Far too often we get contacted by a victim asking us what to do if they need a Domestic Violence Protection Order (DVPO) now. As we discussed briefly in our “What is a DVPO?” post, victims can, in some circumstances, obtain an immediate DVPO. We thought it might be helpful to talk a bit more about that, and outline the general procedure for petitioning for a DVPO.
Immediate (Temporary) DVPO
Folks are often surprised to learn that, in cases where there are legitimate immediate safety concerns, courts can issue a temporary DVPO, without notifying or hearing from the other party. In order to petition a court for a DVPO, a petitioner (or her attorney) needs to prepare a Petition for Order for Protection that explains the domestic violence that the petitioner experienced, and why she needs a DVPO. Then, the petitioner can take this document to court, walk into a court room (without notifying her abuser – this is called “ex parte”), and ask that the court schedule a hearing for the DVPO, and, in the meantime, issue a temporary DVPO to go into effect immediately and last until the hearing date. In our “What is a DVPO?” post, we outlined what a DVPO can actually do. A temporary DVPO can do the same things that a full DVPO can do (just on a temporary basis):
Prohibit the respondent from physically harming, injuring, assaulting, molesting, harassing, threatening, or stalking the petitioner;
Prohibit the respondent from keeping the petitioner under surveillance or monitoring her activities;
Prohibit the respondent from contacting the petitioner, including using third parties to contact her on the respondent’s behalf;
Prohibit the respondent from going to the petitioner’s home, school, workplace, or other specified locations;
Prohibit the respondent from coming within a certain specified distance of the petitioner;
Grant the petitioner temporary care of shared children;
Grant the petitioner custody of shared pets;
Order the respondent to vacate the shared home;
Order the respondent to participate in treatment and / or counseling;
Order the respondent not to posses any firearms, dangerous weapons, and / or concealed pistol license.
If the court finds that an emergency exists and that a temporary DVPO should be issued without notice to the respondent, then it will grant the petitioner a temporary DVPO that very day, and will schedule a hearing to be held approximately two weeks later.
After filing the petition, the petitioner will need to serve the other party (the respondent) with the documents (as we discussed in our “What is Domestic Violence?” post, law enforcement will serve these documents on the respondent free of charge).
The respondent will have an opportunity to respond, in writing, to the materials that the petitioner wrote, and present his version of events to the court.
Then, the petitioner will have an opportunity to reply, in writing, to the materials that the respondent wrote.
Approximately two weeks after filing, both the petitioner and respondent, and their respective attorneys, will return to court and have a full hearing (often referred to as a “return hearing”). In this hearing, the petitioner will explain to the court why she needs a DVPO. After the petitioner “argues” her case, the respondent will have an opportunity to explain to the court why the DVPO shouldn’t be granted. After the respondent “argues” his case, the petitioner will have an opportunity to reply to what he said.
After hearing from both parties, and after reviewing all of the written pleadings that the parties submitted, the court will make its ruling. The burden is on the petitioner to show the court that she is a victim of domestic violence. The standard that the court uses in these types of cases is called a “preponderance of the evidence.” This means that, if the court finds that it is more likely than not that the petitioner has experienced domestic violence, then it will grant her a DVPO.