A protective order is a ruling that intends to safeguard survivors of family violence, sexual abuse, trafficking, or stalking from further hostility. Protective orders have their roots in the need to protect victims and promote accountability of aggressors. A court is empowered to grant such an order when it is presented with evidence of domestic violence and the likelihood of its recurrence. These orders are considered civil injunctions and do not create criminal records.
Courts will consider the necessity of protective orders and presence of family violence on a case-by-case basis. Any act committed by a relative (by blood or marriage) which causes or intends to cause harm is considered an act of family violence. However, this definition may extend to include a foster parent, ex-spouse, foster children, or romantic partners. Additionally, 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 a protective order for him or herself, for a child, or for any member of her household. Alternatively, a prosecuting attorney may seek a court ruling on behalf of a client subject to family violence. An application may be filed in one of three places – where the applicant resides, where the accused resides, or where the incident of violence occurred. The duration and the extent of an order will depend on the court’s perception of the perceived threat of future violence.
A presiding judge has substantial discretion in approving the language of a protective order, including distance to be maintained by the accused or ordering the accused to leave a property he owns. Additionally, a spouse may be ordered to pay for childcare, medical treatment, household expenditures, or legal fees. A temporary ex-parter restraining order may be granted without notice to a respondent if a court finds a clear and present danger of family violence, however, these orders last only 20 to 30 days. A full protective order granted during a more detailed hearing can last up to two years. Local law enforcement agencies receive copies of all protective orders and are tasked with upholding them. Individuals who violate these orders are subject to fines, arrest, or imprisonment. If you or a loved one is in need of a protective order, consider having an experienced licensed lawyer attend the hearing with you to speak on your behalf.
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