What Is A Protective Order?

A protective order is a tool that must be carefully filled out in order to help provide adequate protection for victims of domestic abuse.

Domestic abuse is an inexcusable act of violence, but unfortunately is also prevalent today in our society. When it does occur, it can throw the battered person into a state of emotional pain, confusion, panic, and of course terror. Knowing what steps can be taken in order to obtain some form of protection from the abuser will help alleviate some of that panic, confusion, and fear.

The law can help protect the abused through a legal process that involves the implementation of a document known as a protective order. This document can originate either through the criminal or civil courts. The wording contained in this document basically lets the abuser know what he/she can or cannot do such as staying away, i.e. keeping a certain distance from the abused, and the abused family, friends, and coworkers, if applicable.

An application form can be obtained by the abused from various department/offices such as the police department, the courthouse, and state attorney's office and must first be filled out.

After taking this initial step, the court can then set a hearing date for the victim, at which time a plea is made to a judge. A fee is incurred when filing for this Order, although if the Order originates out of criminal proceedings, no fee is charged.

Essentially these protective orders provide a place for the abused to describe exactly what had occurred during the domestic abuse.

When the abused/victim provides a description of the extent of her/his abuse, it is suggested that the victim be concise, i.e. provide the exact dates and the exact description of what happened. The victim should also provide a description of what injuries, if any had been incurred and what medical treatment was necessary.

Since the protective order will provide protection in terms of only what the victim has asked for and what information the victim has given, the wording on the protective order must be carefully thought out and it should be thorough.

For instance, if the victim does not want to be stalked or harassed by the abuser, this must be then stated on the protective order. In other words, if the abuser forbids the abuser to appear anywhere near the her/his place of employment, this must be clearly expressed on the protective order.

A comprehensive protective order will at least ensure that the victim's demands are covered. Some further issues or restrictions a victim might want to include on the protective order are as followed:

She/he should state -

1. The specified distance where the abuser may not be allowed to come near the victim, family of the victim, friends, etc. This could and should cover such areas as the home, the place of victim's employment, and if victim's children are involved, then also their school, especially if it is believed they may be in danger of retaliation from the abuser.

2. The abused has custody of the children, and that any visitation by the abuser is then supervised.

3. The abuser is not allowed to follow, i.e. stalk or harass the victim.

4. The abuser is not allowed to call the victim on the phone, or send letters, or correspond via e-mail or any other form of electronic communications.

5. The abuser pays for all medical and/or dental costs, or any legal or court fees.

6. The abuser is not allowed to carry a gun (firearms). It should be noted that federal law does not allow anyone who has a protective order currently placed on them because of domestic violence to acquire any firearms.

7. The abuser must seek and get counseling.

8. The abuser must do no harm or damage to victim's property. If this happens abuser must pay for all damages incurred.

9. If the abused needs to move as a result of the domestic abuse, then the abuser must pay moving costs.

10. The abuser must provide financial support to the victim and to the victim's children if applicable.

11. Legal documents necessary for daily living, such as health insurance cards, birth certificates, bank books (savings and checkbook), etc. should remain with the abused/victim.

The above list gives a general overview of what can or should be put into a protective order. Perhaps not all items may be applicable, but by going over this list the abused/victim will be able to focus better on what needs to be done in terms of protecting her/his family from future emotional and physical injury from the abuser.

Upon completing this protective order, it is then given to the Clerk of the Court who will then set a hearing date. If for any reason the victim cannot attend the hearing then a continuance will be issued and the hearing date set for another time. This is important in that if the victim cannot attend, and does not give a legitimate reason, the protective order is rendered invalid, and the victim will have to begin the process over.

After the abused/victim looks over the Protective Order ensuring that it is correct, and nothing has been left out, copies should then be provided to all parties concerned, i.e. victim's attorney, if there is one, employer, school administrator, relatives, friends, and the local police where this order is being served.

A "full faith and credit clause" is a Federal law that was established for "nationwide enforcement" of these protective orders from any court in any state. This law provides tough penalties for those abusers who dare to cross over state lines with the purpose of abusing a spouse. Doing so, consequently violates the protective order.

Anyone who violates these orders is in contempt of court and will incur severe penalties in terms of fines or in many cases jail time, which can be up to as much as a 20-year sentence.

The sole purpose of this legal document is to provide the legal system with the means to protect those who are being domestically abused. It afford a means of protection and if properly implemented enables victims of this domestic violence to at least be able to seek safety from harm for themselves and their families.

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