Understanding the Basics of Protective Orders and Family Violence

Walters Gilbreath, PLLC

Sharing her own life experience recently in an emotionally charged open letter, actress Amber Heard has urged victims of domestic violence not to suffer silently, but to garner strength and fight against injustice. The Justice League star had filed for a divorce against her actor husband Johnny Depp in late May. Five days later she obtained a protective order after her husband he physically assaulted the 30-year-old actress. Heard was living in the family mansion after the divorce filing and Deep allegedly attacked her multiple times, including smashing a bottle of champagne and throwing an iPhone off her face. Such a restraint order lends a big help in protecting a domestic violence victim against repeated physical harm, enmity, or harassment.

Understanding A Protective Order

A protective order is a court ruling that intends to safeguard survivors of family violence, sexual abuse, trafficking, or stalking from further hostility. The court is empowered to grant such an order when it is satisfied with the evidence pointing to an incident of domestic violence and suggesting a likelihood of its recurrence in the future. Such as order is considered a civil injunction and does not create a criminal record.

The notion of protective orders has its roots in the progressive evolution of legal solutions to ensure better protection of victims of domestic violence and also seek accountability of aggressors. While a survivor is protected against further violence, force, threat, stalking, abuse, assault, or harassment, the offender is restrained from acting in any manner injurious to the victim. The underlying thought is to protect family violence survivors from further harm by keeping the abuser away from the scene of violence.

Ensuring Security of Survivors Through A Protective Order

You may stand to benefit from a protective order in person and possessions. First, you are protected through a court order from any repetition of domestic violence. It forbids any action by an offender that may result in civil or criminal injury to you. In a way, it puts an end to any threat of physical, sexual, or emotional abuse by putting restrictions on the physical presence of the aggressor.

To avoid any repetition of the offense, an accused is kept physically away from a victim of domestic violence or sexual abuse. The court order forbids offenders from going near to victims at home, office, school, or in any public or private place. It also restraints an accused from performing any action that may have threaten or harass a survivor directly or indirectly. Such restrictions also prohibit the aggressor from having any communication with the victim unless permitted by the latter.

Subject to the threat perception, a protective order may also extend to the property, personal belongings, and establish possession of a victim. In case of domestic violence restraining orders, the court may also include explicit directions against an accused concerning custody and visitation of a child. The offender may also be asked to vacate the family home.

Getting A Protective Order for Family Violence

The court considers a request for a protective order citing family violence on case-by-case basis to determine if such an order is necessary. Any act of a relative by blood or marriage causing or intended to cause harm is considered an act of family violence. Also, known as domestic violence, the legal definition also covers foster parent, ex-spouse, foster children, others living in the same house, who you are dating, and live-in partners.

Any criminal mischief, physical restraint, bodily harm, abuse, threat, imprisonment, harassment, stalking, or sexual assault is considered an act of violence. Survivors of any age can obtain a restraining order. An adult can file for the protective order for him or herself, for a child, or any member in the household. Alternatively, a prosecuting attorney may seek the court ruling on behalf of a client subject to family violence.

The request for protective order can be filed in either of three places – where the applicant resides, where the accused resides, or where the incident of violence occurred. You must present a detailed request for what kind of restraints you want the court to enforce.

Any clear and present threat of family violence makes it a suitable ground for a court to approve the request. However, the duration and the extension of such an order depend on the perception of the court about the possibility of repeated violence.

The Duration And Enforcement of A Protective Order

A protective order signed by the presiding judge explicitly spells out the dos and don’ts for an offender. Even it can specify the minimum distance to be maintained from the victim or ask the accused to leave the family mansion though he or she owns it. One spouse may be ordered to pay the other (non-earning) for the maintenance of children in custody, medical treatment, household expenditure, or the legal expenditure. There may be conditions imposed regarding visitation rights.

A temporary ex-parte restraining order is immediately granted by the court subject to its satisfaction, and it is valid for a shorter period varying from 10 to 20 days. This follows a detailed hearing scheduled within the next two weeks. The final protective order issued after the hearing has a duration extending up to two years, and the court can also grant extensions.

The local law enforcement agencies are issued a copy of the protective order and entrusted with the responsibility to execute it. Any violation of it makes the offender liable to be arrested, fined, and imprisoned.

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