In order to protect victims of domestic violence, the New Mexico legislature enacted the Family Violence Protection Act, which authorizes the courts to issue a type of civil restraining order called an Order of Protection. If an Order of Protection is entered, it prevents the person committing the domestic violence or abuse (called the Restrained Party) from having any contact with the victim of that abuse (called the Protected Party). A party that violates the provisions of an Order of Protection may face criminal and civil penalties. In some case, the Restrained Party may also be the victim of abuse by the alleged Protected Party.
The procedure under the Family Violence Protection Act requires that the a person be personally served with the Petition for Order of Protection before an Order of Protection may be entered against him or her. The alleged domestic violence offender must also be allowed to appear at a hearing to answer to the charges in the petition. If a Restrained Party believes that he or she is also a victim of abuse by the person filing the petition, then he or she may file a counter-petition informing the court of that abuse and asking that an Order of Protection be entered against the other party.
A counter-petition for an Order of Protection follows the same basic format as the petition and must be filed before the hearing on the original order of protection is held. If the court finds that both parties have committed domestic abuse against each other, it may enter what‘s called a Mutual Order of Protection, which means that both parties can face criminal and civil penalties for making contact with the other party. However, the court will not issue a Mutual Order of Protection if a counter-petition has not been filed. Thus, if a person is served with a petition for Order of Protection, it is important that they contact a New Mexico Divorce and Family Law Attorney immediately in order to ensure that they understand all of their legal rights, including the right to file a counter-petition.