If you have experienced domestic violence, an order of protection can play an important role in helping you achieve safety, security, and peace of mind.
What is an order of protection?
An order of protection is a civil court order that protects victims of domestic violence from abusive family or household members. Specifically, the order prevents abusers from having any contact whatsoever with their victims. There are two types of orders of protection: temporary orders and final orders, which are discussed in more detail below.
Who can apply for an order of protection?
If you have experienced domestic abuse, you are eligible to apply for an order of protection. Domestic abuse is defined by Arkansas law as “physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or the infliction of fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury, or assault between family or household members.” It also includes any criminal sexual conduct between family or household members.
The term, “family or household members,” is defined very broadly under Arkansas law. It includes spouses, former spouses, parents, children, people related by blood within four degrees, any children living in the home, people who live together or used to live together, people who have had a child together, and people who are dating or who used to date.
What are the steps for getting an order of protection?
To obtain an order of protection, you must first go to the circuit clerk’s office in the county where you live, where your abuser lives, or where the abuse occurred, and fill out a petition for a temporary order of protection.
The next step is for a judge to be assigned to the case and for the judge to read the petition. If the judge believes there has been abuse or that there is danger of future abuse, he or she will grant a temporary order of protection. The judge will also set a date for a court hearing to determine whether to make the temporary order of protection a final order of protection.
At the court hearing, both you and your abuser will have an opportunity to tell your side of the story and present any evidence you may have. Once the judge has heard both sides, he or she will decide whether to grant a final order of protection. A final order of protection can last anywhere from 90 days to 10 years. If your abuser violates the order, he or she can face arrest, fines, and jail time.
How well do protection orders work?
While protection orders can play an important role in reducing your risk of future abuse, they cannot absolutely guarantee your safety. Some abusers may obey the order to avoid legal repercussions, while others may treat the order as nothing more than a piece of paper. Ultimately, you know your abuser best and whether or not an order of protection would be likely to prevent him or her from harassing, threatening, or abusing you in the future.
How can Peace at Home help?
If you decide to file for an order of protection, you do not have to go through the process alone. Peace at Home’s legal department can assist you in filing for an order of protection, accompany you to the court hearing, provide you with legal representation, and help you develop a safety plan. Call 479.442.9811 to speak with an advocate about legal services.