Questions and Answers

Wife had TRO issued against me. What should I bring to hearing to defend?

Wife spending took us from no debt to $1200+ on credit card in 2 wks. Spent $500 in cash from joint acct. No receipts. Repeated habit. Loud discussion ensued. (I didn’t shout or insult) so I went into purse & took away checkbook & ATM card to our joint/family account. Online, I changed acct access passwords protecting funds needed for household expenses (mortgage, utils, food, gasoline, insurance). Wife very angry at my actions stormed out taking our teen daughter to inlaw’s 1 hr away & Ignored my cell calls so I texted, forced to escalate. No reply! Wife filed TRO on msg excerpt w/out context alleging fear of my actions. No abuse or violence in my history (20+ years marriage). How do I defend myself in court against bogus allegations. Money tight. Divorce imminent.

Additional information

Text msgs all based on finances and concern for daughter. I love & miss daughter. Wife saw daughter’s college fund and decided it was ok to use for discretionary funds. I’m fed up w/ wife’s return to irresponsible spending binges.

ANSWER

In Maryland, your wife will need to prove by clear and convincing evidence that you assaulted her or threatened her with serious imminent bodily harm in order to be successful in getting a Final Protective Order.

Clear and convincing evidence is an extremely high standard and in this situation where there was no actual physical violence, your wife will need to prove that there has been PAST physical violence such that it is reasonable to take your text message as a legitimate threat of serious violence. To do this, she will need eyewitnesses, photographic evidence, hospital or police reports, etc. If there is no past history of actual violence, then it will be very, very difficult for her to prove that she had a reasonable fear of imminent assault.

How do you defend this? Well, do not say that wife’s inaction “forced you to escalate” because that could sound like you could be a threat to your wife if you don’t get your way. First, look at what she wrote in her Petition for Protection from Domestic Violence to get an idea of her allegations. She may have alleged that you threatened her during the scuffle over the ATM card and maybe she alleged you threatened her then. If she changes her testimony is different than her written allegations, then you (or your lawyer) should call her on this and question her as to why she “forgot” to write it down at the time she drafted the Petition.

You have the option of defending this petition or consenting to the relief she is requesting without a finding of abuse. This is called a Consent FPO and the Judges in the Circuit Court (during the imminent divorce) cannot presume that abuse occurred in the situation without your wife proving it to them at the divorce hearing. A third option is to file a divorce action in the Circuit Court and enter into a temporary agreement giving her some of the relief she is requesting (custody, child support, stay away, etc.) for a brief period while you await the first court hearing on these issues; if you want to use this option, wife will have to agree to drop the protective order case altogether after you sign a Temporary Consent Order in your divorce case.

Because a domestic violence case has serious financial implications and you are risking that the Court finding that you abused your spouse, you should consider getting representation for this hearing.

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