If you are in an intimate, family, romantic or sexual relationship with someone who is abusing you, you have the right to seek an order of protection. Also called a “retraining order,” an order of protection can be obtained after an act of domestic violence or a credible threat. You can file for up to a year after the most recent violent act or threat of violence.
What does an order of protection accomplish?
The main thing an order of protection does is order the abusive person to stop committing acts of domestic violence. It also:
Prohibits the defendant from coming near the plaintiff. It is a court order telling the abuser to stay away from the plaintiff’s home, job or school.
Gives you exclusive use of the shared house. Once a judge determines that there has been domestic violence or a credible threat, the abuser has to move out of the shared residence.
Can take away the defendant’s guns. Depending on the circumstances, the abuser may be ordered to surrender any weapons they own and made ineligible to buy more.
Protects your animals. Orders of protection can order the defendant not to abuse or neglect any animals in the household.
Can include a domestic offender treatment program.
Can be tailored for specific needs. The court has wide latitude to order whatever is reasonably necessary for your protection.
What is the general process for getting an order of protection?
You, the plaintiff, file a petition for the protective order, and a judge determines whether to grant a preliminary version. Assuming the judge does this, the order does not go into effect until it is personally served on the defendant by law enforcement. At that time, the defendant has the right to a hearing. After that hearing, the judge will decide whether to put the order into place permanently. If you are involved in a divorce, the case will be transferred to the court handling your divorce.
What happens if the defendant violates the order?
Violating an order of protection is a crime and can result in criminal charges. You would notify law enforcement of the violation and they would take it from there.
Should I get a lawyer?
Technically, there is no requirement that you have a lawyer assist you with a petition for an order of protection. However, as in any legal case, you may benefit from having an attorney. You and your attorney will discuss your situation in detail and present a convincing case to the judge for why an order of protection needs to be granted.