Domestic Violence: Orders of Protection and Restraining Orders
There are several available civil options that can provide for the safety of victims of domestic assaults and their families, such as an order of protection, or a judicial ex parte order (also called a restraining order).
Orders of Protection
All 50 states and the District of Columbia have allowances for orders of protection. An order of protection can:
- Prohibit the abuser from contacting, attacking, striking, telephoning, or disturbing the peace of the victim;
- Force the abuser to move from a residence shared with the victim;
- Order the abuser to stay at least 100 yards away from the victim, his or her place of residence, and place of employment;
- Order the abuser to attend counseling; and
- Prohibit the abuser from purchasing a firearm.
Orders of protection may also include a provision for the safety of children and others living in the home.
Judicial "Ex Parte" Orders (Restraining Orders)
An ex parte order requires the abusive cohabitant to temporarily vacate the premises. Issued only after the battered spouse seeks it, this order is sometimes referred to as a temporary restraining order. In most states, a "cohabitant" refers to a person who has a sexual relationship with the victim and has lived with the victim for at least 90 days during the year prior to the order being filed. A victim who is threatened with imminent harm or has already been harmed by the abuser (and/or already has an order of protection against the abuser) has no other legal remedy than to seek a restraining order. In most states, an attorney is needed to get a restraining order.
Violation of Orders
Violation of an order of protection is the equivalent of contempt of a court order. In many states, police policy is to arrest violators automatically. A violator can also be fined and jailed and may be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony.