be under my care until a hearing, but did not mention visits. I was assuming they would be supervised until a hearing, but am not sure at what point or when a custody evaluation would be done and if supervised visits could be extended if necessary. My emergency plan right now is to stay with a friend or family if his behavior becomes to frightening again or if he attempts to place S3 in the middle of a another disagreement. I would have to look for a job, permanent residence and childcare  from there. The atty said she did not think being unemployed would hurt at this point, as I am unable to go to interviews and look for a job with the situation I'm in right now. I am slightly concerned about the evaluation being done away from S3's home environment and unsure if he would be his normal self under all the stress. I do not know much about custody evaluations, but it would seem to me that S3 would be most comfortable in the home he is used to living in.
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« Reply #9 on: March 15, 2019, 05:55:50 AM »


 Third-party professionals tend to carry a lot of weight, and so does prior documentation.

I also found that proposing solutions went a long way. I proposed that my ex do parenting classes, anger management, undergo a psychiatric evaluation. It effectively put him in a position where he had to defend that he had those issues (which matched my documentation of the same behaviors). We also did a deposition where it became clear I was a credible witness and ex was not.


By third party professionals, do you mean possibly a visitation supervisor could see evidence of abuse before a hearing takes place?

I like the proposals you made. I was thinking along the same lines in my situation. The goal would be to get H some help in being a better father and somehow teach S3 coping strategies if possible. He is so little though, and doesn't know any different than what he's seen and experienced so far. Did your ex request you undergo an evaluation and take parenting classes as well?
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« Reply #10 on: March 15, 2019, 12:39:54 PM »

Third-party professionals means anyone therapeutic involved in your case. It can be a therapist, a coparenting counselor, parenting coordinator, custody evaluator, guardian ad litem, etc. And yes, a person supervising visitation.

It could also be that you propose visitation in public places until a custody evaluation has taken place.

Unfortunately, the courts hear about some horrendous things so undocumented abuse might not get the attention you want, with the results you want, at least at first. People here often say it's a marathon, not a sprint with our cases.

However, if you propose ways for S3 to have a safe relationship with his dad while things work their way through the system, in a way that creates documentation for the court, you may eventually get the arrangement you believe is best for S3. Meaning, not the easiest but at least safer than the alternative. Propose the solution that allows the court to get a good look at what's happening without exposing S3 to risks. That might be 2 hour visitation with dad in a public place until the custody evaluation is completed.

If your ex is like mine, he will drag his feet on any kind of investigation because deep down parenting is stressful for someone prone to emotional dysregulation and stonewalling means he can blame someone/something else for his failure to parent instead of confront those issues in himself.

My ex never did any of the things the court ordered him to do. He ended up losing custody which, sadly, I believe he knew was appropriate given how much he had decompensated. He would rather be obstinate and not follow court orders than have light shining on his shortcomings.  
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« Reply #11 on: March 15, 2019, 09:56:07 PM »


Unfortunately, the courts hear about some horrendous things so undocumented abuse might not get the attention you want, with the results you want, at least at first. People here often say it's a marathon, not a sprint with our cases.


This is what I heard from the first atty as well. He mentioned there were no police reports or evidence at the time. That was when I started documenting, but then wondering if my own documentation could still turn into he said she said and not be taken seriously. I told a couple people about some things, seeking advice. They may have filed some type of report, but I'm not sure if there's any way of knowing beforehand, or if it would have to come out in an investigation.
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« Reply #12 on: March 16, 2019, 06:27:31 AM »


It could also be that you propose visitation in public places until a custody evaluation be completed.


Do you think this something that could be proposed in filing for divorce and custody instead of filing for a PFA?
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« Reply #13 on: March 16, 2019, 12:20:09 PM »

That's a good question for your attorney.

It worked in my situation because of the way things lined up, including the kinds of documentation I had and the way I planned my exit.

Also, the reason we were able to get to that solution is because I was prepared to file a restraining order. Ex's L said, Look -- you should agree to this other option because an RO is not optimal. She's going to file it and then you are in a worse position.

So sometimes it's about the Ls and their ability to negotiate. My ex is actually the person who taught me to negotiate (former trial attorney) but he seemed to forget everything he knew when it came time. I would send a signal (e.g. restraining order) then he would counter (stick with status quo) and then we would have a middle way that was where I had been aiming all along.
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« Reply #14 on: March 16, 2019, 01:21:35 PM »


Also, the reason we were able to get to that solution is because I was prepared to file a restraining order. Ex's L said, Look -- you should agree to this other option because an RO is not optimal. She's going to file it and then you are in a worse position.


So you were going to file for a RO after D had already started?
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« Reply #15 on: March 17, 2019, 10:12:39 AM »

So you were going to file for a RO after D had already started?

I left abruptly, a week before I had planned to leave. Things were escalating and my ex seemed to sense that I had already left emotionally. I worried that he was going to escalate something on the weekend, so I moved out with our then S9 at an apartment nearby. I was prepared to file a restraining order that day but the lawyers were able to dial things down. They were able to get ex to agree to not press me about where I was living in exchange for nightly calls with S9.

Things eventually calmed down and we sorted things out enough to get a temporary order in place.

And then not long after that ex had some kind of ambien-painkiller fueled alcohol enhanced psychotic episode where he texted, IM'd, emailed, voicemailed 100+ messages in a 12 hour period, all night long while then S11 was in his care.

I ended up filing an emergency order to suspend visitation and ex agreed to only communicate through his lawyer with no contact between us until our hearing was over.

If you can choose an option that is equal in protection to what you want, it's always best to choose that rather than escalate with a restraining order, at least in my experience.

The only thing the RO does is give you legal footprints. The chapter on RO's in de Becker's book talks about what they do and what they don't. I didn't intend for mine to be a bargaining point, but that's essentially what they became. My ex was a former trial attorney and it was generally understood that he didn't want his dirty laundry aired in court, so he was very motivated to avoid the RO, even if it meant he could only curtail his impulsive and damaging behaviors for a short period of time.

There is always more than one solution to a problem. You have to keep phrasing the questions in slightly different ways, in my experience. That way you start to get different solutions to appear.

At the advice of a friend and former member here, I organized my thinking to be clear about what my goals were, and then I worked from there. I went into my lawyer's office and said, These are my goals. What's the best way to get there? What's the second-best way? What are the consequences or likely outcomes of the first way? What are the pros and cons? What happens if it doesn't work, then what?

My lawyer kind of pooh-poohed me, but that process was important for me and I ended up earning her respect. I learned enough about how things worked that I could collaborate with her and challenge her when things didn't seem well thought out. I learned that her mistakes cost me a lot of stress so I was respectful, courteous, and gracious while at the same time making sure we closed those loopholes in future orders. I began to make sure contingencies for non-compliance were written into the order so that when we inevitably went back to court, the judge could just say, "Well Mr. n/BPDx, it says right here that you agreed to xyz if you didn't complete abc. So that's what's happening. Boom, gavel."
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« Reply #16 on: March 18, 2019, 06:35:36 AM »


It worked in my situation because of the way things lined up, including the kinds of documentation I had and the way I planned my exit.


Do you mind me asking what kind of documentation you had? If that is too personal, I understand. All I have right now is my journal of H's. behavior toward S3 and what I have done to create distractions, keep peace and help S3. I also have written down places we have gone and times, etc. I never leave S3 alone with H because he alternates between being afraid of him and wanting to spend time with him. I have written down all the times he has acted afraid and how I have reacted. S3 is now starting to make noises that seem almost full of rage when H tries to grab things out of his hands. H still does not get that it is his behavior that is making him upset, even when I have tried telling him. I have thought of trying to get S3 into play therapy for a second opinion, until I am able to leave, but would have to find a way to sneak him in. H for sure would not approve. He thinks S3's behavior is just normal for a boy.
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« Reply #17 on: March 18, 2019, 09:04:32 AM »

Your situation is a bit different than mine because S3 is much younger and you want supervised visitation from the get go. The visitation piece probably means the bar for documentation is higher.

In my case, the abuse I documented was in part what occurred toward me, as well as documentation I could lean on if necessary, which was our son's extreme anxious behavior at school, which a teacher noted, as well as a child therapist who did a recent psychological assessment of S9. My ex was high-functioning in the sense he could work at a stressful job but then came home and did prescription pills and alcohol. I had a lot of documentation of that.

The part that is similar to you is that I did a consult with a child therapist prior to leaving. I managed to get our son there under the guise that I was concerned S9 was developing habits I had. Ex agreed it would be awful if S9 turned out like me  Frustrated/Unfortunate (click to insert in post) so he agreed to the therapist.

You are getting ready to tell a story with documents and third-party professionals who can verify your story. Without those pieces, it becomes a he-said, she-said. A custody evaluation would introduce third-party professionals who could evaluate appropriate parenting and file a report.

It might be helpful to propose things that allow your ex to become a better parent, like parenting classes and if necessary, anger management or whatnot. Give him a deadline for completing the classes and ask that he only visits S3 in public places for short periods of time. Often, the directive alone is so offensive that complying is worse than the consequences of not complying and you effectively get the same outcome for your child.

If you live in a state where it's legal to record without consent, you could also try that. Google one-party consent state to see if you're in one of those states and then talk to your L about whether that kind of documentation might help in court. If it's not something you could use in court, it's also possible you can use it to show a custody evaluator. "This is the kind of behavior that concerns me."

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