Do I Need a Protective Order?
All too often, families and couples have a history of physically hurting each other. The courts will not tolerate any family violence. Regardless of which party inflicts it, or under what circumstances, even if it was “just a slap” or “just a push,” it is unacceptable. The court doesn’t care what your reasoning is. Saying “she hit me first” or “he just knows what buttons to push to make me blow my top” will not excuse your behavior. No one should ever lay hands on another person in anger.
If you are the victim of family violence (which includes dating violence), help is available in the form of a Protective Order, which is sometimes referred to as a Restraining Order. In order to obtain one, you must be able to show the court that violence has occurred, and that it is likely to occur again if the Protective Order is not granted. If you have pictures of your injuries, police reports, or medical records, they should be given to your attorney. Even if you don’t have these, you may still be able to get a Protective Order.
If the Court agrees that a Protective Order is warranted, that order will include many provisions to protect you. It will prohibit the other person from committing family violence against you or your children (if your children are included in the order). And not just physically harming you: they will be forbidden to call you, harass you, stalk you, threaten you, or do anything that would reasonably cause you to be afraid that you will be harmed. They will not be permitted to go within a certain distance of your home or place of employment. If the children are also protected, they will not be permitted to go within a certain distance of their schools or daycare centers. If they go to a public place and you happen to be there, they must leave as soon as they become aware of your presence. In other words, they will be required to stay away from you. They are not permitted to own or possess any guns or ammunition, unless they are a law enforcement officer. If they are a law enforcement officer, they can only have weapons in their possession while they are on duty.
A Protective Order must stay in place for at least a year, and is usually granted for two years. If the court finds that the behavior that led to the need for the Protective Order was something that would be a felony if the abuser was charged—even if no charges were filed, even if there is no conviction—the duration of the Protective Order can be increased. In extreme cases, it may last for the abuser’s entire life.
Be aware that a Protective Order is one layer of protection, but it is still just a piece of paper. It will not stop a fist, or a bullet. Take responsibility for your own safety and do not go to places where your abuser might be. Do not call them and ask them to come see you or meet you someplace. Don’t go to their home or work. For your own safety, stay away from them.
If you are protected by such an order, you should keep a copy of it at home, at work, in your car and on your person at all times. If the children are included in the order, provide a copy to their schools, babysitters, and daycare providers. If the order is violated in any way, call the police immediately and it will be enforced. The police should already have a copy of the order, but just in case, keep a copy with you at all times.
If you have a protective order entered against you, you must obey the order, even if you think your spouse lied, even if you think it’s unfair. Violation of a protective order is punishable by a fine or jail time or both. Multiple violations bring stiffer penalties. Even if you are truly innocent, violating a Protective Order will only make things worse.
The protected person cannot waive the protective order. If they invite you to come to their house, or meet somewhere for a drink, and you go, as soon as you arrive the protected person can call the police and you will be arrested. Claiming that you were invited is no defense.
A word of caution: it happens, not infrequently, that a person will seek a Protective Order during a divorce or a custody battle for the purpose of gaining an advantage in that case. Don’t do that. No ethical attorney will go along with this scheme. A Protective Order is a very serious thing and should not be sought frivolously. If you have been harmed, and if you honestly believe you continue to be in danger, a protective order is appropriate. But it should not be used to punish the other person.
You and your children deserve to be safe. If you believe you need a protective order, contact us and we will help.