An order of protection (OOP) is an order from the court that prohibits one person (the defendant) from having contact with another person (interchangeably known as the victim, plaintiff or protected person. If someone has harmed you, threatened to harm you, or acted in a manor that causes you to fear for your safety, you may want to seek an order of protection that orders the person you are afraid of not to contact you. If that person continues to contact you, you can then contact the police who will take action. Our frequently asked questions below address some of the details you should be aware of when seeking or defending against an order of protection.
Frequently Asked Questions
Where can I get an order of protection?
You can get an order of protection at your local justice court from the Justice of the Peace, or from the Superior Court. Please note that if you have a pending family court case in the Superior Court, you should get your OOP from the Superior Court.
Who can get an order of protection?
Anyone can get an order of protection, as long as the required facts are present. A parent can obtain an OOP for a minor, and a third party can even obtain an OOP for someone who lacks the ability or capacity to do so on their own.
What is required before the court issues an order of protection?
There are two important requirements that must exist before the court will issue an order of protection.
First, there must be a relationship between the parties, such as:
- the parties are married or were married;
- the parties currently or previously lived together;
- the parties have a child together;
- the parties are related by blood or court order;
- the parties are or were in a romantic or sexual relationship;
Second, the court must find that an act of domestic violence has taken place within the last year, or that it is likely that the defendant will commit an act of domestic violence. The statutory definition for domestic violence is exceptionally broad. Of course the obvious hitting would be considered domestic violence, but so can things like yelling or throwing things.
Can an order of protection name more than one defendant?
No. If you need to obtain an order of protection against more than one person, you will need to obtain separate orders for each person.
What do I do after I get an order of protection?
After you get the order of protection, you must serve it on the defendant. This means you must have a sheriff, sheriff’s deputy, constable, constable’s deputy, or a licensed process server deliver the OOP to the defendant. The OOP is not effective until it is served on the defendant.
How long does an order of protection last?
An order of protection is good for one year, and that one year begins when the defendant is served with the OOP. If the defendant successfully challenges the OOP, the order can end earlier than one year.
How do I challenge an order of protection?
If you have been served an order of protection, you have a right to challenge the order. This involves requesting an evidentiary hearing with the court that issued the OOP. When you request a hearing, then court must set a hearing within 10 court days, or 5 court days if the order of protection excluded you from your home.
What are the consequences of violating an order of protection?
The consequences can be serious. If you are found guilty of violating an order of protection, you will be convicted of a class 1 misdemeanor. A class 1 misdemeanor carries the possibility of up to 6 months in jail. It is very easy for a defendant to be charged with multiple violations stemming from what initially appears to be a single violation. For example, if the defendant is prohibited from texting the victim, and then engages in a conversation with the victim through text messages, each individual test message can be charged as a separate violation.