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Domestic Violence

The domestic violence protective order process provides an expedited court process to seek protection from abuse that causes serious bodily harm, an act that places a person in fear of imminent serious bodily harm, assault, certain sexual offenses, false imprisonment, and stalking.

A domestic violence petition may be filed in the District Court, Circuit Court or with the District Court Commissioner when the District Court and Circuit Court are closed.

Domestic violence protection is available to those persons who have certain relationships to each other: current or former spouses, cohabitants, relatives by blood, marriage, or adoption, and a parent, stepparent, child or stepchild relationships. The person seeking protection is the “petitioner” and must be a “person eligible for relief” because the parties have one of the relationships mentioned above. The person against whom a petition is filed is the “respondent”.

The domestic violence process is expedited, as compared with other litigation. There are different phases to the process:

  1. Interim Protective Order – this can be issued only after business hours, by the Commissioner, and is generally only valid for 24 or so business hours;
  2. Temporary Protective Order – this can be issued during business hours and is generally only valid for 7 days;
  3. Final Protective Order – this can be issued 7 days after a Temporary Protective Order, and can generally be in place for 1 year, and in certain circumstances 2 years or indefinitely.

The Interim Protective Order and Temporary Protective Order hearings mostly occur without notice to the respondent and only with the petitioner present. The Final Protective Order hearing is a trial, which usually only takes place after the respondent has received notice of the trial.

A Final Protective Order can be granted after a trial with testimony and evidence, because a judge finds that abuse occurred, or by consent of both parties without a trial and without any findings of fact that abuse occurred.

A court can order a variety of relief when issuing a protective order. Relief may include the following:

  • that a respondent:
    • refrain from further abuse or threats of abuse;
    • refrain from contacting, attempting to contact, or harassing; refrain from entering the residence;
    • vacate the home shared with the person eligible for relief;
    • remain away from the place of employment, school, or temporary residence;
    • remain away from the residence of any family member; remain away from the child care provider;
    • Surrender firearms;
    • Child Protective Services investigation.

Additionally, a court may order the following relief, some of which is of significant consequence:  

    • temporary custody of the minor child(ren) and temporary visitation;
    • emergency family maintenance;
    • temporary use and possession of vehicle;
    • temporary use and possession of the home;
    • counseling; and,
    • payment of costs.

The domestic violence process is not a substitute for divorce, child custody, child support, or alimony litigation. It is designed to protect victims of abuse, whether adults or children. A domestic violence case may have a serious impact on existing or future litigation, especially relating to divorce and custody of children.

The attorneys at Dragga, Hannon, Hessler & Wills LLP are experienced in representing both petitioners and respondents in domestic violence protective order cases. Because this process is so expedited, it is important to seek the advice and representation of counsel at the earliest possible time.