Domestic violence and abuse happen more frequently than many realize. Regardless of the situation, all individuals must take precautionary measures and get help should an event become harmful to one’s well-being. If personal safety becomes an issue, filing a petition for an Order for Protection (OFP) may be necessary.
What Is an Order for Protection?
A judge can issue an OFP document to help protect an individual from harassment or abuse. The issuing of an OFP allows the judge to set limits on a partner’s behavior, such as stopping the abuse from occurring, staying away from a home or workplace, and having no contact with the victim. Filing a petition for an OFP doesn’t require any fees and may last for up to two years before the need for renewal. In order to qualify for an OFP, an individual must have a close relationship with the abuser, meaning it cannot be a person that the victim does not otherwise have an intimate relationship with. Some examples of the types of relationships that qualify for an OFP are as follows:
- Current or former spouse
- Residing current or former adult
- Intimate or dating relationship
- Parent of children; married or unmarried
In some instances, a minor child may need protection from another parent, family member, or significant other. In those cases, typically the child’s parent or guardian will file an OFP on behalf of the minor child. The OFP petition in cases with minor children can, but does not need to, include the adult as part of the petition. While an OFP cannot guarantee an individual’s safety, it does help in many ways, from increasing the likelihood of police taking calls more seriously to protection at a job or arresting a partner under violation. The presence of an OFP is usually a factor when establishing or modifying custody of minor children.
What Is Domestic Abuse?
Many forms of abuse can occur in a relationship, from physical and/or verbal abuse to sexual assault. An individual commonly turns to abuse in an attempt to establish power over the other person and maintain control. Domestic abuse isn’t the same in every relationship. Many factors can be common in abusive relationships, such as alcohol or drug use, stress, or financial problems. There are five different types of domestic abuse, and it’s encouraged to become familiar with their characteristics, should an individual be uncertain of whether abuse is occurring in the relationship.
- Physical: Many expect physical abuse to leave marks or cause permanent damage, but that’s not always the case. Physical abuse can consist of any action that hurts an individual, from scratching, biting, or strangling to interrupting sleep patterns, choking, or destroying possessions.
- Emotional or Psychological: Emotional and psychological abuse can occur both verbally and non-verbally and is usually utilized as a tactic for one partner to control the other or damage one’s emotional well-being. Emotional abuse can consist of many actions from name-calling, manipulation, and cheating to yelling, monitoring phone calls or texts, or shifting the responsibility of abusive behavior.
- Economic or Financial: At times, an abuser can make a victim entirely financially dependent, thus resulting in having no power or say in the relationship. Economic abuse can consist of forbidding the victim to work or attend school, hiding family assets, running up debt in the victim’s name, and withholding money or allowance.
- Stalking and Harassment: This form of abuse can occur between strangers or in relationships and occurs when an abusive partner demands the time of an individual, whether one wants the contact or not. Stalking and harassment can consist of making unwanted visits, refusing to leave, following, and embarrassing someone in public.
- Sexual: Sexual abuse occurs when a woman, man, or child forces a sexual behavior or sexual act upon a woman, man, or child without the party’s consent.
The Steps for Obtaining an Order for Protection
- Fill out and file the necessary forms. Area courthouses will have the documents needed to file a petition for an OFP. It’s encouraged to find a courthouse in the residing area, and upon arrival, the clerk can provide a person with everything needed to file. One must make sure to thoroughly read the petition and ask any questions should something not be understood. When filling out the petition, it’s essential to be as detailed as possible, so the judge can get a clear picture of the events that have been occurring. the OFP Petition is the most important document when filing an OFP. Therefore, it is crucial to have all of the facts organized in a manner that is easy to read and provides a thorough picture of abuse. It is important to remember that the judge reviewing this petition usually knows nothing about what is happening and a judge cannot accurately imagine what is happening if it is not written in the Petition.
- Judge reviewal. Upon completing the required paperwork, turn it in to the clerk, and a judge will review the information provided to make a final decision. Depending on how quickly the judge receives the paperwork, the process may take a few days. If one feels immediate danger is possible, it’s vital to inform the clerk, so a judge can issue an ex parte order. An ex parte order is a temporary OFP granted if a judge believes there is an immediate threat or danger to an individual.
- Service of Process. In the case that an ex parte order is granted before a hearing takes place, it will not be in effect until the abuser has been served papers. A sheriff or law enforcement officer will be given all paperwork to deliver to the abuser. In the event that the ex parte order cannot be served personally, the judge will attempt to deliver the papers to previous addresses or via mail.
- Hearing. It is vital that the individual filing a petition for an OFP attend the court hearing. If a situation occurs where the filing individual cannot attend, the clerk must be notified immediately to schedule a later court date. Regardless, it’s essential that the individual comes to court prepared and has evidence to show abuse. If the abuser doesn’t attend the court hearing, the judge may issue a default judgment or reschedule the hearing. If the hearing is rescheduled, an extension of an ex parte order may be requested.
It can be difficult to identify forms of domestic violence and abuse and even more elusive to understand the services available to provide protection. Domestic violence and abuse come in many forms, and if someone is experiencing it, it’s incredibly important to take proper measures to resolve and control the situation. Explore how to identify the types of domestic violence and abuse, the many resources available by the state of Minnesota, and contact a family law attorney to get guidance if necessary.
This article contains general legal information and does not provide legal advice. For legal advice, please contact M. Sue Wilson Law Offices directly.