202 - Answering Your Family Violence Questions
- If I filed a TPO but haven't heard from courts yet, do I have to respond to the abuser?
- Can I get an order of protection if I do not know my husband's current address?
- Why would a divorce judge ignore a restraining order?
- If I reside in Georgia and the non-custodial parent resides in California, can I get a restraining order in Georgia on him?
- What can I do if my wife had TPO put on me last year and she has shown up at several different family homes i was staying.
Leh Meriwether: Welcome, everyone. I'm Leh Meriwether and with me is Todd Orston. We are your co-hosts for Divorce Team Radio, a show sponsored by the Divorce and Family Law Firm of Meriwether and Tharp. Here, you'll learn about divorce, family law, and from time to time, even tips on how to save your marriage if it's in the middle of a crisis. If you want to read more about us, you can always check us out online in the LandofDivorceTeam.com. You ready to go, Todd?
Todd Orston: Always.
Leh Meriwether: Awesome.
Todd Orston: Most of the time. Sometimes.
Leh Meriwether: Okay.
Todd Orston: Infrequently.
Leh Meriwether: Infrequently. Okay.
Todd Orston: All right. I'm ready.
Leh Meriwether: We got a good show today.
Todd Orston: We always have a good show.
Leh Meriwether: That's true.
Todd Orston: No, but today, to your point, today, it's an uncomfortable topic but it deals with ...
Leh Meriwether: Do we ever cover comfortable topics?
Todd Orston: That's a good point also. No, but it's an uncomfortable topic because today we're going to talk about protective orders, temporary protective orders. In Georgia, it would be filed under what we call the family violence act. Unfortunately, violence happens. Right? You don't need to listen to this show, listen to us to know that this kind of stuff is out there. It happens. Okay? There are tools to obtain protection.
Todd Orston: As simple as you and I, Leh, may think it is, right? That the processes and all that, it can be daunting. It can be scary because it's a person dealing with the violence, who now has to circumnavigate the whole legal system as it relates to this issue and do all the things necessary in order to get protection. We're going to do a show that deals with the question of TPOs.
Leh Meriwether: Right. We're going to do it in ... I don't think we've ever focused on Q&A. We're taking questions and answering them regarding TPOs. We have done full shows on the TPO process and we've done shows on how to go out there and file them. I think we've even done a show, I can't remember which number it was, on how to defend yourself if you have been falsely accused of a temporary protective order.
Leh Meriwether: Today, we're going to do just questions that we've gotten on just family violence protective orders or domestic violence situations. They're various but we always use this as an opportunity to not only answer the question but to explain the law, the procedure, the practical impacts of this area of the law.
Todd Orston: All right. Let's jump in.
Leh Meriwether: Okay. First question. "If I filed a TPO but haven't heard from the courts yet, do I have to respond to the abuser? I recently filed a TPO but haven't heard back about it and the abuser is constantly contacting me."
Todd Orston: All right. Well, in the initial part of the question, I'm going to respond to that very quickly and first. Do I have to respond? First of all, you don't have to respond ever. But that's not the issue. The issue is that the behavior of the other party has risen to a level where you feel threatened, where you feel there is a threat of harassment, stalking, physical abuse or any kind of abuse that would qualify in order that could be used to obtain a protective order.
Todd Orston: Do you have to respond? No. But the real issue is in the second part of the question, that the person is constantly contacting. When I hear this, what I hear is that party has not been served yet with the protective order. As with any legal action, in order to move forward with the action, you need to perfect service on the other party, a sheriff deputy needs to take the documents, get the address, go to that address, serve them. Once they are served, the court has authority to do things to protect you. Until that service happens, unfortunately, what you're going to find is the court will simply say to you, if it's a danger, call the police but we can't do anything yet, we can't do anything until you serve that person.
Todd Orston: Here, one of two things, one, the sheriff deputy can't find the person or has not been able to perfect service, in which case, A, you don't need to respond and B, if you need to, call the police, if the behavior truly is harassing, call the police, say you've filed the TPO, service hasn't been perfected yet but this person is harassing you, this is what's happening and, hopefully, you can get some help.
Todd Orston: If you contact the court, and the court says, "Yeah. There is evidence of service in the file", proof of service has been filed by the sheriff and it's called affidavit of service, and, yes, that party has been served, now it's a completely different issue because now that person is violating the terms of that temporary protective order, the emergency ex parte order, and that's a real big problem. That's something that a law enforcement agency can act upon.
Todd Orston: If they are violating the terms because they've been served, that can constitute what's called aggravated stalking. That is a felony in the state of Georgia. Violating of a protective order under the family violence act is aggravated stalking so you can contact the police and then they can take it from there.
Leh Meriwether: Right. Sometimes you have to go into ... I've seen people go into the police department and show them your phone and evidence they've been calling and then they should be able to obtain the evidence that the person has been served with the TPO. That actually should show up in their system. It's supposed to set up in the ... The whole advantage of the temporary protective order is that when, let's say, you dialed 911, the 911 operator it should show up in their system that you have a TPO in place. If you let them know that the person on the other end of that TPO is coming to your property, is on your property, they issue the police car, very, very quickly. They jump on it because they know someone is violating a TPO.
Leh Meriwether: All right. The next question is [crosstalk 00:06:35].
Todd Orston: Yeah. Here, I'll take this one and you can answer. It's more complex. You're the guy with the answers. "Order of protection, I want to have a protection order from my husband and obtain that from the court. However, when I went to court and talked with them, I was told that I need to know my husband's current address. I don't know where he is right now. I want to get protection just in case he would show up to my door. He's jobless, alcoholic, has mental issues, anxiety. Is it possible to get a protection order without knowing his current address?"
Leh Meriwether: Unfortunately, no. Without knowing where to serve him ... They have to know where to serve him. The order is not enforceable unless the other person has been given what's called notice of it. The only way to give them notice is by service.
Leh Meriwether: It's not going to provide you any level ... Let's say they allowed you to file it but he never gets served? Well, it's totally unenforceable. It doesn't go into the system. When you call 911, they don't know about it. He has to be served with it. I've seen this happen before. It's a very, very unfortunate situation.
Leh Meriwether: I mean, if there's any way you can find out from family or friends, maybe staying in a hotel, you can at least list that address. What I've seen happen before, and I'm not saying this would work for you, but I've seen people find some sort of temporary address ... You're swearing under oath when you file this thing so you can't lie about an address. But you find an address that he's at. Maybe it's a hotel. You put that address in the system and if he's got a phone, you put that phone number in. Then the sheriff attempts service.
Leh Meriwether: If he has moved from that address, that's not your problem at that point. I mean, it's still your problem but you now have the TPO in place so if he does show up to the house then you can call the police and say, "I filed a TPO against my husband but he hasn't been served. He's currently at the house" and I've seen them send a police officer out to the house to serve him and at that point, once he's served, they can actually remove him from the house.
Todd Orston: Yeah. Unfortunately, the court's hands are tied. Until that service occurs ... I have seen judges look at people who have undergone or suffered real significant abuse and they're just sort of like, "My hands are tied." The court may extend ... There's a time limit and the court basically will call you to court, "Has the person been served? We don't see an affidavit of service. Okay, I'll extend it" but the court will only extend it so many times before the case will be dismissed. You'll have to refile.
Leh Meriwether: In Georgia, it's only 30 days.
Todd Orston: Right. You basically have that limited amount of time and then, unfortunately, that ex parte that you got is no longer in effect. You'll have to refile, obtain a new one.
Leh Meriwether: Yeah. I've seen the court really try to ... They do everything they can to help you. I've been in court where the person was ... The order was issued on a Monday, they were in court the following Monday, the person hadn't been served. They said, "All right. I'm going to reschedule to next week." Again, they show up the next week, they hadn't been served and they said, "Well, ma'am. Go down to the sheriff's office and see if you can give them any more information that may help them serve him." In this situation, this was a real situation I witnessed. The court let her know, "I can only extend this two more times because after 30 days, it expires and you're going to have to refile."
Todd Orston: That's right.
Leh Meriwether: They'll do everything they can to help you get the protection you need but don't let any sort of bump in the road stop you from trying to get that protection if you are the victim of some domestic abuse.
Leh Meriwether: All right. We're almost out of time. We don't have time to hit another question but when we come back, we've got a really interesting one involving the question about whether a divorce judge can ignore a restraining order. We'll get to that when we come back.
Leh Meriwether: I just wanted to let you know that if you ever wanted to listen to this show live, you can listen at 1 A.M. on Monday mornings on WSB. You can always check us out there as well.
Todd Orston: Better than counting sheep I guess, right?
Leh Meriwether: That's right.
Todd Orston: You can turn on the show and we'll help you fall asleep.
Leh Meriwether: There you go.
Todd Orston: I'll talk very softly.
Leh Meriwether: Welcome back, everyone. This is Leh and Todd and we are your co-hosts for Divorce Team Radio, a show sponsored by the Divorce and Family Law Firm of Meriwether and Tharp. If you want to read more about us, you can always check us out online AtlantaDivorceTeam.com and if you want to read a transcript of this show or go back and listen to it again, you can find it at DivorceTeamRadio.com.
Leh Meriwether: Okay. Today, we're talking about family violence cases and, in particular, we're taking questions about family violence, domestic violence and temporary restraining orders. Even though it's a very narrow field, it can have some nuances to it, legal nuances, that can create challenges for people and we want to answer those questions and make sure if someone needs the help of a temporary protective order, that they don't let anything keep them from going to the courthouse and getting that protection they need.
Leh Meriwether: All right. Ready for the next question?
Todd Orston: Absolutely. Thank you for saving the longest question for me. I may need the entire segment just to read the question. All right. Today's show will be five hours long. Okay.
Leh Meriwether: [inaudible 00:12:37].
Todd Orston: Right. "Why would a divorce judge ignore a restraining order?" This one comes from Atlanta. "I have a restraining order since 2020 because of domestic violence and the judge granted supervised visits, which were suspended because of his failure to comply with the visitation by not showing up. He also needed to take the family violence intervention program. He didn't do it and just went once to show the court he was taking it.
Todd Orston: He kept harassing me, even with the restraining order put in place but he would do sneaky things that I am unable to prove it's him. Example, he keyed my whole car while I was at work where, basically, we used to meet so that he could take our daughter to bring her back. The officer in security knew it was targeted but without proof, nothing could be done. He would also show up to roar his engine in my driveway. I even had to move because I was terrified.
Todd Orston: Divorce court comes, I filed for divorce and my attorney failed to notify me because he says he wasn't notified. He goes to court, gets 50% legal custody and normal visitations. My attorney says the case is closed, we can't do anything. What are my options? I feel completely lost because I'm afraid for us. The TPO is sent to divorce judge and it's being ignored. I feel my attorney is failing us."
Leh Meriwether: That's a sad situation. Okay. Well, first off, you got to show up to court. We actually had a whole show about that. You know, the problems that happen when things like this happen, when court dates are missed. Don't know what happened there. I'm sorry that you didn't find out about court.
Leh Meriwether: A superior court judge ... In Georgia, a superior court judge is one who hears domestic cases, family law cases, divorces. They have the authority to modify a restraining order, especially where it comes to children. If you were not present in court, he can present whatever evidence he wishes to support his position that the restraining order no longer really applies. He could have presented evidence, you probably don't know but that he had gone through the family violence intervention program, he had jumped through all the hoops and that this restraining order was no longer necessary and it was in your child's best interest to have 50/50 custody.
Leh Meriwether: That's sort of the short legal answer. That's probably what happened. It sounds like it. Obviously, I know I wasn't there so I don't know for sure. I did think one of the ... This question actually gives me an idea to help with a future show but when we talked about experts a while back, Todd, this is an example of getting a private investigator to help you obtain evidence. I know it's too late now but, for instance, you can get something where it puts cameras on your car and it would have picked him up coming and keying the car so that would have given you the evidence you needed to prove that he had violated the temporary restraining order.
Leh Meriwether: Then the Ring ... You've probably seen it. I think it's called Ring is the service. You just put it on your front door and it connects to your wifi. They have similar services but that one is fairly inexpensive. I know that a lot of people have caught ... I had a case where the Ring doorbell caught someone violating the TPO. It was a stalking TPO and the Ring video caught the gentleman driving in front of the person's house several times and they were supposed to be more than 100 yards away and they were like 20 feet away. That person went to jail for violating it.
Leh Meriwether: If you have one of those situations and you're not sure what to do to protect yourself or get the evidence you need, contact a private investigator. They can usually give you the information to setup legal systems to capture the evidence you need.
Todd Orston: Yeah, because without it, sort of like what we said before, then the court's hands are tied. It's not about what you believe, it's not about what you think. It's about what can you prove.
Leh Meriwether: Right.
Todd Orston: If you can't prove he keyed the car, you can say he keyed the car all you want, but the court will more than likely say, "You can't prove it. You haven't proven it." As quickly as we can say it was that person, maybe on the work that day you cut somebody off, you got them angry and they followed you and keyed your car. All right? I know that sounds like just some wild theory but ...
Leh Meriwether: It happens.
Todd Orston: In terms of doubt, in terms of convincing the court that, "Hey, if you're going to assume something, why are you automatically going to assume it's my client?" It could have been some stranger. It could have been something else. It could have been a coworker that doesn't like that person. Unfortunately, you do, to your point, Leh, you need to focus ... In a situation like this where it's not an obvious violation, an obvious, overt act of violence or stalking or whatever, you need to think in terms of, number one, protecting yourself and, number two, putting tools in place to be able to capture evidence that you can use to prove that that person is the one committing these acts.
Leh Meriwether: For example, the camera could have caught him parking in her driveway, if that's a violation of the domestic violence order. Now there could have been an exception that he could come by to pickup the child and then in that case if he revved the engine in the driveway while he was picking up, I'm not sure that would constitute a violation of the restraining order.
Todd Orston: Probably not.
Leh Meriwether: I guess the question is did the judge carve out ... What we don't know, I'm going to expand on this a little bit, what we don't know is did the judge leave the other aspects of the protective order in place and did the judge say that restraining order is no longer valid? What was in the final divorce decree?
Leh Meriwether: I've seen situations where they say the ... I'm going to use this one. The father or the husband can't communicate to the mom in the following ways and can only communicate with mom when it comes to issues surrounding the minor child and can only be around her in exchanges and so carve out some exception to the TPO. Did he do that? I don't know.
Leh Meriwether: Then the other thing is, let's say that TPO ... Normally, in Georgia, a TPO expires after one year. There's what's called an ex parte one. It expires in 30 days. Then if it's reinstituted after a hearing, it could be put in place for six months. The other question is did the other one already expire? If it was a six month one and it expired and you didn't push to have it extended, then the judge didn't have to necessarily consider it, meaning because it wasn't in existence.
Todd Orston: Yeah.
Leh Meriwether: The court can consider the facts surrounding it, if you're there to present those facts. Was it extended to a year restraining order? I have seen that where there was sort of a mix-up ... The judge didn't consider the restraining order and then, subsequently, the person after the divorce went back to the court that issued ... This case is kind of messed up but went back to the court that issued the restraining order and got it extended for another three years, which in that restraining order, that new restraining order negatively impacted the divorce court's order and then they wound up going back to court for a modification of ... It can get very, very complicated.
Todd Orston: Yeah. One quick thing, we've talked about this in previous shows but I do want to just followup very quickly. The right to extend the order, you cannot let the expiration date pass. It has to be done before the order expires. If you are a day late, I'm sorry, too bad, you can't extend it.
Todd Orston: If you are in a situation, keep in mind, it will require another hearing, it's not just some formality where you check a box and the court says, "Okay, I'm going to extend it permanently" or for three years or whatever. The other side will be given an opportunity to defend themselves as to why it shouldn't be put in place or kept in place rather. You need to have the evidence to support your request but if that evidence is there, do not let that date or the order expire because at that point, you're out of luck and you can't get a new one based on that old information. You'll only have that one shot prior to the expiration date.
Leh Meriwether: Good point. Good point. The last thing I'd add on this one before we move onto the next question is if something happens past the divorce, that you can come back and revisit the custody issue.
Todd Orston: Great point.
Leh Meriwether: I know that may sound like, "Man, you're seeing I have to wait for him to hurt our children?" Legally speaking, unfortunately, yes. When we come back, we'll continue to break down more questions like these.
Todd Orston: Hey, everyone. You're listening to our podcast but you have alternatives. You have choices. You can listen to us live also at 1 A.M. on Monday morning on WSB.
Leh Meriwether: If you're enjoying the show, we would love it if you could go rate us on iTunes or wherever you may be listening to it. Give us a five star rating and tell us why you like the show.
Leh Meriwether: Welcome back, everyone. This is Leh and Todd. We are your co-hosts for Divorce Team Radio, a show sponsored by the Divorce and Family Law Firm of Meriwether and Tharp. If you want to read more about us, you can always check us out online at AtlantaDivorceTeam.com. If you want to read a transcript of this show, you can find it at DivorceTeamRadio.com.
Leh Meriwether: Okay. We're talking about family violence cases and domestic violence cases today and we're taking questions on them. Before we head to the next one, my last answer sounded short and it can definitely sound bad. I want to make sure that people don't take it the wrong way.
Leh Meriwether: The issue was like ... I threw out a question, "I have to wait until my child gets hurt before I can do something?" I said, yes, and that's not exactly what I meant. What I meant was in order to go back to court for a modification, I don't know all the facts but let's say, legally speaking, you cannot go back and change this divorce order that grants your ex-husband 50% legal custody and normal visitations because it sounds like he has unsupervised visitations and it's 50/50 custody.
Leh Meriwether: By the way, I just now thought about this, I've seen cases where there was domestic violence and the court still granted 50/50 legal custody but one person is the tiebreaker. I would imagine in this case, maybe she's the tiebreaker for legal custody issues, so that's not necessarily out of the ordinary. If he just has standard visitation then maybe the court did consider it.
Leh Meriwether: Anyway, without knowing more facts, I can't say one way or another but what I do want to just say is you can go back to court for a modification but there has to be a substantial change in circumstances. Sometimes that substantial change involves some sort of violence towards the children ... When I say violence, maybe it starts at something small and that might be enough to go back to court. Maybe he yells at them, he doesn't do things right, but it's got to be substantial. It can't be just there was one time he yelled at them and they were really scared.
Leh Meriwether: Again, I've got kids. I don't want anything bad to happen to them so I'm not trying to sound cold then I answer it that way.
Todd Orston: No. You have to be smart because I've seen people go to court too often, bringing these issues too often without the necessary evidence and guess what? That can be used against you. If you lose a TPO and file another one and you lose that, at that point, the court is thinking that you're harassing the other party and the other party may be horrible, they may be engaging in this kind of behavior but if you can't prove it and you are losing the case again and again, I've seen the other party turn around to try and use that as, "I'm not harassing that person. They're harassing me."
Leh Meriwether: Right.
Todd Orston: I know that's sort of bizarro world because you're sitting there going, "I know I'm the victim here" but the fact is if the evidence isn't there that you're the victim and they can turn your actions into evidence that they are being victimized, you may find yourself in a difficult situation.
Todd Orston: Really, this comes down to the point of be very careful and if you have questions, reach out to an attorney. Have, at the very least, a consultation and figure out how you doing something could potentially impact your custodial rights.
Leh Meriwether: Exactly. All right. Next one. I'll ask you this one, a TPO restraining order? "I reside in Georgia and the non-custodial parent resides in California. I would like to get a TPO due to a history of domestic violence from the non-custodial parent, whom I share a minor child with to protect our safety. I was informed in the state of Georgia, you can only get this if the non-custodial also resides in Georgia, not California. I was under the impression you can get a TPO or restraining order on anyone that poses a potential threat to your safety regardless of what state they reside in."
Todd Orston: All right. Jurisdiction is a real thing. When you think about jurisdiction, you'll hear attorneys talk about jurisdiction often because it's an issue that comes up often and it can have a direct significant impact on your ability to bring a case. What jurisdiction is, at a very basic level, it is does the court here have the ability to reach out and touch a party? I don't mean in a creepy kind of way.
Todd Orston: I mean, do they have the right to exercise jurisdiction over an individual? If somebody is within the confines, within the border of this state, the answer is yes, you're here. All right? We have jurisdiction here. All right? It's almost like those old Westerns where the sheriff is chasing someone and the bad guys are like, "We just need to get to the line" and they go across the border and then the sheriff has to sort of reel the horse in and, "Well, we can't go there. That's not our state."
Todd Orston: All right. Well, that line, even though you can't see the line, that line is there [crosstalk 00:28:17].
Leh Meriwether: Except on a map.
Todd Orston: Exactly. Unfortunately, the judge may not be able to touch someone who lives in another state. Now, are there exceptions? Yes. You can get ... You and I, Leh, were talking offline and I like the way you put it. It's almost like get a temporary temporary. If you are really in danger and the other party is out of state but they are reaching into the state and harassing you and stalking you and threatening you, could you potentially file something here and could the court issue some kind of an emergency level order that basically gives you some temporary protection? Yes.
Todd Orston: But that's with the understanding that ... It's almost like the court is saying, "Listen, I feel that there is a real problem here, a safety concern. I'm going to give you this immediate level of protection but you need to reach out to somebody in that other jurisdiction where that person resides. You're going to need to pursue something there" because that court will have jurisdiction over the individual.
Leh Meriwether: Yeah. Here's an example. I'm not trying to pick on the men. There are men that are abused as well. This is just the general way we see it. The husband abuses the wife, it's significant physical abuse, he doesn't feel like she has ... In order to get away, she flees from Alabama, I'm not trying to pick on Alabama, it's just our neighboring state. She gets in the car, flees to Georgia, and gets a ...
Leh Meriwether: There's this very narrow part of the statute that ... It could go away any day. I haven't checked the statute recently so maybe it was taken out the last legislative session, I don't know, but I've seen it happen before where it's a very temporary thing so that the wife can go back to Alabama and file a formal TPO in Alabama to give her protection here in Georgia on a short-term basis so if he were to chase her into Georgia, so once he's present in Georgia, Georgia has jurisdiction now because he's physically present, so she can be protected in Georgia but that is not going to stand very long because custody is still going to be an issue in Alabama because that's where the child resided for at least six months.
Leh Meriwether: The husband, dad, can file a divorce action in Alabama and then at that point, she's got to go to Alabama to get a formal protection and Georgia is going to lose jurisdiction. Alabama immediately takes it right back.
Leh Meriwether: Same thing in this situation. They're in California. A history is not going to be ... Especially in this situation. A history of domestic violence is not going to be enough. If you've been living here in Georgia, for instance, for several months and the person hasn't contacted you or anything, you're not going to be able to get it because they haven't done anything to justify that emergency section of the family violence act and you're going to have to go out to California to get the domestic violence TPO or ...
Leh Meriwether: I don't know if you're married. The question doesn't say that. It just says custodial parent. Well, maybe they are. Anyways, you have to go out to California to get that protection. Here's another reason why this is in here and I think this is important and everybody needs to hear this. That's the rule in pretty much every state. I'm not aware of any state out there that does this but the reason you can't do that, it's to prevent what's called forum shopping. That's the legal term.
Leh Meriwether: What do I mean by that? Let's say, you're in Georgia and you don't get the result in a divorce court or a family violence court you think you deserved or the other person thought they deserved ... Let's say, you were the victim of a false family violence protective order and then all of a sudden, the person moves out to California and they file for protection out there, or they file in another state for protection out there, and not only has the issue already been decided in Georgia but they're what's called forum shopping.
Leh Meriwether: They're trying to go to a state that maybe is more friendly to granting those family violence protective orders or maybe that person is trying to get more custodial time so they go to another state and get a temporary protective order in that state and that temporary protective order suddenly overrides your divorce custody order and says you don't get to see your children. That's called forum shopping and states don't want to allow people to forum shop.
Todd Orston: Yeah. I've seen people actually use jumping around from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, use that as a form of harassment where they move, they file something, and even though it's a nonsense case and it should be dismissed, unfortunately, it does ultimately have to jump through certain hoops. Then next thing you know, they're in another state doing the same thing.
Leh Meriwether: Yup. When we come back, we're going to continue to break down temporary protective order questions.
Leh Meriwether: I just wanted to let you know that if you ever wanted to listen to the show live, you can listen at 1 A.M. on Monday mornings on WSB. You can always check us out there as well.
Todd Orston: Better than counting sheep I guess, right?
Leh Meriwether: That's right.
Todd Orston: You can turn on the show and we'll help you fall asleep.
Leh Meriwether: There you go.
Todd Orston: I'll talk very softly.
Leh Meriwether: Welcome back, everyone. This is Leh and Todd and we are your co-hosts for Divorce Team Radio, a show sponsored by the Divorce and Family Law Firm of Meriwether and Tharp. If you want to read more about us, you can always check us out online AtlantaDivorceTeam.com. If you want to read the transcript of this show, you can find it at DivorceTeamRadio.com.
Leh Meriwether: All right. Today, we're talking about domestic violence cases, TPOs, family violence, the stuff that we wish wouldn't go on but it does, unfortunately. Particularly, we're taking questions regarding all kinds if things and everything from jurisdictional questions to practical things like what happens when we can't serve the person who caused the domestic violence?
Leh Meriwether: All right. Next question, let's keep going. We've got a few more to get to.
Todd Orston: All right. Well, then stop talking.
Leh Meriwether: Sorry.
Todd Orston: Yeah. Okay. "Can I stay in Georgia with my child after I left ..." No, actually, we're not going to do that one. I have a better one. [crosstalk 00:35:04]. "What can I do if my wife had a TPO put on me last year and she has shown up at several different family homes I was staying in? She showed up, reached out to my family, called, texted. She wants us, then she doesn't. She also has a second Facebook with inappropriate pictures of me and not nice pictures and statements of me. What can I do?"
Leh Meriwether: All right. Well, I'm assuming the TPO is still in place. If the TPO is still in place, you cannot communicate with her. I don't care if she's reaching out to you, do not respond because that is a violation of the TPO.
Leh Meriwether: Now that information you want to keep hold of because if she tries to renew the TPO, because I've literally seen this before where out of anger, for not responding to the person they say, "I'm going to make this TPO permanent" so they go to court to make the TPO permanent but then you've produced this evidence that you didn't respond to that, "Look, Judge, I haven't responded to her but she's been texting me, she's been calling me, can I show you my phone? All this information. You can see I didn't respond to her at all." Then you have family members saying she comes over to the house. I need to reference that too here in a second but the point here is the court will not renew the restraining order because they're going to say, "Ma'am, we did this to protect you and you obviously aren't afraid."
Leh Meriwether: That's one of the elements is that there's a fear, a reasonable fear that the domestic violence will continue if the TPO is not granted. You definitely want to hold onto the evidence.
Leh Meriwether: All right. Let's talk about the house itself, all right? Let's say you pull into the driveway of the home you're staying in and there is your ex-wife, I'm assuming she's your ex-wife, [crosstalk 00:37:05].
Todd Orston: Run away.
Leh Meriwether: Run away. Yes. Back up and leave. Yes. Do not go inside the house and say, "You're not supposed to be here." You need to leave. Now, that's very frustrating because, basically, she's turned what was a shield, the TPO was there to protect her, into a sword to be used against you and it's very unfortunate. Hopefully, it's just a six month or one year protective order and you won't have to deal with it too long.
Leh Meriwether: If you're going through a divorce as well, then that is something your attorney can bring up in the divorce and, hopefully, have the court, see if the divorce court will eliminate that TPO in the divorce court.
Leh Meriwether: Then if you're staying with a family member, that family member can tell the person to leave because they're trespassing, tell your ex-wife to leave, that they're trespassing on their property, and can call the police and say, "Hey, Jim is staying at my house and Jane over here has a TPO against him but she keeps coming over here and harassing him. I've told her to leave because of the TPO" and then what will happen is the police will come and talk to her and say, "You got to quit coming over here. You got a TPO for a reason."
Todd Orston: Yeah. Sometimes, I have to say, I hate getting the police involved. A, they have a lot on their plate, they're doing a lot of things, but I also say once you open up that Pandora's box, you don't know what's going to happen. You don't know what's going to be said. You don't know how the police will react, if the TPO is taken against you. I always am concerned, whether you have done everything right or not about getting the police involved because you're the one that could be in real jeopardy but sometimes that's required.
Todd Orston: I'm glad, Leh, you brought it up because sometimes ... I have seen people on more than one occasion, try to use it as the sword. They show up at a restaurant and sit two booths away. They walk into a movie theater because they knew you were going to a movie and next thing you know, they're 10 feet away from you. All right?
Leh Meriwether: Right.
Todd Orston: They're trying to create scenarios and situations where they can say, "He was at the movie. He was at the restaurant. He was at the blah, blah, blah." I've always told people, "Restaurant ..." Unfortunately, I would love to say you don't have to say check please and run but if you really want to protect yourself, that may be what you need to know. You may need to leave.
Leh Meriwether: Yeah. [inaudible 00:39:47] may. You need to leave.
Todd Orston: Yeah. Yeah.
Leh Meriwether: I've heard judges say, "You leave and then you bring it up to the court."
Todd Orston: That's right. The police action, meaning the contacting of police, it may be what you need because then you can get a report. You can get something from the police saying that this happened so that if a week later ... The point you were making was a good point, that if she ever tries something, you can show it to the court to stop getting an extension of the TPO.
Todd Orston: But if she tries to claim a violation and files a contempt against you and potentially that could result in aggravated stalking charges, you now have defense. "Judge, I've actually had to call the police before. This is what happened. It's happened before. Here's a police report or two or three. She keeps showing up where I am and then she tries to turn around and claim that I'm the one violating. She's just trying to get me in trouble" and, hopefully, at that point, you have the evidence you need to defend yourself.
Leh Meriwether: Let's go back to that scenario where you go to the restaurant, she shows up and you need to leave. Let's say, that same night, you go to a movie and she shows up to that movie. Again, you've got to leave unfortunately.
Leh Meriwether: If that pattern of conduct continues, that's actually stalking and now she's stalking you and I'd talk to a lawyer before you do this but you could file a restraining order against her for her stalking of you while she has a restraining order against you.
Todd Orston: You better have more than those two instances. Somebody shows up, even if it's two times in one night, the court is going to look and go, "Okay, coincidence." But if it happens all the time, [crosstalk 00:41:34].
Leh Meriwether: In his example, he's claiming this is happening so frequently.
Todd Orston: Right. Then you may have enough. Absolutely.
Leh Meriwether: Yeah. That's why I'd say talk to a lawyer first before you just ... One day of that happening isn't enough. It's got to be a pattern of conduct that it happens day after day after day. Like she has turned this shield into a sword and that may be grounds to get a restraining order against her so she can't do that.
Leh Meriwether: Then there was one more thing I just want to address because he said she has a second Facebook with inappropriate pics of me and not nice pics and statements of me. Unfortunately, there's nothing you can do about it. You can't even ask a friend to do something about it. Is it creating grounds for a civil lawsuit for slander or libel? I don't know. Usually, that's not worth it, going after someone for that.
Leh Meriwether: Here's the thing, if people really know you, they'll know you're crazy ... I mean, she's crazy. [crosstalk 00:42:41].
Todd Orston: No. If they know you, they'll know you are whack-a-doodle.
Leh Meriwether: No.
Todd Orston: [crosstalk 00:42:47].
Leh Meriwether: I've seen cases where there's this strong urge to want to respond to something like that but I've literally experienced it firsthand where someone was saying bad things about someone and then I got to know that person and it turns out, everything being said was all a lie and then I didn't like that other person, the first person who was making the claims because I realized that person is just a liar and that person wound up being sort of ostracized from the community because everyone realized you couldn't trust what that person was saying.
Todd Orston: Very quickly, the things that you're talking about like the inappropriate pictures and statements online, things like that, if you know ahead of time, if someone ... This is now a defense against a TPO kind of piece of advice, it's hard for someone to say, "I'm scared" and then all of a sudden, the court hears evidence that, "Well, I hear that you're scared but why are you poking the bear? Why are you putting all these things online and saying these things, these negative, horrible things and it's on this website and there's pictures and there's this and there's that and now you want this court to basically put this blockage up and protect you? Well, I don't know how scared you really are if you're willing to engage in this behavior."
Leh Meriwether: You know what's really crazy?
Todd Orston: We're out of time. [crosstalk 00:44:16].
Leh Meriwether: We have more questions to go through but we're just out of time. What's wonderful about these questions ... I mean, it's unfortunate that people are even having to ask them so I'm not saying it's wonderful but what I'm saying is we're able to take each question and there is so much information to unpack that we use these questions as opportunities to teach. I hope that you've learned something from us answering these questions and thanks so much for listening.