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If you are in danger now or fear for your safety, please call “911.”
For more information about domestic violence, please call The National Domestic Violence Hotline (https://www.thehotline.org/) at (800) 799-7233 TDD – (800) 787-3224.
The purpose of this section is to give you a broad outline of the legal actions available to you if you or your children are in danger or victims of domestic violence. While we may facilitate forms related to domestic violence, abuse, or harassment, we cannot provide counseling or psychological support. We suggest you contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline (https://www.thehotline.org/) for information on resources and shelters available in your area.
Abuse and Harassment Basics
If you or your children are victims of domestic violence, abuse or harassment, your first step should be to determine what legal resources are available to you. In general, the courts will make emergency orders for domestic violence, elder or dependent adult abuse, civil harassment, and workplace harassment. When deciding if a protective order is available and justified, the courts will look at the relationship between the victim and the alleged abuser, and then follow pre-determined guidelines on what proof needs to be supplied and what protections are available.
Generally speaking, Domestic Violence is defined as abuse, violence, or threats of violence that occur between the following: married or registered domestic partners, divorced or separated individuals, individuals that are or have been in a romantic relationship, individuals who reside at the same household and maintain more than a “just roommates” relationship, and individuals who are closely related (parents, grandparents, siblings, in-laws, etc.). Abuse is defined as physical or sexual assault, harassment, stalking, threats, vandalism to personal property, and behavior that makes the victim reasonably afraid of serious injury. Verbal abuse is also considered an actionable offense, as is any behavior that would reasonably induce fear of injury or violence.
Making a Safety Plan
While you prepare to file your paperwork for emergency protective orders, it is important that you take steps to ensure your safety as well as the safety of your family. The National Domestic Violence Hotline (https://www.thehotline.org/help/path-to-safety/) contains information on preparing a safety plan and how to stay safe before, during, and after an attack. You will want to have an escape plan in place, along with access to a telephone and anything else that can be used to protect and defend yourself and your family from your attacker. If possible, call 911 as soon as you suspect an attack is forthcoming, or in the event that an attack has already started. Consider having a packed bag ready, and make sure to identify neighbors or close friends or family that can take you in or contact the police in the event you are attacked. Establish a code word you can use to signal to your children, family, friends, and neighbors that you are in danger and the police should be notified. For more information on safety plans, visit the National Domestic Violence Hotline at https://www.thehotline.org/help/path-to-safety/.
The courts generally recognize three types of situations eligible for restraining orders: domestic violence, civil harassment, and workplace violence or harassment. Within these categories, restraining orders can be further broken down into Temporary Restraining Orders (TRO), Permanent Restraining Orders, and Criminal Protective Restraining Order. A TRO usually lasts about a month and is intended to protect you and your family in the time period leading up to your court date. When a Permanent Restraining Order is granted, the protective orders are in place for a certain number of years (usually five or more), with the option to renew the protective orders at the end of the initial time period. Criminal Protective Orders, sometimes called “stay away orders”, can be granted when there is proof of violence or significant abuse to either an elder or dependent adult where the criminal charges against the alleged abuser have also been filed. Criminal Protective Orders are general granted during an ongoing criminal case, and the orders can remain in effect for several years after the criminal case has been resolved, at the discretion of the court.
The Restraining Order Process
When requesting a restraining order, the first step involves filing that request with the court. If you already have an ongoing family law matter with the courts (i.e. Divorce or Paternity), then you may be required to file the restraining order request as part of that case. Because of the emergency nature of protective orders, you should hear a decision from the court quickly, typically within 48 hours after you have filed the paperwork (if not sooner). If the court grants your request, the orders will first be filed as Temporary Restraining Orders (TRO), and a court date will be set. The TRO will bar the restrained person from contacting you or appearing at your home, workplace, or other frequented locations. The restrained person will be served a copy of the order and will be given the opportunity to file a response, but until the court hearing the temporary orders will remain in effect.
At the court hearing, both parties will present their side to the court and the judge will decide wither to cancel the temporary orders or grant permanent orders. If the restrained person does not appear in court, the judge will typically order more permanent orders in absentia and the restrained person will have to file an Order to Show Cause if they want those orders modified in the future.
Once you have a restraining order in place, the restrained person will be barred from contacting you, your children, or other members of your household. The restrained person will not be allowed to appear at your home, work, or locations you commonly frequent (like your children’s school, or your gym). If the restrained person is residing in your home, they will be required to move out. The restrained person will also be required to hand over any firearms in their possession to the court for the duration of the order. In some states, court issued restraining orders are entered into a statewide computer system that allows law enforcement to track and enforce active restraining orders.
If you receive a restraining order, some of your activities will be limited by court order. You may have to move out of your home, and you will be required to avoid any locations listed as “off limits” in the order. You will have to turn over any firearms in your possession, and you will be barred from buying any firearms while the restraining order is in effect. If you are a resident immigrant, your immigration status may also be affected, and you will need consult an immigration lawyer. If you violate any portion of the restraining order, you could face sanctions, fines, and jail time.
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