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Too scared to go home: FAQ on protective orders

The world can be a dangerous place, but sometimes the things that we are most scared of exist in our own homes.

For you, that may be the case. Just like any parent, you want what is best for you and your children. It's clear that your husband loves your children and vice versa, but you think his addiction problems are getting worse. When he drinks, his behavior frightens you and your kids. You've thought about divorce, but you're scared how he'd react if you tried to bring it up and you don't want to jeopardize your family's safety.

If you're fearful of living in your own home, applying for a protective order may be a good idea. Here are answers to some commonly asked questions about orders for protection.

What is a protective order?

An order for protection (OFP) is issued by a court and orders an individual (the "respondent") to stop all communication, including harassments and threats, with the person requesting relief (the "petitioner.")

Various relief measures can be included in an order for protection, such as:

  • No contact: The order may state that the respondent cannot contact the petitioner via phone, email, letters, social media or a third party.
  • Exclusion from residence: The order can exclude the respondent from the residence that both parties share.
  • Exclusion from employment: The court may order the respondent to stay away from the petitioner's work.
  • Exclusion from certain distance around residence: The court can order the respondent to stay away from a specific perimeter around the petitioner's home.
  • Custody and Parenting time: The order may grant temporary custody or parenting time to ensure that the petitioner and their children are safe.

Under what circumstances can an order for protection be requested?

A person can apply for an OFP if there is domestic abuse taking place and the petitioner and respondent are either family or household members. Types of domestic violence can include physical harm, but can also include verbal abuse, terroristic threats, sexual assault or interference with an emergency call.

A person seeking protection cannot apply for an OFP if they are not a family or household member of the abuser or there is not domestic abuse taking place. However, they still may able to apply for a harassment restraining order.

Who can request an OFP?

An adult can apply for a protective order on his or her own behalf. If the person needing protection is a minor child, there are many options for seeking relief on behalf of a minor. Individuals who may seek a protective order on behalf of a minor child can include, but are not limited to:

  • The child's parent or guardian
  • A family or household member of the child
  • A reputable adult who is 25 years or older
  • The minor child them self if the court deems the child to be mature

How long does a protective order last?

It depends. In general, protective orders will last about a year, but that time can be shortened or extended as deemed necessary by the court.

You don't have to let fear take over your daily life. An order for protection could give you the opportunity to end an abusive relationship while keeping you and your children safe.

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