When someone is experiencing violence or the threat of violence from another person, they have the option to file for an order of protection. Depending on your jurisdiction, these are also sometimes referred to as “restraining orders” or “no contact orders.”
This document prohibits the respondent from performing certain activities related to the victim. While it cannot necessarily prevent abuse, it gives the victim a legal option to protect themselves. This means if the respondent violates the protection order, they can be arrested and prosecuted.
If you’re considering an order of protection for yourself or your children, here is everything you should know.
What Does an Order of Protection Do?
The goal of a protection order is to protect victims by prohibiting the abuser from making contact with them. The extent of protection that it provides depends on the type of order issued:
- Emergency Protection Order: If you believe you’re in immediate danger, an Emergency Protection Order (EPO) is the fastest and easiest to obtain. It will last a short period of time, typically around 45 days, or until the next court date. You can file for an EPO while you wait for a more long-term solution to move through the system.
- Permanent Protection Order: Speaking of long-term solutions, some people choose to file a Permanent Protection Order (PPO) against their abuser. A hearing will take place where a judge will determine if the petitioner is in danger. Typically, permanent orders last between 1 and 5 years, but an attorney can argue to extend this if the situation calls for a longer arrangement.
- Domestic Violence Protection Order: If the abuser is related to or in an intimate relationship with the victim, a Domestic Violence Protection Order (DVPO) may be necessary. This will go through the Family Court system, and can also include children, elders, and dependent adults within the household.
Some orders of protection are No Contact, which means the respondent cannot contact the victim in any way, including texts, social media, and postal mail. A Stay Away order will specify a distance the respondent must remain from the victim, typically between 100 feet to 100 yards.
There is also a Move Out order for people sharing a home, which orders the respondent to find a new place to live.
There are some situations where the victim and respondent must continue communication, for example, if they are co-parenting together. In this case, a Peaceful Contact order will be issued, and the communication will be limited by certain restrictions.
Finally, a Counseling order might also be issued, which requires the respondent to attend some sort of emotional or psychological support.
How to File For an Order of Protection
It’s important to note that physical violence is not the only reason for filing an order of protection. If you’ve experienced sexual assault, mental or emotional abuse, financial abuse, stalking, intimidation, threats, harassment, or disorderly conduct of any kind, you may be eligible for protection.
Most courts offer the application forms for free on their websites. A judge will review your case and determine the threat. If they issue a temporary order, law enforcement will then locate the accused party and provide them with a copy of the order. Only once the person has been officially served will the protections of the order be in place.
Next, a hearing will take place to determine if a permanent protection order is needed. During this hearing, the victim carries the burden of proof. This means they must make their perceived threat evident to the judge through testimony, witness statements, police reports, documents, and photos. The judge will make a decision based on this evidence.
It can be nerve-racking and even traumatic to relive this abuse in a court of law, but having a family attorney on your side can make the process a little easier.
If the victim fails to come to the hearing, the judge will typically dismiss the case. On the other hand, if the respondent fails to appear, the judge typically grants the order.
How Can an Order of Protection Impact Your Divorce?
A protection order can be hugely influential in the proceedings of a divorce, especially if the case involves a custody dispute. The need for a protection order can display a history of violent behavior, which the judge will take into consideration when determining custody rights.
It may also be influential in determining who was “at fault” for the divorce. If the respondent carried out illegal activities (sexual assault, physical violence, etc.) they can be determined at fault.
Depending on your jurisdiction, a protection order might also affect the alimony. Some states direct judges to only consider the financial need of the parties when awarding alimony, while other states will consider the behavior during the marriage as well.
Domestic Violence Lawyers in Rockville, MD
Suffering from domestic violence is extremely difficult, and sometimes getting out of a bad situation can be just as scary as staying. If you need counsel and support for your domestic case, call the Law Offices of Sandra Guzman-Salvado.
We are experienced domestic violence lawyers in Rockville, Maryland, and the surrounding areas. We will fight for what you deserve, including your right to protection and safety.
Don’t wait—call now to speak with one of our family law experts.