Domestic Violence Expungement of Domestic Violence Restraining Orders

This article will discuss the effects that a domestic violence charge can have on your life. It will also discuss the possibility of expunging a domestic violence charge that may have been made a part of your record.

How a record of domestic violence restraining order can affect you

A record of a civil domestic violence restraining order can affect your life in many unforeseeable ways. Even though it is only civil in nature (unless it is violated), it still may leave a person branded for a long time. If there were allegations of physical abuse, the victim may file criminal charges with the police and criminal arrest may result and be placed on your record, even if you are later cleared.

A list of common problems that those who have a domestic violence restraining order served upon them suffer may include the following:
  • You may be hindered from working in certain occupations, such as in law enforcement or military jobs
  • It may hinder your employment as a physician, a therapist, pharmacist or a nurse
  • It can affect your ability to become and adoptive or foster parent
  • You may not be able to work for social service agencies
  • Employees have been terminated from work once it has become known that they have a restraining order against them - and if you have an at will employment relationship, there is little if anything you can do
  • It may result in your expulsion from certain schools
  • If you are inclined to enter politics years later, you may not be allowed to run for office
  • It can affect the careers of police officers and military personnel, even on false allegations of domestic violence - firearms and ammunition are surrendered as a result
  • You may not be allowed to own a firearm, even for hunting

What is Expungement?

Expungement is the process of clearing an arrest or charge from your civil or criminal record. Expunging your civil record will prevent most employers and others from being allowed to access damaging information about you that is in the past. Your record can be expunged by a written motion to the court. Expungement will prevent a prior issued domestic violence restraining order from coming up in your background checks. Subsequently, you will then be able to apply for professional licenses that are issued by the state such as, contractor's licenses, nursing licenses, medical licenses, real estate and others. State expungement laws vary between states.

Expunging a Domestic Violence Restraining Order

Domestic restraining orders are governed by Federal Laws under the "Violence against Women Act of 1994." Unfortunately they are very easy to obtain but removing false claims of domestic violence are difficult. While it can be difficult if not impossible for the removal of domestic violence charges, even if later unsubstantiated, there may be hope in rectifying the wrongs done for fraudulently obtained domestic violence restraining orders.

In the 1997 case concerning a couple engaged in a bitter divorce, Vaccaro v. Vaccaro, the husband claimed that he had entered the marital home to retrieve his personal effects and tax return. His wife took out a section 209A domestic violence restraining order against him. While the court found that his ex-wife was fearful when she took out the restraining order, the judge found that it could not be established that she was fearful of serious imminent physical harm. Despite the restraining order failing to be continued due to a seeming lack of justification of its existence, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that the judge still did not have the power to have the record of the domestic violence restraining order against the husband expunged.

However, on March 10, 2006 in Commissioner of Probation v. Amanda Adams, 65 Mass.App.Ct. 725, 843 N.E.2d 1101 (2006), the Massachusetts Appeals Court distinguished the scenario in that case from Vaccaro and ruled that "a judge has the inherent authority to expunge a record of a 209A order from the statewide domestic violence registry system in the rare and limited circumstance that the judge has found through clear and convincing evidence that the order was obtained through fraud on the court." In Vaccaro, the husband didn't allege that the ex-wife's claims were fraudulent, only that they weren't sufficient to warrant a domestic violence restraining order. While justice might demand that a record containing an unwarranted domestic violence restraining order should be able to be expunged, this ruling is nonetheless an important step towards the innocent being able to clear their record.

With regard to handing expungement for domestic violence restraining orders, it may be advisable to seek advice from an attorney who has experience in expunging civil records. The attorney can file a motion to expunge or seal your civil record.
Divorce & Family Law
Temporary Restraining Order
About author
Michael Wechsler
Michael M. Wechsler is an experienced attorney, founder of, A. Research Scholar at Columbia Business School and of-counsel to Kaplan, Williams & Graffeo, LLC. He was also an SVP and chief Internet strategist at and legal consultant at Kroll Ontrack, a leading service e-discovery and computer forensics service provider.


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