Part 1 of 2
There has been a significant increase in the amount of domestic violence and domestic related incidents of harassment. Victims of violence are best advised to call the police right away or, in the alternative, seek help from several of the domestic abuse hotlines or county support agencies.
If an individual is worried about a child or an adult in someone else’s family or household, it is best to report the abuse first to Child Protection or Adult Protection Services.
For victims who want redress through the courts, the following are three ways to get relief.
Orders for Protection (OFP)
An Order For Protection (OFP) is a court order to stop family violence. An OFP is not a criminal case. Instead, it takes place in family court. The court can order the abuser to stay away from the victim or order them to get counseling or treatment. The court can also order child support or custody.
An OFP is one of the key ways for a victim of family violence, physical abuse, or immediate harm threats, to not only stop such violence but to prevent it from reoccurring. Victims of family violence need to understand the full breath of what encompasses domestic violence.
Domestic/family violence includes incidents involving sexual violence and terroristic threats; other examples include: the abuser throwing things at the victim; pushing the victim saying things like “I’ll kill you”; waving a weapon at the victim; killing the victim’s pets or forcing the victim to have sex; and/or preventing the victim from calling 911.
An individual can get an OFP if they are a victim of any of the above examples, behaviors or actions that are similar to those listed from a spouse, ex-spouse, anyone whom they have had a significant romantic or sexual relationship with, any blood relative, anyone they have lived with now, or used to live with, their parent, or their child if they are over 18 years old.
The victim does not need to start a divorce to get an OFP and they can apply for a child within their household or family. There are no residency requirements and there is no court fee for applying for an OFP.
While the victim does not need an order for protection to stop abuse, one of the most important things to keep in mind is that it is illegal for anyone to hurt, threaten, or stop someone from calling 911 for help. An OFP makes it easier for individuals to protect themselves; it tells the abuser that any more threats or abuse will lead to arrest, criminal charges and maybe jail or a fine.
Orders for Protection make it easier for the police to arrest the abuser.
There are two kinds of Orders for Protection, an “Ex-parte” order, which means an order without telling the person on the other side of the case, and a regular OFP. An ex-parte order is in effect the day it is signed by a judge, before the abuser is served, and it protects victims until there is a hearing, which normally occurs within 7 days. A hearing normally occurs within 14 days for a non ex-part order.
Someone who is suffering from family/domestic violence does not need a lawyer to get a temporary order for protection; however, since there are all kinds of relief, they could ask for an OFP and there might be custodial repercussions, it is advisable to contact an attorney for proper advice regarding the best way to proceed with the OFP.
A key thing to keep in mind when preparing a petition for an OFP is to document within the petition the series of abuse or violence that has occurred from the abuser, the dates of their occurrence, and a description of each incident. Judges are often reluctant to issue an OFP based upon only one incident, unless it is extreme.
Forms of Relief
In a petition for an order for protection, the applicant can ask for various forms of relief from the court such as: ordering the abuser not to harm or threaten the victim; his or her children or anyone in the home; ordering the abuser to leave the home; to stay away from the applicant’s work; home or school; ordering counseling for the abuser; and ordering the abuser to pay temporary child support and alimony.
It is illegal for a person who has an OFP against them to posses a firearm. The applicant can ask the court to order the abuser to turn over their guns to the police. The applicant can also ask in their petition for the court to keep their address and other contact information confidential.
Once an OFP is issued, it is can be for up to 2 years in most cases. An order for protection also affects custody issues and rights against whom it is issued as the court must take the OFP into account when making a decision in custody hearings. Once an OFP is issued, the victim should always keep a copy of the order with him or her at all times.
An applicant is well advised to consult a lawyer regarding how to best prepare for the OFP hearing as it is a full evidentiary hearing where the parties are required to show evidence of their allegations and if necessary offer testimony of witnesses.
Nothing in this article should be taken as legal advice for an individual case or situation. The information is intended to be general and should not be relied upon for any specific situation. For legal advice, consult an attorney experienced in family/immigration law.
Note: Go to Part 2.