Opponents of Massachusetts’ “Chapter 209A” law, including the Fatherhood Coalition are crossing their “t”s and dotting their lowercase “j”s. Chapter 209A is referred to as “the restraining order law,” and according to Joseph Ureneck of the Fatherhood Coalition, unduly removes fathers from their families.

“The way that the law is written now, all that a person has to do is say, ‘I’m afraid of this person and I also don’t want this person to see our children,’ and they just check off a box,” Ureneck said. “Many times there is no allegation that the father has done anything untoward to the children. It’s a horrible law in terms of breaking up families.”

Ureneck and other opponents of Chapter 209A submitted a ballot petition with the Attorney General to have the law repealed starting in January 2013. They also plan on drafting a second petition that will re-write the law, in case the Attorney General says that a repeal isn’t an appropriate course of action. Anti-domestic violence groups, however, feel that Chapter 209A is a needed tool for victims of abuse to remove a threat from their home.

Boston criminal attorney Peter Elikann has represented clients trying to defend against restraining orders. “You don’t want to go back to the bad old days when women or abused people have no protection at all,” he said, adding however, “From time to time, people do abuse them.” Elikann’s got a goof point – you don’t want, of course, to return to a day where a victim has no means to protect themselves with the help of the law. And you certainly don’t want an abuser finding a loophole to keep his family trapped. But on the other hand, you don’t want people to abuse that system – and hit the “easy button” getting a spouse out of the house without going down the correct avenues.

The big problem is once someone is slapped with a restraining order unduly – they are then in jeopardy of being arrested or fined if they are found in violation of it – which is tough to tell a father who was just wrongly removed from his child’s life. And the issue of presumed guilt when a restraining order is issued (and enforced) is troubling. The Boston Herald article we sauced below mentions that Jane Doe (a decidedly-female-based anti-domestic violence organization) says restraining orders can have stipulations, however. These include, according to Jane Doe:

  • an order to halt abuse
  • an order to prohibit contact
  • an order to force an alleged abuser out of the home or office of a victim
  • a temporary custody order for children
  • a temporary order to force support payments
  • a temporary order to force monetary compensation for any losses caused by abuse
  • an order to prohibit abuse or contact with the filer’s children
  • a requirement that the alleged abuser attend an intervention program.

Read more about the issue at the Boston Herald.

Sauce: Boston Herald