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Order of Protection – How To Stop Harassment (… and it’s NOT what you think!)

What recourse does a person have when being harmed or threatened by another? In many cases, the courts are allowed to step in and offer protection and guidance. This can be triggered by filing for an Order of Protection that can prevent direct communication of one person with specified other in any form.

Order of Protection vs. Restraining Order

Commonly, the phrase Restraining Order is mentioned by characters on TV and movies, or by members of the general public, who feel as if they are in need of protection from another individual. In legal terms, these people are usually not in need of a Restraining Order, but instead, need an Order of Protection. It turns out there is a huge difference between a Restraining Order and an Order of Protection.

What is a Restraining Order?

Restraining Orders are typically issued in business matters. Individuals can be prohibited from carrying out a certain action by a court-issued Restraining Order. For example, an employee has been trusted with a list of clients. When this employee leaves their current employer, that employer can file for an order that restrains them from using the client list at their new job.

What is an Order of Protection?

When an individual seeks protection from another because they are fearful, they would need an Order of Protection issued by a court of law. An Order of Protection helps protect individuals from physical violence, threats of violence, and other forms of harassment or abuse.

An Order will only be issued if an individual is in fear of harm or has actually been harmed by the subject of the Order of Protection. Also, there are relationship requirements in order to get an Order of Protection. Individuals must be in, or have been in, a sexual or dating relationship or must be relatives by blood or marriage. Otherwise, the individual filing for protection must have proof of stalking by the subject of the order.

How to Apply for an Order of Protection

To apply for an Order of Protection an individual must start by visiting their local courthouse or by contacting an attorney. Paperwork requesting an Order of Protection must be filled out and submitted properly. Any mistakes on the Order could result in denial of the granting of an order of protection by the court. This is why it’s crucial you have a professional, like an attorney, fill out and file the paperwork for you.

There are two types of orders available: A “No Contact Order” that requires no contact of any kind be made by the subject of the order (the defendant), including direct and indirect communication. Indirect communication includes contact via letters, emails, social networks, etc. A “Social Contact Order” allows communication between the individual filing for the order (the petitioner) and the defendant, including cohabitation, but there can be no harm done to the individual nor can there be attempts to harm or threats of harm made.

What Are the Steps to Get an Order of Protection?

Once the paperwork is filed for the type of Order of Protection needed, a judge must review the paperwork and sign it. A hearing must be scheduled by the court within 14 days. The Order can temporarily be implemented as an Ex Parte Order of Protection, meaning that based solely on the word of the applicant, the subject of the Order cannot be in contact during the time between the filing date and the hearing. If this temporary order is granted, a process server from the court or a police officer will serve a certified copy of the Ex Parte Order of Protection to the subject of the order in person.

To obtain an Order of Protection, the applicant must attend their court date. In some cases, the parties have reached some sort of an agreement that prevents or restricts the defendant’s contact with the petitioner. In these cases, there will be an Agreed Order signed by the parties and submitted to the judge for signature and entry and the Order of Protection can start without a full hearing.

A Contested Order of Protection hearing is heard in front of the judge and occurs when the parties cannot agree to all or part of the Petitioner’s requested Order of Protection. During this hearing, both sides are allowed to make statements or even produce witnesses to support their story. At this hearing, the judge either grants or dismisses the request for an Order of Protection. If granted, an Order of Protection remains in place for one year, although the judge can award an Order of Protection for a shorter period of time of their choosing, such as a month, three months or six months.

What Does an Order of Protection Mean?

Once an Order of Protection is granted by the court, whether a temporary Ex Parte Order or an official Order of Protection, it places limitations on the defendant in regard to their contact and communication with the petitioner. An Order of Protection prohibits any contact between the defendant and petitioner, including in-person visits, phone calls, letters, emails, social media posts, and any other form of contact.

Additional milestones can be included in an Order of Protection that must be met before it is lifted. These can include treatment to address domestic violence and alcohol and/or drug abuse. Any violation of the order can prolong the length of the Order of Protection, and it could result in up to 10 days in jail per violation. If prohibited contact is made, the individual who filed the Order of Protection should report it immediately to the police and have a copy of the Order ready to show them.

Contact Allowed When Under an Order of Protection

For the defendant, an Order of Protection being granted typically results in a complete suspension in contact with the petitioner. This includes all direct and indirect communication, including in-person engagement, phone calls, emails, social media posts, online messaging, and more. Additionally, if the defendant receives communication from the petitioner they must not reply in any way. It is a one way street of communication. The petitioner can contact the defendant as much as they want and the defendant is not allowed to respond to these communications even once. Even a reply to a communication from the petitioner could be considered a violation of the Order of Protection and could result in arrest.

The only contact allowed under an Order of Protection includes an initial removal of belongings at the beginning of an order, while accompanied by the police, and any exception agreed upon in the Order specifically, such as communication involving children. Overall, it’s best to resist any urge to communicate while under an Order of Protection to avoid paying penalties.

If you feel you need an Order of Protection or have had one placed against you and don’t know what you should do, then schedule a free consultation with Jed McKeehan today by calling (865) 588-1096. Jed is here to help make sure you have the information you need in order to make difficult decisions.