When Men Need Restraining Orders

Family lawyer David Pisarra explains when it’s appropriate for a man to get a restraining order against his partner.

The topic of domestic abuse is the third rail in family law for men: it’s electrically charged and can kill you if you don’t know anything about it—but being aware of it can save your life.

Men are told they cannot hit a woman, even to defend themselves against an abusive partner. Men are also told it isn’t “manly” to call the police to “fight your fight.” A man is a coward, society tells us, if he attempts to call the police, and an abuser if he defends himself. He’s caught in a no-win situation.

From a legal perspective, what’s a guy to do if he is being verbally and/or physically abused by a woman?

First, he must leave the home and immediately call the police. He has to be willing to prosecute her and tell the police the truth about the abuse. This can be difficult for many men, particularly if there are children involved—no one wants to put a parent in jail—but the sad truth is that unless there are consequences, an abuser’s behavior is unlikely to change.

Remember: these situations generally escalate. It’s best to take steps to end the abuse before it becomes a chronic situation.


Under the law, anyone can abuse anyone. There are no size limitations. There is no requirement that the abused party be unable to defend themselves. It is simply a matter of what was said or done and how it was received. Abuse is not limited to whether blood has been drawn, whether there are bruises or broken a limbs. Abuse can be verbal threats of harm or death to a person or pet. And that’s when it’s time to get a restraining order, by appearing in front of a judge. Men tend to minimize threats and think that they don’t need to have a restraining order; but the point is not necessarily to protect yourself physically—it’s to protect you legally.

If there are children in the family, the party who has the domestic violence restraining order is presumed to be the better parent. Conversely, the courts will consider the party who is restrained to be a bad parent—and that it’s not in the children’s interest to have much unsupervised contact with that person.


Temporary Restraining Orders (sometimes called “Protective Orders”) are generally issued based on a declaration signed under penalty of perjury that someone is afraid. The standard of evidence is set very low for these orders, because they are not meant to last a long time (usually under three weeks). At the end of the three-week period there is usually a hearing at which live testimony is taken, so the judge can determine the credibility of the parties and the need for a Permanent Restraining Order.

Being the first to court is crucial for men facing a child custody battle. The courts will almost always issue the order—it is simply a question of which of you will be sleeping on a friends couch for a fortnight. Protecting ourselves means using the tools at our disposal. In medieval times, a good suit of armor and hefty sword were enough. Today it is a cell phone and a police officer. Men cannot physically defend themselves against a woman—it is not a matter of being called a coward, a wimp, a pussy, or a loser. It is a matter of a man creating a record to protect himself—and in some cases, his children.

—photo by ste/Flickr

About David Pisarra

David Pisarra is a Father's Rights Attorney in California. He is the host of the Men's Family Law Podcast available on iTunes and his website is www.MensFamilyLaw.com.


  1. I know I am late to the conversation… but I am going through this dilemma right now. Last week my ex-girlfriend and I ended up going to the same bar. I ignored her, she ignored me…. for most of the night. When the Karaoke DJ was ending the night and breaking down her equipment, my ex approached me and started swearing at me … “you’re a real c**t you know” … she repeated this over and over again. I thought it was funny because, honestly who calls a guy a c**t… so I started laughing, that’s when she splashed her entire beer at me. At this point I put up my hands and said “I’m out of here” as I started to back my way to the door. I was backing my way to the door because I was afraid of what she would do if I turned my back on her. As soon as my back hit the door she through the bottle at me and if it wasn’t for quick reflexes I would have been hit with the bottle. But instead the bottle that was thrown with great velocity smashed on the wall. I left the bar, never to return. But after that I started thinking, what if I’m in another bar some day with my back to the door and she comes in? Will she attack me from behind and hit me with the beer bottle this time? Or what if I’m out with my girlfriend or my adult children at a bar? Will she attack them? I am still on the fence on weather I will pull the protective order on her. Because of the degenerate people that she knows, I am a little afraid of starting a sh*t storm. But the law is there for a reason. If she was a guy and pulled that crap, I would have knocked the guy out, but I was raised not to put my hands on a woman. So that is where I stand, should I or shouldn’t I. And advice from men who have been in this type of situation would be welcomed.

    • Anonymous says:

      It is always better to defend onself , on matter who the attacker is and the legal consequences particularly if you plan to stay with your patner.Society or nature does not care of passive or docile men. The more docile a man is, be sure to get more violence. Women attackers attack men and the number are increasing , becuause of men like you or me who were taught not to strike back at a woman, even if she attacks you.Nature and experience has taught me , that the more docile one is , the more prone he is to attacks (verbal or physical ) by women in general. Sometimes one has to take a brave decision of taking matters into ones own hand. Probably a tight slap is all that is required if attacked. Stronger persons should definitely not misuse their streingths, but there is nothing from using it , when attacked. I follow the simple rule. Verbal abuse gets verbal abuse, minor physical attacks , gets the same in return. This give a strong message to the potential abuser.Abuse starts from small attacks and then it becomes big, based on how docile one is.

  2. Men should not use 209A …for a couple of reasons. The author’s argument that a man should get to the courthouse first will be a pyrrhic victory. A woman’s counter complaint, even after the fact, will usually be honored above a man’s. More importantly, using the 209A makes legitimate the courts’ entry into a place they should never go -a family home – without real cause.

    • Just a point of clarification … When Boston Joe says “209A”, that is what they call a restraining (aka protective) order in Massachusetts.

  3. “First, he must leave the home and immediately call the police.”

    I strongly disagree with contacting the police without an attorney. He has a very high probability of being arrested himself. The application of the law as it relates to DV is dramatically slanted against men. A man must never touch a woman, unless he is literally going to die or be permanently maimed. It’s always best to run away like a little girl or he is very likely to end up with a criminal record for the rest of his life. Then, good luck in paying the child support that he is likely to be ordered to pay.

    If a woman with whom you are in a relationship strikes you, do the following (NEVER, ever hit back or physically restrain her unless your life is at risk, or you are at risk of permanent injury):

    Step #1 – Immediately run away and permanently end the relationship, no matter what that means.
    Step #2 – Get an attorney. This is critical, even if you just don’t have the money. Try to borrow whatever you need. It will keep you out of jail.
    Step #3 – (You must follow steps 1 and 2 first) Contact the police and report the events exactly, and let them take whatever action they deem appropriate, based on your attorney’s input. If there are any injuries, take pictures. If possible, get a doctor’s report.
    Step #4 – Physically separate, even if you have to lose money in the deal
    Step #5 – Formally end the relationship, via divorce if necessary.

  4. I hope the point about what was needed in medieval times (a sword and suit of armor) was intended as humor. At most, 2% of the people would have had such equiment, leaving the other 98% to fend off attacks with farm implements or having no system of defense at all.

    It is so painful to read about this inequality in our society. Abused men need support, help, and healing.

  5. A woman can even kill a man, claiming momentary anger and muddled thinking and walks free from the court house.

    About violent women in general Crystal Mangum is the recent best example.
    So far, I do not read anything about her in this Good Men Project.

  6. A woman can tell the most outrageous lies about a man, attest to them in a court of law under penalty of perjury, sign any document she can get her hands on and lie in order to have a man thrown in jail and at the end of the day, if the judge can see through it all, the case is dropped and she gets to walk away free as if she had never tried to perpetrate a maliscious fraud.

  7. J.G. te Molder says:

    “Under the law, anyone can abuse anyone. There are no size limitations. There is no requirement that the abused party be unable to defend themselves.”

    Oh, sweety, no, that’s not the case. Under feminist demanded VAWA there are these things called “Primary Agressor” laws. If you’re bigger, and seem to be physically stronger, (which in 99.99999999999% of the cases means the man) you get arrested, completely regardless of who is the one abusing whom, and who is the who is the one who called the police.

    You advice is great… IF we lived in an equal society that did not have VAWA and men had an equal amount of resources, male advocates and shelters to go to, and judges treated men fairly and equally, and punished women equally for false accusations. Sadly we don’t.

    But here’s an observation: it’s past high time for the MRM to grow bigger, much bigger, or for all those feminists who claim they aren’t like the major, heavily funded, policy influencing feminist organizations like NOW, to finally shut evils like VAWA down, and dismantle NOW down to the ground. (I’m not holding my breath on the second option.)

    • Very true here J.G. If you’re a man, you are automatically considered the primary aggressor, at least in California, and even if you’ve been obviously physically abused, and your wife has no marks, you still get taken into custody, simply to expedite the situation! Why? Hell if I know. But my guess is misandry at the point of a police-officer.

      The major problem with the advice in this article is that it asks us to have to play the double-standard instead of asking for an equal shot. No man should have to walk on eggshells just because he’s afraid of losing the battle of legalese yet simultaneously being abused to the point of no return… It’s a form of victim-blaming, where the abused man has to further victimize himself in order to merely have a fair shot in the long run.

      The situation is not equal. And it needs to end. Now.

      This is one of the main reasons I support the MRM.

  8. wellokaythen says:

    I would think it would also be good to call the cops even if it’s just to start an official paper trail to document the abuse. Get the abuse on the public record, even if you’re not confident that it will make a difference right away. You don’t want to be in court later and face the question, “if she was abusing you so badly, why didn’t you ever call the police? How can we believe you? Where’s the evidence?”

    • It would be a good idea if you could trust the cops to arrest the aggressor instead of the victim, but that’s not always the case if you’re a man. there was a case in californai where a wife physically abused her wheelchair-bound husband so badly he was hopsitlaized, and then when she started in again, knocking him out of his chair and he was in fear for his life, he finally called the police. And they arrested him. She must have put on a good cry or something.


      This case also involved a lawsuit aginst California for allowing publicly funded DV shelters to exclude or fail to serve men, which is not uncommon elsewhere either.

    • When a man begins to file the documents, after the woman is served you can be sure that her campaign will escalate and her behavior will get crazier and that she will get a rush out of it all.

      • SecondBeach says:

        Sometimes legal action pushes an abuser to further atrocities, but sometimes it can be the first step in freeing yourself from a dangerous situation. It really is very case by case and varies according the history and M.O. of the abuser.

  9. “The courts will almost always issue the order—it is simply a question of which of you will be sleeping on a friends couch for a fortnight.”

    I appreciate your honesty. This is another reason why men should never get married. Filing a false accusation is not as easy for a man as it is for a women. Now that I read your words in black and white, I don’t know if I could ever bring myself to falsely accuse someone of something they did not do, even though this has become a standard tactic used by women in divorce.

    • Women think absolutely nothing about telling lies to get a man in trouble, they do it and it doesn’t bother their conscience in the least.

      • SecondBeach says:

        It is an automatic fallacy to generalize like this about 50% of the population.

        In this case the laws are biased in women’s favor. That does not mean that ‘women think absolutely nothing about telling lies.’ People are selfish, people are bad. Not all men abuse and rape, not all women lie and cheat.

      • Really? And you speak for all women? Absolutely false, Sir. By and large women protect men. They do not want to bring the courts and the cops into their bedrooms and lives. Women are (if we want to speak generally) -caregivers, by and large. Getting the cops involved is embarrassing and scary. Often the police are disrespectful and not faith inspiring. Women do not generally commit violent crimes unless they are backed into the corner. Men just do. They are the most successful predator that has ever lived on the planet.. surpassing large carnivorous dinosaurs.
        Just for a moment, imagine yourself considerably smaller, weaker, raised to care-take- not trained in hand to hand combat generally as boys are just messing around with friends. Now imagine you are in an environment where you can be harassed, molested, raped, pushed around and generally intimidated and the general consensus is “you are lying”. Really? Convenient for the men who rule this world, I would say.

        • Female’s are not more prone to being harassed, molested, pushed around or intimidated any more than a man is.

          For the rape statistics it is hard since a man can by some american states not even be raped. As well as that men believe to get scolded at the police stations for these sort of things.

          Men in general do not commit violent crimes. That is simply not true. It is a small minority that commits violent crimes from which most that are convicted are male.

        • Brian homer says:

          My wife has cut my face and my head. What do i do about it

    • Since there are a very small number of men actually deserving a protective/restraining order, do those few bad apples justify the majority (85%) of protective/restraining orders being bogus, handed out like candy with no prosecution for that serious abuse crime wave itself? Yeah, that’s the real abuse epidemic, or the foundation of it:

      Do those very few men deserving a protective order justify the fact that MANY others and I find that 3 out of 4 divorced fathers had false abuse allegations made against them, accompanied by a plethora of other likewise very serious abuses including parental alienation child abuse which is even more rampant than and with more serious effects on children for life than being molested?

      Protective and restraining orders in themselves overall HAVE became the worst abuse and scam of our generation. Those who ignore or support that organized abuse need to be locked up.

      • Where is the research supporting these claims that 85% of restraining orders are granted with bogus testimony? Or was this number just thrown about?
        Lawyers help propagate all kinds of bogus claims of abuse on both sides of the child custody trials. These usually go no further then alienating parents from each other and ruining what was left of a family. The mediator interviews everyone and tries to figure out what is true. Why lawyers have a place in this process is beyond me. It is only destroying what is left of any good will and resources left for the children.

  10. If the police get involved during a violent episode, the “primary aggressor” and mandatory arrest policies could kick in. In short, the man goes to jail regardless of how violent his female partner might be.

    The restraining order is a good way for a man to start protecting himself. But why is it that he can’t get the police to evict his abusive female partner?

    If the woman files the restraining order, the man leaves his house.

    If the the man files the restraining order, the man also leaves his house?

  11. Annette Mann says:

    An important topic… Thank you, Mr. Pisarra, for continuing to encourage men to take proper action in defense of themselves and their children.


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