In advance of last week's deadline, the Fatherhood Coalition, a Massachusett's father's rights group, filed a petition for a ballot question in 2012 that would repeal the Massachusetts restraining order law.  Although a restraining order law is necessary in order to protect victims of domestic abuse, I have witnessed first hand how this law is misused by litigants and I believe it is time for a change.   The problem, however, is that the law is just fine as it is written; it requires a restraining order to issue when a victim is placed "in fear of imminent serious physical harm."  Judges, however, often refuse to apply the law as it is written, and issue restraining orders in extremely benign circumstances.  Consequently, it has become fairly commonplace for litigants in divorce actions to obtain a restraining order in order to gain an upper hand in court, or to preclude the other party from having any role in their children's lives.

Perhaps the most appropriate change would be to add some judicial accountability to the restraining order law.  If there existed a quick and practical method for someone who has been hit with a restraining order to appeal the trial judge's decision, perhaps the law would be applied more fairly.  Most judges want to apply the law fairly and accurately, but as humans we are driven by incentives and disincentives.  Right now, no judge wants to be in the position of explaining his or her decision to refuse to issue a restraining order after an applicant is subsequently abused, so they tend to err on the side of caution.   However, if judges ruling upon restraining order petitions faced a strong likelihood that their decision would be reviewed and possibly reversed upon appeal, it would give them more incentive to apply the law in an even manner.