Sometimes legal terms can get confusing. Domestic relations, probate, unlawful detainer, trusts, the legal jargon goes on and on. One such set of terms that often confuses non-lawyers (and occasionally even some lawyers) are orders of protection, no contact orders and restraining orders. Oftentimes the terms are used interchangeably by non-lawyers to mean the same thing. However, they are not the same and each of the three orders is obtained by a different process and achieves a different purpose.
Orders of Protection
An order of protection is an order that protects a victim of domestic violence from an abusive spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend, or family member. It is civil in nature (although a violation of an order of protection is a crime) and is obtained by the victim of domestic violence filling out a petition and filing it with the circuit clerk. The petition will then be reviewed by a judge. The judge can issue an immediate ex parte emergency order of protection. The case is set for a hearing and the petition, emergency order (if one was entered) and hearing date are served on the alleged abuser.
Both the person filing for the order of protection and the person defending against it can have a lawyer if they choose to (and can afford to hire one or find a lawyer to represent them for free – lawyers aren’t appointed in order of protection hearings).
If sufficient evidence is presented that domestic violence (also known as domestic abuse) took place, i.e. physical violence against the victim by the abuser or threats of physical violence, then the judge can issue a final order of protection for a period of between 90 days and ten years.
In the order of protection the judge can require that the abuser stay away from the victim at all times, can require that the abuser stay away from the victim’s home, school or place of employment, and can require the abuser not to have any contact with the victim. The judge can also award temporary custody and child support if children are involved.
No Contact Orders
A no contact order is issued by the criminal court. It can be issued by a judge in criminal court to protect a victim of a crime. After someone is charged with a crime and while their criminal case is pending, the judge can issue a no contact order requiring that the defendant have no contact with the alleged victim of the crime. If the defendant is convicted of the crime, the no contact order can be continued. The defendant does not have to be related to the victim for a no contact order to be put in place.
Restraining orders often refer to the order that is put in place at the beginning of a divorce and primarily serves three purposes: (1) to prevent the divorcing parties from harassing each other, (2) to prevent the parties from destroying, selling or getting rid of marital property, and (3) to prevent the parties from leaving the state with children of the marriage. A restraining order will usually be put in place at the request of either the plaintiff or the defendant’s lawyer or some judges automatically issue them in all divorces. The order usually doesn’t prevent the parties from coming around one another or communicating with each other.
Contact Us for Assistance
If you are the victim of domestic violence and need assistance in obtaining an order of protection or if you need help with a divorce or other family law matter feel free to contact our office by calling (501) 960-6060 or clicking here to schedule a free consultation (if you’ve been charged with a crime, sorry we don’t practice criminal law). If you are the victim of domestic violence, the most important thing is to make sure that you are safe. The Arkansas Coalition Against Domestic Violence has resources (such as shelter information) for those in need, you can reach them by clicking here