While the legal intricacies involved with domestic violence protective/protection orders (DVPO) vary from state to state, the basics are the same: A DVPO is meant to protect a victim or potential victim of domestic abuse from her abuser. These protective orders are referred to “restraining orders,” and depending on the situation, they order the abuser to do, or refrain from doing, numerous things, including: staying away from the victim, not contacting the victim by phone, mail, email or otherwise, leaving their shared home, not abusing the victim, and may order temporary custody and/or arrange for visitation.
Some people don’t even realize they have a valid reason for seeking a domestic violence protective order because the spectrum of domestic violence is so vast. You may not feel what your partner has done to you with intimidation tactics and threats even qualify as domestic violence because you were never physically harmed. Domestic violence comes in many forms and is exhibited at many levels of severity. Even the subtlest forms of domestic violence can cause serious harm to the victim. You need not have bumps, bruises, and broken bones to be the victim of domestic violence.
How to Get a DVPO
Even though domestic violence laws vary in each state, the process for getting a DVPO is pretty similar across the country.
First, you must file a complaint with the court, and when filing the complaint you also make a request for what’s called an “Emergency Ex Parte Order,” which means the defendant is not present. The Ex Parte Order is temporary and is usually done the same day you file. You will then be given a court date—within ten days of filing the complaint. The Ex Parte Order is often called a “Ten Day Order” because that’s time the limit for the hearing to be held or the case will be continued to a later date.
Second, the defendant will be “served” by a law enforcement officer.
The third step, if the defendant was served in the ten-day time limit, is to attend the hearing. If the defendant has not been served by that date, the Court will continue the case to another date. The purpose of the hearing is to decide whether your temporary Ex Parte Order should be kept in place and extended for up to one (1) year. Many people refer to this as a permanent order of protection but it’s not actually permanent. It has a one-year time limit in most states.
If the defendant has been served in the ten-day period, one of the following will happen next:
- You (the Plaintiff/victim) do not go to Court. If you don’t go to court, the order against the abuser will be dropped.
- If the defendant does not report to court, typically the judge will extend the DVPO for one year with the same or similar terms as the Ex Parte Order. Some judges will ask the victim testify on the stand, and some judges may just issue the order based on the verified complaint filed under oath.
- If the defendant comes to Court but does not want to contest the order, the judge will issue the order for one year with the same, or similar, terms as the Ex Parte Order. Since there is no contest, there will be no need for testimony or a trial.
- If the defendant comes to court and contests the order, the judge will order a hearing. The parties will be sworn in and take the stand to present their evidence, and after evidence is presented on both sides, the judge will decide whether to dismiss the order or keep it in place.
If you have questions about a domestic violence protection order, please contact a family law attorney today to schedule a consultation.