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Protective orders and child abandonment allegations

California has a very broad definition of domestic violence -- and victims' advocates say that it's necessary in order to protect victims from subtle forms of abuse like harassment or stalking.

Unfortunately, that also makes the law easy to abuse when someone who isn't a victim wants to cut his or her child's other parent out of his or her life -- and out of the child's life as well.

Sometimes, it can be very effective. Since there are rarely witnesses around to exchanges between the two principal parties involved, the judge is usually forced to make a decision based on nothing more than one person's word. Judges may side with the alleged victim simply because they're afraid that if they don't, the next time they hear that person's name, it will be on the news -- as a murder victim.

Parents willing to abuse the court system are also often willing to abuse the processes used by Children Services. They'll fabricate an abuse allegation -- alleging that their spouse or ex-spouse inappropriately touched the child or did some other indecent act.

As one father was told, findings often fail to clear the name and reputation of the accused (most of whom are fathers). The results of an investigation will be listed as "inconclusive" because even though there's nothing to back up the other parent's claims of sexual abuse, there's nothing to disprove the claim either.

While that might not sound so terrible, it actually is. When the father goes into family court, the allegation follows him. The judge doesn't know the evidence -- all he or she knows is that there was nothing exonerating the accused. That can lend weight to other accusations of abuse even though it's just a bit of legal shade being thrown.

The end result is that a parent can be put under a protective order that forbids him or her from contacting both the ex-spouse and his or her children. Eventually, the ex-spouse can use that as leverage to try to get the other parent's rights over the children terminated due to abandonment.

An attorney can help if you find yourself in this sort of predicament where an unfair order of protection is keeping you from seeing your kids.

Source:, "Parental restraints: California's domestic violence law can leave nonviolent parents facing protective orders," Alastair Bland, Nov. 02, 2017

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