George Zimmerman, Domestic Violence and Restraining Orders

On behalf of The Marks Law Firm, L.L.C. posted in Adult Abuse and Divorce on Thursday September 12, 2013

Practically everyone in the country knows the name “George Zimmerman” and immediately thinks of Trayvon Martin and the scope of gun rights.  But currently, the name “George Zimmerman” evokes images of domestic abuse.

It seems that during the legal odyssey that led to the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the death of Trayvon Martin, George and his wife Shellie became quite estranged.  They may have stayed together solely to protect George in his criminal case.  With the criminal case now behind them, Shellie decided to speak out and step out – of the marriage.  It appears George did not make a great husband and may have been verbally or even physically abusive.  Shellie recently filed for divorce and George took possession of the marital home, leaving Shellie without her belongings.  Shellie’s attorney secured an arrangement with George’s attorney that he would not be present at the marital home when Shellie went to retrieve her possessions with her father.

However, when Shellie arrived, George soon arrived as well, and he may have been brandishing a gun.  He was threatening both Shellie and her father, and may have struck her father.  Shellie recorded what transpired on her iPad, which apparently George crushed during the altercation.

We may not know what exactly happened at the Zimmerman house that day; at the moment, the prosecutor is not pursuing criminal charges against George.  But the incident is, unfortunately, not uncommon when couples separate.

In Missouri, when parties separate, and one party fears some form of abusive or violent confrontation, that party can take advantage of the Adult Abuse Act and seek an ex parte order of protection, also known as a restraining order.  While the restraining order may dissolve in ten days, that ten day buffer can allow newly estranged couples to safely separate their belongings and establish separate households without the presence of the other party.  The reason courts grant ex parte orders of protection so easily is precisely to err on the side of caution and to put distance between parties when emotions run very hot and raw.  If the threat of violence is real and continuing, the court can enter a full order of protection.

Had Shellie secured a restraining order, George risked a criminal charge simply by showing up at the house.  A restraining order would have given Shellie the necessary buffer to remove her belongings safely.  It remains unclear why she did not choose this path.  It also remains unclear why she is not pressing charges against George for assault, but victims of domestic violence often fear filing charges, believing they will not “stick” and that they will suffer repercussions.

We suggest that any individual separating from a partner who has a fear of abuse consult an attorney experienced in these matters to determine a safe way to separate, when and how to involve the police, and whether to take further legal action.  Divorce is difficult enough without the threat of violence, and the law gives ample remedies to avoid “showdowns” like those of George and Shellie.

If you have questions about domestic abuse and divorce, contact us – we can help.

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