Domestic Abuse/Harassment Restraining Orders
If you feel that you or your children are in immediate danger, you should call 911, and not be concerned about being embarrassed. Domestic violence is very real, and law enforcement takes allegations of domestic and child abuse seriously. Domestic violence is defined by statute as the intentional infliction of physical pain, physical injury or illness, intentional impairment of physical condition, sexual assault, stalking (as defined by statute), damage to your property, or a threat to engage in any of those behaviors, committed by someone in your household, a caregiver or someone you are or were dating/in an intimate relationship with. The first thing to remember is that your safety is the most important thing. If there has been violence in your home and you’re worried about it happening again, consider contacting a domestic abuse shelter.
Harassment is defined by statute as striking, shoving, kicking or otherwise subjecting another person to physical contact, engaging in an act that constitutes child abuse or sexual assault, stalking, or attempting or threatening to do the same, or engaging in a course of conduct or repeatedly committing acts which harass or intimidate another person and which serve no legitimate purpose, committed by anyone.
Our firm can assist you in filing and obtaining a restraining order or injunction if necessary. Or, if a restraining order has been filed against you, we can provide you with advice on how to defend against that petition, or assist you in court at a hearing. If a restraining order needs to be filed by you or was filed against you related to your divorce or family law matter, we can handle all issues related to restraining orders and orders for protection, including:
- Domestic abuse
- Custody and placement issues
- Safety issues
- Issues with drug and alcohol addiction
- Removal of pets
Sometimes restraining orders are filed falsely to leverage custody and placement or control over the marital residence in contested divorces. In our experience, however, most times the violence is real, and needs to be taken seriously. Whatever your situation is, we will represent our clients in restraining order matters and work with you to get to the best outcome under the circumstances.
Effects of a Restraining Order
A restraining order will make it illegal for the alleged abuser (the respondent) to come within a certain distance of the abused (the petitioner). The respondent can be ordered to remain a certain distance from the petitioner's home and place of employment, even if they live and work in the same place. A restraining order can also significantly affect custody and placement orders, because direct communication between the parties will be prohibited.
An initial restraining order is granted on a temporary basis, usually two weeks, until there is a hearing to determine if an injunction should be granted. If an injunction is granted, it can last up to four years.
Process after Initial Filing
Once a restraining order petition is filed, the Family Court Commissioner meets with the petitioner to determine whether there is probable cause to issue a temporary restraining order. If granted, the respondent cannot have any contact with the petitioner until the injunction hearing. In approximately 7-14 days after the temporary restraining order is issued, both parties must appear at a hearing before the commissioner to determine whether there are grounds for an injunction to be issued for up to four years. If the commissioner believes that the respondent committed one or more acts of domestic abuse or harassment, then the injunction will be granted for up to four years. Either party can appeal the commissioner’s decision to the judge “de novo” (meaning it will be reviewed from scratch with all evidence being presented again). If the judge keeps the order in force. Otherwise, the restraining order can be dismissed on the day of the hearing. Either or both parties may hire attorneys to represent them at this hearing, and we generally recommend this when safety is an issue.