This is a very simplified summary of Orders of Protection. A complete description would require a lot more space and honestly would be a lot more than a normal person wants to read.
First: Seek Help
If you are a victim of domestic violence, you should seek help from the police or do a google search for help in your County. If you are in Davidson County, contact the Metro Nashville Police Department Domestic Violence Division. Get yourself safe, then find help. There are people and organizations out there that will help you, but you need to reach out and help them help you.
If you have been served with an Ex Parte Order of Protection: OBEY IT. The court’s order is not a suggestion, do what it says or you will end up in jail. Call a lawyer because you don’t need to go into that courtroom without help.
What is this Order of Protection?
There’s two different kinds of orders. An Ex Parte Order of Protection is an order that a victim can ask for and receive quickly if there is a probability of continued immediate abuse. “Ex Parte” means that the court only heard one side of the story. Because only one side has been told, ex parte orders only last for two weeks, then they must be set for a formal hearing in front of a judge who will listen to both sides of the story. An Ex Parte Order of Protection looks like this.
If, after listening to both sides and considering the evidence the judge decides that the victim needs continued protection, the Court will issue an Order of Protection (without the “ex parte”), which may last for up to a year. An Order of Protection looks like this.
These orders are a tool the courts use to protect a victim of domestic violence, stalking, or sexual assault from continued abuse or harassment by the respondent (the person accused of committing the acts). It is intended to provide an immediate safety net by shielding the victim from further contact with the aggressor and provide the victim with a safe place to stay.
When a commissioner or judge puts one of these orders in place, the court has numerous options it can put in place, such as ordering the respondent to not contact the victim, not contact the children, stay away from the home, provide monetary support, and many other things.
If the respondent violates any of the terms of the order, the respondent may find themselves in jail and charged with criminal offenses for violating the order.
How Do I Get One?
If you think you need this kind of protection, you’ll likely need to fill out a Petition and appear before a judge or commissioner and explain why you need help. Where you do this will vary depending where you live, but the police can tell you where to go. If the person who abused you has been arrested, they should be held for at least 12 hours, but this process will take a while, so don’t delay long.
The petition can be rather long and will take some time to fill out. In some counties there are organizations who will help you fill out the order. For example, here in Davidson County we have the Jean Crowe Advocacy Center, which helps victims obtain these orders.
A judge or commissioner will consider your Petition, ask you some questions, and decide whether an order is appropriate. If the Court issues an Ex Parte Order, your case will be set in front of a judge within 15 days so both sides will have an opportunity to be heard.
What if I’ve Been Served With an Order?
Like I said above: OBEY IT. You may disagree with everything it says. You may think it’s totally nonsense. I promise you, however, the Order is no joke and if you violate it you’re likely to be arrested and charged with a crime. The judge will consider violating the Order as thumbing your nose at the Court, and judges take it seriously.
If the person who obtained this Order calls you, texts you, or sends a message though a family member, don’t respond unless the Order says you can. For example, if you’re allowed to communicate about the kids, then only talk about the kids.
Call a lawyer soon. Don’t wait until the day before the hearing unless you have large piles of money handy. You need the help and your lawyer needs time to help you prepare for your hearing.
What’s the Real Deal?
Domestic Violence is a real problem and it’s not just men causing this issue. Victims and perpetrators span all genders, races, income levels, ages, location, everything. It can and does happen to anyone. Odds are someone you know or someone in your family has been involved in a domestic violence situation, whether you know it or not.
These orders can be effective too. Statistics show that when a properly detailed order is issued in these situation things between the parties tend to calm down. It’s not perfect, but they help.
However, Orders of Protection are also vastly abused. At the hearing dates for the orders, on the average about 3 out of every 4 of these orders is dismissed. Why? Sometimes the alleged victim goes running back to the abuser. Sometimes the victim just won’t show up to court. Sometimes the story is just nonsense and doesn’t stand up to detailed questioning.
It’s not at all uncommon for a person who is about to file for divorce or about to try to get custody of their kids to file a nonsense Order of Protection in an attempt to gain the upper hand in the litigation. The police know it, the lawyers know it, and the judges know it. If you are considering doing this, just be aware that if the Court decides that you lied in your petition or that the allegation of abuse was otherwise improper, you may have to pay all of the costs, including the other party’s lawyer’s fees. You may find yourself in jail, and the Court might not take any of your testimony on any issue seriously. You are bogging down the system, you are costing people a lot of money, and you are the reason actual victims can’t always get the help they need. Stop being a scumbag, your life will be easier.
If you are involved in a domestic violence situation from either side, call me and let’s talk about how I can help you. You may need a divorce, or a parenting schedule, or just help at the hearing for the Order of Protection. I can help you get through this.