Divorce When a Protection Order (Restraining Order) is in Place — Part II: Going to Court

Divorce with a Restraining Order

In my last blog post, I discussed how the process of divorce works when there is a protection order in place, looking specifically at mediation. In Boulder County, mediation is a required step in the divorce process; read more here.

I also explained that Colorado doesn’t have “restraining orders,” instead the state has “protection orders,” although many people still casually call them restraining orders. In my last post, I clarified that a protection order is not affected by the divorce process. It will still remain in full effect, and there can be very serious consequences if the order is violated.

If mediation is unsuccessful and the parties are unable to reach an agreement, a divorce case will have to go to Court. But how can you appear in Court if there is a protection order in place, without violating the order?

Because the protection order is in full effect, special arrangements must be made when one party has a restraining order against the other and they’re going to Court to resolve a divorce case.

An Exception to the Protection Order for Mediation

In order for couples to attend mediation, an exception must be requested to the protection order, stating that they are allowed to interact insofar as the mediation requires. Often this means that they will be able to communicate through a third party (the mediator).

These days, mediation is often conducted via Zoom, but pre-pandemic, the parties could engage in what I call “shuttle diplomacy” by staying in separate offices in the same office suite. However, if they’re in the same building, there could be a risk that the parties would bump into each other on the way to the bathroom, or in or out of the building. Some couples are fine with this. Others will make an agreement that the protected party will leave first, and the other party won’t come out of the room until he or she is assured that the protected party has left the property.

An Exception to the Protection Order for Court

Going to Court requires a similar request for exception. Judges know that you can’t be 100 yards apart and have a permanent orders hearing at the same time. Though most people just routinely assume that the protection order doesn’t apply in a Court case, I’m always careful to request a deviation from the protection order to allow my client to attend the hearing, especially if the other party is particularly contentious. If we don’t formally file for an exception and the other side gets a bee in their bonnet, they could try to claim a violation of the protection order.

However, even though an exception to the protection order is made for Court hearings, the two parties will still have very little contact, though they are in the same courtroom. I’ll say, “Judge, my client will remain in the first floor lobby until the other party is seated in the courtroom, then I’ll go get my client to make sure we don’t have any inadvertent meetings in the hall.”

Usually this step isn’t necessary, because both attorneys realize that both parties need to be present in the same room for the trial. But in some cases, you have to go the extra mile to avoid issues.

If there is a protection order against you, or you have one against the person you are divorcing, rest assured that there are ways to move through your divorce process without violating the order. Call our office today at 303-449-1873 to set up a complimentary consultation.

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