Domestic abuse is an unfortunate reality, but fortunately there is the option of obtaining a protection order to order the abuser to leave the victim’s home, and protect those who suffer from abuse, stalking and other forms of domestic violence.
Any person over 16 years of age can apply for a protection order without the need for legal advice. However, there are many cases in which the victim may prefer to seek legal support, especially if the abuser has a lawyer to represent him.
At a minimum we recommend that you inform yourself well about the process and its limitations, and we have created the following informative summary to help you.
What is a protective order?
A protection order is an order that protects you from the person who is assaulting or stalking you or your family. If this person fails to comply with the terms of the order, they can be punished with large fines and even serve time in prison.
When a protection order is granted, it can have different types of protective limits according to each case and what the judge deems appropriate. For example, a restraining order may order the abuser to immediately cease abuse and threats, or it may prohibit contact of any type with the victim of domestic violence – this is especially advised for sex offense cases. In case of harassment or stalking, the protection order can prevent your aggressor from approaching or following you, and if your stalker violates the court order, they would be committing a crime and could be arrested by a police officer.
It is common for a protection order to force the aggressor to leave the house where you and your family live, to protect you from further aggression. It may also reduce or cancel visitation rights for children, if the judge finds this appropriate.
There are occasions when a protection order can force an abuser to hand over all the firearms they possess to the authorities, and withdraw their permission to buy more.
Keep in mind that a protection order is a legal document, and that it does not take effect until it has been delivered to the person from whom you need protection. The order does not protect you physically, but it does threaten your aggressor with heavy fines and jail time if they fail to comply with what is ordered. If you are in immediate danger, even if you have a protection order, call the police.
In which cases can an order be requested?
For starters, protection or restraining orders are for cases of domestic violence, that is, for you to obtain protection from the law with respect to someone who is a family member or member of your household. This may include your current or former partner, whether married or not. It also applies to someone with whom you have had children, even if you were never married.
You can apply for a protection order from your parents, grandparents, siblings and other relatives, whether by blood, by marriage, adoptive or temporary. Any person who lives or has lived with you can be subject to a protective order, and even children and stepchildren qualify as members of your household, and a protection order can be issued against them.
If the person who attacks or harasses you does not meet any of these characteristics, what you need is a harassment protection order, which is different.
What is the process for obtaining a protection order?
A protection order has no cost, and legal support is not required to request or obtain it. However, if your abuser has legal advice, it is highly recommended that you also seek a lawyer to help protect your rights. In some cases the judges rule that the abuser must pay for your legal expenses.
To request a protection order you must go to the civil court of your district (District Court), and there look for the Civil Court Secretariat. They will give you the form to request a protection order. Don’t forget to bring your identification, as well as data and photographs to identify your abuser, and any evidence you have of the abuse.
When the form is given, fill it out calmly and carefully, describing in detail the last instance of abuse. If you need help, ask: usually someone in the office will offer assistance. Do not sign the form until you have reviewed it together with the court clerk, who must witness and notarize your signature.
Once the document has been reviewed and notarized, a judge will review it at the time. They may ask clarifying questions or request more information before deciding whether to grant the protection order.
Remember that the judge’s signature does not mean that the order is already in effect – it must be delivered / served to your abuser in person by court or police to take effect. Stay in a safe place with company until you get confirmation that the order was served.
It is usual for the judge to set a date for a hearing in which both parties explain their position, before determining whether the protective measures should be made permanent or lifted. Legal advice is not required for this hearing, but it is recommended that you go in the company of a lawyer who can help you defend yourself and get your case right. After this hearing you could get a final restraining order, which will hold for several years.
Be sure to write down the date and do not miss this hearing: if you do not appear, the protection order will expire immediately, and in the future it may be more difficult to request and obtain one.
In domestic violence cases when the police has to intervene, the police officer may file an emergency ex parte order on your behalf, which will cover you for a few days so you can go to court and apply for a longer one. Make sure to take steps for obtaining a protective order for a longer term, otherwise you will be unprotected in a week or less.