[Fitchburg/Leominster]Sentinel & Enterprise

Thousands victim of phony restraining orders

Letter by John Maguire

June 15, 1999

To the editor,

I commend you for running the package on restraining orders and quoting Fatherhood Coalition expert Mark Charalambous extensively.

Julie Jette's piece "An abuse of the system?" (Sentinel & Enterprise Sunday, June 6) was compelling. Most people in this state know someone who has been abused, often quite badly, by the operation of the 209A restraining order law. What is wrong with the law? It allows women, in a fit of bad temper, greed or vengefulness as a marriage is coming to an end, to use state power to throw a man out of his house, and out
of his children's lives, without a hearing.

While some restraining orders are genuinely needed to provide protection, a great many are merely court maneuvers. Sheara Friend, an attorney, was quoted as saying she thought roughly half of all restraining orders are merely maneuvers.

More than 40,000 restraining orders are issued here each year. But few have noticed the key implication that comes from your story -- that probably 20,000 of those restraining orders are phony.

Why does this matter? Phony restraining orders harm children. Children need their fathers. Children do not want to give up either their father or mother. They want both kinds of love. Yet, quite frequently a loving and conscientious father is yanked from his children's lives for many months, a full year, or longer by frivolous, perjury-based, phony restraining orders sought by divorce lawyers, not mothers.

For a 5-year-old child, losing all sight of his father for a year is a soul-damaging trauma, a major, crippling tragedy. The child will never understand it, and possibly never fully recover from it. And a few fathers, good men with very bad luck, are slammed with "permanent" restraining orders. This as-tounding judicial cruelty means their children are forbidden by law to see their fathers for the rest of their childhood.

Every one of those 20,000 phony restraining orders does great emotional damage to our fellow citizens. Let's do the arithmetic of the injury: 20,000 men in despair, maybe 40,000 boys and girls thrown into bewilderment and depression, another 40,000 grandmas and grandpas distressed at being unable to see their grandchildren, maybe another 40,000 relatives of the father upset at being deprived of seeing their young relatives. Every year, then, 20,000 phony restraining orders produce maybe 140,000 wounded people.

Why do we need restraining order reform -- House bill 3504? Because that's too much needless suffering. And too much misery for kids.

John G. Maguire


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