Protection from Abuse Orders and Protection from Harassment Orders are the subject of a lot of mis-information and misconceptions. We hear them referred to often as “restraining” orders or simply as “protection” orders but do you really know what they are and what impact they can have on your life?
First of all what are they? They are orders issued by the court. A protection from harassment order is a court document ordering a particular person to stop doing something specific that has been “harassing” another individual. This order might direct that a person not call that other person, not text them, not go to their house, or message them on facebook. The order will state that if this type of contact continues, then the person who violated the order will be subject to criminal penalties.
A protection from abuse order is very similar to a protection from harassment order. It will identify a specific person, state what they are not allowed to do (contact the victim at all, only contact them under specific circumstances, etc) and warn the person who it is ordered against that they face criminal charges if the order is violated.
So far, this all is fairly obvious. A protection from abuse order will order someone not do do certain things, but they can do much more than this. For example, protection from abuse orders can:
1) prevent you from owning or possessing a gun,
2) order you to attend counseling,
3) make payments to the victim for their support,
4) limit contact with your children,
5) divide up personal property (TV’s, furniture, etc), and
6) determine who gets to keep a pet.
As you can see, a protection from abuse order can have a BIG impact on many aspects of your life beyond having contact with someone. Additionally, if you are going through a divorce or are trying to obtain parental rights for your kids, if you have a protection from abuse/harassment order against you it can have an impact on future legal proceedings.
What does this mean for you?
1) If someone is trying to get a protection from abuse order against you, you must take it VERY seriously.
2) It is a real court order. Do not try and do it yourself! Hiring a lawyer can help you protect your rights.
3) Before a final order is issued there is a hearing in front of a judge. You have a right to call witnesses and cross examine your accuser, make sure that you come prepared and have an advocate who understands the system.