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Co-parenting with a Protection Order

Co-Parenting with your child(ren)’s other parent can often be a difficult challenge, especially when there have been instances or allegations of domestic violence or abuse. Sometimes, these concerns can lead to one parent having a protection order against the other. Protection orders are helpful in trying to ensure a party’s safety, but they can complicate the logistics of co-parenting. It is rare (although not unheard of) for a court to include children on a protection order, thus, it is important to be aware of the various methods of continuing a co-parenting relationship, despite the presence of a protection order.

Communication
When co-parenting with a restrained party, generally communication from that party is not allowed, and there could be criminal repercussions if the restrained party did try to communicate with the protected parent. At the time the protection order is issued, you can request that an exception for communication be made to allow for contact through a third-party platform such as TalkingParents and Civil Communicator. However, it is important to remember that communications should be limited to conversations about the children only. Sometimes, even that exception is not appropriate.

Parenting Time Exchanges
Your protection order may include a requirement that your co-parent stay a certain distance away from you. When exchanging your child with your co-parent, this can present a challenge. Many parents use the help of a friend or family member that they trust to facilitate exchanges. When that isn’t an option, third-party services like Central Visitation Program can facilitate parenting time exchanges, with the help of a professional supervisor. Occasionally, a Court will make an exception for parenting time exchanges on the protection order, but they will usually list a specific location at which exchanges must occur (for example inside of a police station). It is important to know that, without a specific exception, even if you are exchanging your children for parenting time in a police station, this is a violation of the protection order.

Attending Children’s Events
Because most protection orders include a distance requirement, this can create complications with respect to attending your child or children’s respective events (like parent teacher conferences, sporting games, or birthday parties) or performances. Depending on the specific terms of your protection order and what you are comfortable with, some parents choose to alternate attendance at these events in order to ensure there is no violation. In other cases, parents arrange in advance arrival times and seating locations of the other parent, in order to ensure that there is no unintentional violation of the protection order. It is important to be aware of the fact that it is the restrained party’s (not the protected party) responsibility to ensure that the minimum distance requirement is strictly adhered to. If you are the restrained parent, it is not advisable to violate this aspect of your protection order, even if you are invited by the protected parent to do so. Serious criminal repercussions could result from even an accidental violation. Meanwhile, if you are the protected party to a protection order, inviting violations is ill-advised, as this could be used as evidence in Court to negate the validity of your safety concerns.

Ultimately, it is imperative that you put the safety of your family first. Co-parenting with a protection order can create new challenges with parenting, but there are tools to help you overcome these obstacles that you can discuss with your attorney. The experienced attorneys at GEM Family Law can help you navigate this process.

Authored by: Anthony Zarsky, Associate Attorney