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Avoid common mistakes after being served with a protective order

Have you been served with a temporary protective order, also called a restraining order?

It's frustrating. You're already being treated like a criminal and you haven't even had your day in court yet. The order goes into place immediately and bars you from things like returning to the family home, seeing your children for visitation or accessing your bank account.

However, violating that protective order is a big mistake — even if the violation is minimal. Here are some common ways that people violate their orders (often without thinking about it) and what to do instead:

1. Going back to their home to pick up personal items.

You are not permitted to do so. Nor can you send anyone to get them for you. If there are items that you cannot simply replace, like medication you need, go to the police with a list and ask an officer to help you retrieve the items.

2. Contacting the other party on social media.

How much contact is too much? Any contact at all will get you into trouble. Something as little as a Facebook "poke" or a tweet on Twitter directed at the other party can get you a $500 fine and up to six months behind bars. Stay away from the keyboard if you don't trust yourself.

3. Responding to the other party's request for contact.

This sounds like it couldn't possibly be true, but it is. If the other party violates the protective order and reaches out to you to talk, that doesn't negate the judge's order. Keep a record of the contact, but don't respond — no matter what the other party says.

4. Not leaving a public place when the other party arrives.

If you're having dinner at your favorite restaurant and you look up to find the other party being seated, do you finish your dinner? No. You quickly ask the server for a box and the bill and leave. You aren't in violation if you accidentally end up in the same place as the other party. However, you're the one with the obligation to leave.

There are a lot of things about this that won't feel fair. However, your best chance of keeping that temporary protective order from becoming permanent (and avoiding a criminal record) is to obey the rules exactly.

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