Protection From Abuse-Protection From Harassment
Restraining orders may be granted by the court in appropriate circumstances. A Protection From Harassment (PFH) order is available where three or more acts constituting “harassment” have been committed by one individual against another. What constitutes “harassment” is defined under the PFH statute.
Protection From Abuse (PFA) orders are usually used for Family or household members, dating partners, or for minor children of a family or household member or dating partner. What behavior qualifies as “abuse” is defined by the PFA statute. A person desiring either type of order should apply at the District Court. You don’t need a lawyer.
The Order Issues Without Notice
If the Plaintiff is successful, the PFA or PFH order will be granted without prior notice to the defendant. The defendant is ordered to stay away from the plaintiff, and a future court date is set. On that day, if the defendant shows up in court, it will be up to the plaintiff to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the harassment or abuse actually occurred.
If the plaintiff does not show up in court, or is unable to prove the case, the temporary “ex-parte” order will be dismissed. If the case is proven or the parties consent, however, an order extending up to two years may be entered by the court. Among other things, such an order may grant exclusive use and possession of a home or apartment, it may require the defendant to turn over any fire arms, and it may award temporary custody and support for children. These types of orders can also be extended by the court, upon application of the Plaintiff, after the original term has expired.
Violations Of Orders Charged As A Crime
A violation of either a PFA order or a PFH order is a crime that the police and prosecutors take very seriously. So these are like the nuclear bomb of family matter cases. Even if the temporary restraining order is later found to have been based upon fraudulent representations to the court, and is therefore dismissed, the defendant will still be prosecuted criminally if he or she violated the temporary order before it was dismissed.
Overused Or Underused?
It can be argued that these restraining orders are both over-used and under-used. The support network for victims of domestic violence would say these orders are under-used by the victims who actually need them. There are many potential reasons for this, but one obvious one would be a genuine fear of the Defendant.
Ask any criminal defense or family law attorney, however, and they will tell you that the protection from abuse and protection from harassment statutes are frequently miss-used to gain an advantage in divorce and custody cases.
We prosecute or defend against these types of cases as appropriate.
There is no substitute for an experienced family law attorney if you have a protection from abuse or protection from harassment case in conjunction with your divorce or custody matter. You should not try to “go it alone” if you can afford not to.
Contact Us Immediately For Help
If you need help obtaining or defending a restraining order in one of the courts where we practice, do not hesitate to contact us. Call us in Augusta at 207-622-6900 or email us.