An Order of Protection is a legal document that is issued by a court and signed by a judge to protect you from abuse or harassment. With an Order of Protection, a judge can set limits on the behavior of your partner. A judge can:
- Order your partner to prevent the abuse of you and your child(ren)
- Advise your partner to leave and stay clear from your marital home, your workplace and members of your family
- Command your partner to have no contact with you—in addition to no emails, phone calls, letters, or messages by means of other people
- Demand that your partner stays away from the child(ren), daycare or school and their babysitter
In addition, a judge can:
- Decide issues associated with custody, child support, and visitation
- Order the abuser to pay for costs associated with the abuse like medical care and damage to property
- Decide on the separation of specific types of personal property
- Require or suggest that your partner enter a program for abusers
There isn’t a fee to get an Order of Protection and it can last up to 1 year and can also be renewed. Once the order is issued, the judge is the only on that can change it. If the order contains a stay-away stipulation and your partner shows up at your home, they are in violation of the order and can be arrested. If you want to make changes to an order, you must petition them from the courts.
Since there are a lot of things to take into consideration if an Order of Protection is helpful to you, you may want to speak with an advocate or attorney to help you or attend court with you.
HOW CAN AN ORDER OF PROTECTION HELP?
While an Order of Protection cannot ensure your safety, there are ways it can be helpful
- Police are more likely to take your calls a lot more serious if you have an Order of Protection
- Your partner will be arrested if he or she is in violation of an Order of Protection
- If you have left the home, an Order of Protection makes it easier for you to have the police go with you to get your personal property
- If your partner is stalking you or harassing you at work, an Order of Protection can safeguard you at your job
- An Order of Protection will determine who has custody of minor child(ren) you and your partner have in common
WHO CAN GET AN ORDER OF PROTECTION?
If you’re 17 or older and have experienced abuse from a spouse, former spouse, cohabitant, or someone you’ve dated, seek protection through an Order of Protection
STEP ONE: EX PARTE ORDER OF PROTECTION
An Ex Parte Order of Protection is a temporary measure granted if a judge perceives an immediate danger of abuse. To request one, visit the courthouse in your residence, where the abuse occurred, or where the person you seek protection from resides. You, the petitioner, name the respondent, typically your partner. If granted, law enforcement serves the order to the respondent, who must adhere to the judge’s stipulations. If immediate danger isn’t evident, a ‘Notice of Hearing’ is issued, informing the respondent of an upcoming hearing to determine the need for an Order of Protection. Until the hearing, there are no restrictions on the respondent’s contact with you.
STEP TWO: FULL ORDER OF PROTECTION
A Full Order of Protection is set within 15 days of granting an Ex Parte Order. The respondent must be served the Ex Parte at least 72 hours before this date, excluding holidays or weekends. Your partner may also be present at the hearing and will be able to deliver their testimony in front of a judge. To secure the Full Order of Protection, attendance at the hearing is mandatory. Your absence may lead to the judge rejecting your order. Conversely, if the respondent is not present, the judge automatically grants you the Full Order of Protection.
WHAT DO I NEED TO BRING WITH ME?
It is useful to bring the following information with you when you apply for an Ex Parte Order:
- The full name and a picture (if you have one) of your abuser
- The address or addresses where the abuser can be located
- The license number and a description of the abuser’s car
- A list of your child(ren)’s names and ages
In addition, at the Full Order hearing, it may be beneficial to have as much evidence as you can to demonstrate to the judge abuse has occurred. Evidence can include things like:
- Your statement as to the abuse that occurred
- Hospital or doctor’s reports of abuse or injuries
- Dated pictures of the injuries
- Any Police reports
- Statements from anyone who witnessed or heard the abuse
The more evidence you gather, the more likely a judge will believe you and grant you what you seek.
CONSENT ORDERS OF PROTECTION
An Order of Protection awarded by consent means that your partner agrees to the provisions and terms of the order but doesn’t necessarily admit to the accusations you made about their behavior. By agreeing to the order, instead of a hearing, you and the respondent refrain from having the judge hear evidence about abuse. As a result, the judge will not determine that abuse has occurred, but he or she will sign the order making it enforceable requiring your partner to follow the provisions and terms of it.
There are some reasons you can find a consent order beneficial to you. Such as, you may feel you are likely to get more of the protection that you are seeking, or you may have a judge who otherwise may not be willing to award the order.
However, since a Consent Order of Protection lacks a judge’s finding of abuse, it may not serve as admissible evidence in future proceedings such as divorce, criminal prosecution, or child custody cases.
You can ask the judge questions if you are not sure about what exactly you are agreeing to in the order. You may also ask whether social worker or type of advocate is available to answer your questions.
MUTUAL ORDERS OF PROTECTION
At times, Mutual Orders of Protection are granted when both parties file Ex Parte orders against each other. The judge mandates adherence to the order’s provisions. Importantly, a Mutual Order of Protection can only be issued if your partner has sought an Ex Parte order. Be aware that your partner may misuse it for harassment. Violating the order terms could lead to arrest if police have evidence.
- “Patients & Visitors.” Barnes, http://www.barnesjewish.org/Patients-Visitors/Domestic-Violence-Awareness/Domestic-Violence-Finding-Safety-and-Support/What-is-an-Order-of-Protection.
- “Order of Protection.” Welcome to TMF Attorneys, tmfattorneys.co.za/Pages/order-of-protection.asp.