Wednesday, September 10, 2014

What You Should Know About Protective Orders

In my last post discussing the Ray Rice situation, I mentioned that protective orders are something that are typically involved in similar situations.  This post is to give you more information on protective orders, what they are, who needs them and where you can get them.  If you think a friend or family member may be in need of a protective order, please share this information and/or contact your local services group for help (see below for more information on that). 

Protective orders are a court orders that are put in place to restrict contact between two or more people.  To be granted a protective order, you must prove to the court that there is threat of imminent (very near future) harm by someone.  There are three major steps to obtaining protective orders.

First, you can go to your local magistrate's office and request an emergency protective order.  These typically last for three days and expire at 11:59 p.m. on the night of the third day following issuance.  These are issued "ex-parte" meaning the person whom you believe is a threat to your safety does not have notice of the proceeding and is not present when you request the protective order. 

The next step is to obtain a preliminary protective order.  This means, within the three days that the emergency protective order is in effect, you appear before a judge (in general district court if it is not a family member or in juvenile and domestic relations district court if it is a family member or someone you live with).  You, again, have to prove that there is the threat of imminent harm.  If the judge issues this protective order, it will be in effect for approximately 15 days.  Within those 15 days, the court will hold another hearing for another protective order.  In the meantime, the person whom the protective order is sought against (the person you believe is going to harm you) will be formally served and notified of the protective orders and proceedings and will be given the opportunity to appear at the next hearing and be heard on the issues. 

At the next hearing, which is likely the last hearing that will be held, the court will hear evidence from you and the other person as to whether or not there is a threat of imminent harm to you.  If the court finds you are in imminent danger, the court can issue a protective order that will be in effect for two years.  If, after those two years, you believe you are still in danger, you can seek to have it extended or go through the process again to obtain a new two year protective order.

Typically, you can include any family member or person who resides with you as people protected by the protective order.  For example, if you have a child who lives with you, you can include that child in the protective order so that the other person who is the threat of imminent harm cannot have contact with that child as well. 

Protective orders, if granted, will prohibit the threatening person from contacting you in any way.  This means he/she cannot attempt to contact you through email, mail, a third party, etc.  It may also include a provision that the person is to stay a certain distance away from your work and/or home addresses. 

While the process may appear somewhat straight forward, it is a complicated process to have a court actually grant the protective order in your favor.  If you are not granted the protective order, there are limitations on when you can try again.  Given the seriousness of the situations that protective orders typically arise from, you should seriously consider seeking legal advice and/or representation by a capable lawyer. 

**NOTE: If you need additional services and are the victim of domestic or sexual abuse, there are many area organizations that may be able to assist you.  The contact information for those organizations are listed below.
Greater Richmond Regional Hotline: (804) 612-6126
Hanover Safe Place:
Richmond YWCA:
Safe Harbor: