Order of Protection Process

READ CAREFULLY BEFORE FILING AN ORDER FOR PROTECTION!

You are about to ask for a Temporary Order of Protection as a survivor of abuse. An Order of Protection is for your own physical safety.

You are the PETITIONER.  The Petition is the person alleging abuse and asking for protection. The RESPONDENT is the person you are asking the court to protect you from. A temporary order of protection is an order, signed by a judge, which restricts or prohibits the Respondent from contacting you. Generally a temporary order of protection is in place for a period up to 20 days.

If you are a minor, your parent or guardian may file a petition for a Temporary Order of Protection on your behalf against the Respondent.

What is an order of protection?

  • An order of protection is a document signed by a judge that restricts the Respondent from contacting the Petitioner in any way including personal contact, all forms of communication (including mail, email, phone, voicemail, text messages, etc.) or through a third party. The order usually stipulates that the Respondent must stay at least 300 feet away from Petitioner, as well as Petitioner’s residence, place of employment or school.
  • The petitioner may request children to be included in their order of protection. If the petitioner decides to include joint children, there are issues to consider such as visitation with the children, children’s schools, and existing parenting plans.
  • The only way an order of protection works is when the Petitioner is willing and able to contact law enforcement to notify them of ALL violations of the order. When violations are reported, the respondent may be arrested for violating the order of protection. If the petitioner is not willing to contact law enforcement when/if violations occur, an order of protection may not be the best option for a petitioner.
  • An order of protection is a CIVIL issue. It does not charge the Respondent criminally. If an order of protection is in place and the Respondent violates the order, they may be charged criminally by the State for violating a court order.

When filing for an order of protection, the petitioner must write a narrative/timeline of the abuse. It must start with the MOST recent incident and then move backwards.  You may type or hand-write this narrative, but it must be LEDIGBLE. Any documentation you have (police reports, text messages, emails) may be included.

In order to submit the petition to the judge, the petitioner must have the Respondent’s Date of birth, first and last name, and physical address. Without this information an order of protection cannot be granted.

Once the petition is filled out with the narrative attached, it is then taken to the appropriate court to submit to the judge. You must have a photo ID with you so the petition can be notarized. A petition submitted to the judge for review may take a few hours, a few days or even a week before the judge is able to make a ruling, either to grant or to deny the order of protection.  DO NOT let the Respondent or anyone who may speak with the Respondent know that you are filing for an Order of protection.  If the Respondent knows about the order, they may hide from deputies and never get served the order of protection and therefore, it will never go into effect.

When the judge has made their decision, you should be notified of the decision, but if you have not heard an answer, you should take initiative to find out the status.  If an order of protection has been denied, the respondent will not be informed by the court that you ever filed for an order UNLESS the petition was filed in district court. Certain exceptions apply that require District Court to notify the opposing party of documents filed.  The petitioner ALWAYS has the right to repetition the courts if the abusive behavior continues. If the judge grants the order, it will be issued as a Temporary Order of Protection, for up to 20 days, depending on the judge’s court calendar.

If the order of protection is granted, it does not go into effect immediately. It only goes into effect when the deputies serve the respondent the order.  The petitioner has the right to know when the order has been served and you can contact the Legal Advocate to find out the status.  If an order has been granted, the petitioner will receive a copy of the order; either by mail or obtaining a copy from the Legal Advocate or from the court. You will want to keep a copy of the order with you, as well as distribute the order to your employer or children’s school if these places are included on the order. This enables these places to help enforce the order of protection.

A court date will also be scheduled if the order of protection is granted. This hearing will be within 20 days of the issuing the temporary order of protection. The Petitioner must show up for the hearing or the order will be dismissed.

At this hearing, the petitioner has the ability to come before the judge and ask for the order of protection to be granted as a permanent order. The petitioner may ask for the order to be made for any length of time they deem necessary. The petitioner has the chance to testify before the judge as to what has occurred and why they are in danger and in fear of the respondent. The respondent also has the right to testify as to why they feel the order of protection DOES NOT need to be in place. After hearing both testimonies, the judge will determine if the permanent order of protection is necessary.

Both the petitioner and the respondent have the right to hire an attorney for the order of protection hearing; however, it is not required. The legal advocate is NOT an attorney and cannot give legal advice or represent the petitioner.  The Legal Advocate can solely give the petitioner options and support.

Both the petitioner and the respondent can bring witnesses to testify on their behalf at the hearing. This would include people that have witnessed the abuse or have witnessed the effects of the abuse. If the petitioner does not have an attorney, they will need to prepare questions to ask the witness.

An order of protection can be a great safety tool, but you must remember that it is just a piece of paper signed by the judge and not a bubble around you. It cannot ensure that you are safe at all times nor can it prevent the Respondent from contacting you. You must be vigilant about your safety. The respondent may choose to break the order of protection, or the order of protection may detour the respondent from any contact with you. We do not know how the respondent will react, that is why your safety is a priority, and should be planned for before filing for an order of protection.

REMEMBER:

The ONLY way an order of protection works, is if you immediately call law enforcement (911) any and every time the order is violated.