I’ve read hundreds of articles about how a protective order is a useless piece of paper. Or that it is misused by ex-wives/girlfriends to get a “leg up” in a custody hearing. That may be true in a lot of cases, however, neither is true in my case. My protective order is worth its weight in gold the MAJORITY of the time. It has given me the well-deserved break from the manipulation, coercion, violence and vitriol I had lived with for a year.
Notes On Protective Orders
Permanent Protective Order (PO): For a permanent PO (civil or criminal) to be granted, there must be a hearing before a judge with both parties present. A civil PO is filed with the court as a petition. A criminal PO is usually filed by the District Attorney as part of the remedy for criminal acts. Both can be a lengthy process, especially if the plaintiff is prepared with witnesses and evidence and has a smart and efficient lawyer. Once a PO is granted, the court recognizes that the offender meets all the qualifications for domestic violence as defined in the state/jurisdiction. Abusers are entered into a national registry of protective orders (The National Crime Information Center was developed ten years ago as a national registry for protection orders issued in all fifty states), accessible to all law enforcement. A judge may also order temporary custody of the children to the victim, evict the abuser from the residence permanently, require the abuser to still pay the rent and utilities, order a relinquishing of weapons and ammunition, order the victim’s lawyer fees or additional court fees assumed by the state are paid by the abuser, require that the abuser does not tamper with the victim’s mail and other belongings and order a police escort for the removal of the abuser’s property.
Emergency PO: An emergency PO is granted at the discretion of a judge and by the “preponderance of the evidence” (which can be the written affidavit and statements to the judge). The defendant does not require notice or even reasonable notice of the proceeding because it usually occurs the same day it is filed (depending on how full the docket is. Good court clerks will move the docket around for an emergency protective order hearing). In many states, a court clerk is mandated to make room on the same day for an emergency PO. Sometimes, as was with my case, an emergency protective order isn’t served until a week later either because the accused was not present or the police officer didn’t have time. You can call the police station of the jurisdiction to check if the accused has been served (they won’t notify you until you call). The victim’s affidavit is attached to the emergency PO when the accused is served. In many states, the permanent protective order is scheduled without a second petition. The emergency PO can have the court date included in the papers that are served.
Again, every state is different, but with domestic violence issues in the public’s consciousness, the laws are changing for show cause, or the ability to present evidence that a defendant is in contempt of a protective order (this is necessary if a police officer does not arrest an offender, but issues a “warning” which is prevalent in the posts I’ve read on similar blogs and is a clear mishandling of the protective order, especially with a no-contact clause). I’ll come back to this in a minute.
My protective order is a no-contact order. This means that my abuser cannot have any contact with me via email, phone, social media, in-person, or through a third-party entity and must stay 300 feet from me at all times. Every permanent protective order is different. Some judges make allowances for visitation-only contact if children are involved. My judge felt that it was my abuser’s responsibility to work out the particulars and find a mediator within his family or pay for one. I agreed to his family mediating because I knew he couldn’t afford much.
As part of the no-contact, his family cannot discuss anything on his behalf. Since I have full physical and legal custody, he doesn’t have the right to discuss the rearing of our son right now. When the order expires, the custody agreement will still stay the same, but he will be able to have contact with me again. However, custody is a separate issue altogether and not handled in conjunction with a protective order, in cases when the children are NOT included in the PO.
My ex is very cunning. On the last visitation pick-up with his family friend (I approved), I arrived about 12 minutes early per usual. His apartment gym is on the first floor with wall-to-floor windows and parallel to the pick-up and drop-off location. Of course, my ex was in full view working out in the gym. Coincidence? Hardly. The way he stands is unmistakable. I could pick him out of a crowd of 1,000. His presence was carefully calculated. I’m sure he wanted to see my interaction with the family friend and then with my son before ushering Andrew into my car. He wanted me to KNOW he was there. I mean, couldn’t he wait the 15 minutes until I left to go to the gym? I’m speculating that his motives were to make his presence known. Like the narcissist he is, he probably wanted me to think “Wow, he looks great!” Even if he magically transformed into Chatum Tanning, my apathy and disgust would remain firm.
On occasion, he has sent me cards for the holiday, “From Andrew.” I’ve reciprocated with the same “From Andrew” cards for the holidays as well because I’m not mean-spirited. However, I now realize that he may have the impression that I’m softening. To be clear, no one should mistake my kindness for weakness. After all, I’m not the one with the PO. I’ve decided not to pursue action for the greeting cards because I’d rather not waste the court’s time for trivial matters and court fees.
However, these are all prime examples of toeing-the-line of a PO.They aren’t egregious enough to most cops, but they are ways to further control and intimidate by showing “presence.”
1.) Third party mentioning the abuser feels badly about what happened.
2.) Little gifts from the abuser on special days or holidays.
3.) Staying exactly 300 feet away, but within full view or earshot.
4.) Cyber stalking by looking at social media pages or other identifiable information to track the victim.
5.) Timing the comings-and-goings of visitation drop-off/pick-up by driving behind the victim or driving in the residential areas where the victim lives.
6.) Frequenting the same shopping centers, gas stations and other areas as the victim.
7.) Sending messages via the child.
8.) “Mis-dialing” the victim’s phone number.
9.) Living two miles or less from the victim.
10.) Asking friends to frequent areas near the victim.
11.) Withholding or tampering with the victim’s mail or possessions.
The Best Defense
So what do you do when your abuser is toeing-the-line?a.) Record Keeping: Keep records of EVERYTHING. Notes, cards, gifts, etc. Keep a locked calendar. Record days, times, what occurred and how you felt. Stay truthful. Don’t embellish. Judges are very sensitive to embellishments due to frequent abuse of the system from scorned individuals. b.) Law Enforcement or Court Involvement to Stop Harassment, Stalking, Violence or Threats: If the abuser starts stalking or harassing you, either call the police, talk to your District Attorney, or file a civil petition for contempt of the protective order. Know that if you bypass the first two and do go the court route, you likely will need a lawyer. Either way, it’s best to consult a lawyer about filing the petition and seeing if you have enough evidence for a civil PO contempt petition or when speaking to the DA. A judge has the power to impose fines, send the abuser to jail or both. Alternatively, if the police are called, the abuser will be arrested on a Class 1 Misdemeanor if it’s the first offense and he/she will spend jail time before arraignment. A hearing will be set at a later date. In all cases, they have the power to post bail if the judge allows it. c.) Alternative: Suing your abuser in small claims court. When people are injured by others, they are permitted to seek what the law refers to as “damages”, in the form of money, for such things as medical bills, lost wages or employment, or physical and emotional pain and suffering (punitive damages).
Here’s hoping your abuser is staying behind the line!
Credits go to http://www.womenslaw.org.