Can Filing a Restraining Order Against Somebody Affect Your Security Clearance?
Initial Question: If I File a Restraining Order Against an Ex-Partner, Can My Federal Security Clearance Be Denied Because of It?
This post is for people who have filed a restraining or protective order. Have you had one filed against you? Go to my other post.
A potential client asked me if filing a restraining order against her former live-in partner might somehow affect her chances of renewing her Top Secret-level security clearance. She knew that an applicant’s clearance can be denied if the government believes they aren’t capable of making rational life choices, or if they’re vulnerable to blackmail or bribery.
My initial reaction was that the answer is almost definitely no, but the question managed to spark my curiosity about the idea of the filing of a restraining order impacting a person’s security clearance. I looked through the last ten years of DOD security clearance adjudication decisions — decisions that are made in cases ambiguous enough that they have to be decided by an administrative judge — and here is what I found:
There were a handful of cases where restraining orders were mentioned as a factor in the decision, but they were all for male applicants who had had restraining orders filed against them. Some of these people ended up being denied clearance and others had it granted, depending on whether the situation seemed to be resolved, and how bad their conduct was. There were zero cases where a person was in danger of being denied because they had filed a restraining order.
There were several cases involving applicants who had been the victims of abusive partners; about 15 (remember, this is from the last ten years). All of these cases were actually about the person’s finances and outstanding debts, and the abusive relationships were always listed as a mitigating factor rather than a factor to count against the applicant. Every case like this ended up with the applicant having their security clearance granted, except for one, where the applicant had left an abusive relationship more than five years earlier, but had shown no sign of being able to pay off her debts and get her finances in order.
Final Answer: No.
So the answer seems to be no, there’s no direct way for filing a restraining order to harm your chances of being granted a federal security clearance. Having a restraining order filed against you, however, is a different story. In that situation, it depends on whether the event is firmly in the past and how bad the conduct was.
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