Living in the same house as your spouse while divorce proceedings are also ongoing is stressful.  Ideally, the parties could live separately and negotiate temporary issues related to parenting time and financial support until the divorce is final.  That’s not always possible, though.  For better or worse, sometimes you are just stuck in the same house as your spouse.

Emotions can run high, and sometimes the police get involved.  If this happens, it is important to understand that the police are not the Judge (or your lawyer) in your divorce.  They are only interested in keeping the peace in that particular moment, and whatever solution they propose is just a band-aid.  They will try to cool things down, and may even ask one of the spouses to stay somewhere else for the night.

The police might also advise one (or both) of the parties to seek an Order for Protection (OFP).  With such an Order in place, if the police get called again, they then have an Order which they can enforce.  If one party is having contact with the other party in violation of an OFP, they can arrest the offending party and take them to jail.  Absent such an Order, all the police can really do is just try to calm everyone down.

It is also important to understand that you cannot simply get an OFP because you want one, or because the police suggested that you get one.  To qualify for an OFP, the other person must have committed an act of domestic abuse, defined by statute as “physical harm, bodily injury, or assault” or the “infliction of fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury, or assault.”

Generally speaking, the mere fact that you got into an argument with your spouse is not enough.  There must be an act of domestic abuse in order for the Court to issue an Order for Protection.  However, the police rarely investigate the facts in depth before suggesting to someone that they seek an OFP.  More often than not, “Get an OFP” is just the stock response from the police when they get called to a scene where divorcing parties are feuding.  In other words, it is their way of saying that there’s not much they can do keep people separated if there is not an OFP in place.

But, again, just because the police suggested you get an OFP doesn’t mean you should.  You need to have a good faith basis for asserting that an act of domestic abuse has occurred.  Further, unsuccessfully seeking an OFP could potentially damage your credibility in the divorce case.  A Judge might see it as a short cut to a Temporary Order in your divorce, rather than a legitimate need to be protected from an abusive spouse.

In the end, you should consult with your lawyer as to the wisdom of seeking an OFP rather than just relying on the advice of the police.

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