Q. I was in an abusive relationship for many years and, as a result, there is a permanent restraining order including no contact in place. My ex and I communicate only by email about our children’s health and schedule. My ex’s sister lives in New York and has been threatened me in the past, but I do not have an order against her.
Over Labor Day weekend, he took our kids to New York to visit his sister. She apparently tried to keep the children with her in New York rather than let them return to me at the end of the weekend. She and my ex got into a literal tug of war type struggle with our 7-year-old, who returned to me Monday evening with significant bruising on her arms. Both our girls told me the bruises were from daddy and auntie pulling the younger one in separate directions.
I took photographs, and the next morning, went to the District Court for an abuse prevention order for our daughter. The district court added her, ex parte, to my restraining order. At the return hearing, my ex argued he did not abuse our child, he was trying to free her. I again tried to get her own abuse prevention order, but the judge continued the order, again on my permanent order. So now there is a permanent “no contact” “do not abuse” order for our 7-year- old. Our 9-year-old still goes to her dad every other weekend.
This was not my intention and I do not know how to fix it. What are my options?
A. I suggest you file a complaint for modification in the probate court – the material change is the abuse over the Labor Day weekend and the intervening district court order. The parenting plan should be revisited for both children if your ex thought it was OK to engage in literal tug of war over one child. At the very least, you should look to prevent him from having the children around his sister. Arguably, it is not in the children’s best interest to be separated every other weekend. But safety is an issue. There is a reason you have a permanent restraining order.
Once you are in front of the probate court judge, ask the judge to modify the restraining order. Probate court judges have the authority to act as a district court judge for the purpose of modifying a restraining order as it relates to visitation and child support. Explain to the judge what you intended – that your child be protected from abuse, but not that she have a permanent no contact order. Go on www.mass.gov/courts/ and search for the Guidelines for Judicial Practice for Abuse Prevention Orders. This will help you understand what the probate courts can do.
Also ask the judge to order anger management therapy. Your ex needs to learn his hands do not think for themselves.