Beyond provisions to ensure the physical safety of domestic abuse victims, the Act also allows courts to provide for the economic needs of domestic violence victims and their dependents.
An order of protection is a form of restraining order that directs the abuser (who is called the restrained party) to refrain from further abuse of, or contact with, the victim (who is called the protected party). Depending on the circumstances, the order of protection may also prevent the restrained party from having any contact with other members of the protected party‘s household, including their children.
Section 40-13-5(A) (3) of the Act allows a court to order a restrained party not to initiate any form of contact with the protected party, which includes face-to-face, telephonic, mail, email or Facebook contact, as well as attempt to reach the protected party through a third person. Any such contact constitutes a violation of the order of protection, which is a crime. The only way contact will be allowed is if the protected party dismisses the order of protection or order of protection expires and is not renewed.
The order of protection also prevents the restrained party from possessing a firearm pursuant to 18 USC § 922(g)(8) and may order the retrained party to get mental health treatment to address their abusive behavior, or substance abuse treatment if the court feels that drug or alcohol use was a factor in the abuse.
If the parties share a household, then the order of protection may include provisions to allow the restrained party to retrieve property from the shared residence with supervision by law enforcement. An order to vacate will often order the defendant to surrender keys and authorize the protected party to change the locks in order to prevent the restrained party from re-entering the home or damaging any property within the home. The court may also order the restrained party not to do anything else to interfere with the protected party‘s residence in the home like shutting off the utilities or discontinuing mail service.
If the parties have children together, section 40-13-5(A) (2) of the Act allows the court to award either party temporary custody of children and to provide for visitation and child support. The main consideration when awarding child custody, time-sharing, and child support will be the best interests of the children, which may include balancing the safety of the children and the protected party with protecting the parental relationship between the restrained party and their children.
It is important to remember that orders of protection not only bind the restrained party, but the protected party as well. For example, if a protected party seeks out contact with a restrained party, then those actions may result in the dismissal of the order of protection or the entry of a counter-order of protection against the protected party. The terms of the order of protection also bind law enforcement because it may require them to serve notice, arrest restrained parties for violations of the order, assist with orders to vacate, and implement standby procedures.
Depending on the facts of any domestic violence situation, an order of protection may have a very broad scope. It is important that both the restrained party and the protected party understand the terms of the order of protection, along with their rights and responsibilities. For this reason, it is always advisable for both parties to speak with an experienced family law attorney when dealing with an order of protection under the Family Violence Protection Act.