Domestic violence is an all too common occurrence in American households. Acts of domestic violence include far more than just hitting; other forms of physical abuse, along with emotional and mental abuse, are also considered domestic violence in the eyes of the law. Victims are most commonly women, although children are frequently impacted as well.
People who are experiencing domestic violence have the right to file for a restraining order and may request child and/or spousal support at the same time. A restraining order is not the same as a petition for divorce, but if a divorce is later initiated, it can be comforting to know that courts often give special consideration to domestic abuse victims in regards to child custody rights, child and/or spousal support payments and/or property division. Mediation is still required before the court will hear a divorce proceeding, but the partner who has been abused will be given the option to meet with the mediator separately if warranted.
Domestic Violence Includes Many Acts of Abuse
Domestic violence is a far-reaching term that includes everything from physical acts such as hitting, shoving, and kicking as well as emotional and verbal abuse such as threatening to do harm to the victim and/or someone they love. An abuse victim may be prevented (either physically or through fear) from leaving their home for work related or recreational purposes; acts of sexual abuse also fall under the legal definition of domestic violence. Statistics reveal that the majority of abuse victims are women, but children may suffer some of the most severe long term consequences as a result of deeply rooted fears which may be difficult to overcome later in life.
Types of Restraining Orders
If you or someone in your home is being abused, you have the right to receive legal protection. Depending on the circumstances, one or more of the following types of restraining orders may be issued:
- Emergency Protective Order (EPO): A police officer who arrives at the scene of domestic violence can file for an EPO 24 hours per day, seven days per week and any day of the year. This order grants protection to the victim for a period of up to seven days.
- Temporary Restraining Order (TPO): The time period during which an EPO is effective gives the abuse victim adequate time to file the paperwork necessary to receive a TPO which can remain in effect for up to 25 days (or until a court hearing date). In cases where an EPO has not been filed, abuse victims are still eligible to file for a TPO.
- Permanent Restraining Order: During your TPO hearing, the judge may issue a “permanent” restraining order which can remain in effect for as long as three years. Permanent restraining orders can be reissued if necessary.
- Criminal Protective Order: If the local district attorney files charges against a person who has allegedly committed one or more acts of domestic violence, a criminal protective order may be issued and may remain in effect for as long as three years after the case has been closed in court.
Restraining Orders Can Accomplish More Than One Purpose
All restraining orders are intended to prevent contact between the abuser and any family member(s) who may be at risk. The abuser will not be allowed near the victim’s residence, place of work or school and may have to move out of the family home. The order can also prevent the sale of marital assets, require the abuser to pay certain bills, attend one or more self-help programs, and beyond. Requests for child custody and/or visitation, along with any requests for child and/or spousal support, can also be filed along with the request for a restraining order. Restraining orders provide protection throughout the nation and must be enforced by all police officers within or outside the district or state where they were initially filed.
Abuse Victims May Receive Special Consideration in Court
Victims of domestic violence who file a petition for divorce may receive special consideration when it comes to awarding custody of any children involved and have an increased chance of receiving spousal support, higher child support payments and/or a greater share of marital property. There is proclivity in cases where alleged violence is concerned, that the court will order one or more investigations to uncover information which will be required to make informed decisions on the couple’s behalf. Spousal support may be issued if domestic violence impacted the victim’s ability to hold a steady job; visitation with any children may also need to be supervised if their safety is at all in question.
Mediation May Occur Separately
Normally, couples are required to meet with a mediator at the same time (with or without the presence of their lawyers) before appearing in front of a judge in court. When domestic violence is alleged, however, the victim may feel threatened in the presence of the abuser and effective mediation may be difficult or impossible. In this situation, the mediator may meet with each partner independently in order to formulate a more accurate courtroom recommendation based on the best interests of any children involved. As always, working with a highly skilled divorce lawyer is the best way to protect your legal rights and ensure you are receiving an equitable deal in your divorce decree.
To learn more about how we can help resolve your divorce or family law matter, contact the professionals at the Law Offices of Silky Sahnan to arrange a confidential consultation. We will work together to create a solid strategy to help you move forward with confidence.