A domestic violence protective order or form 50B, is a legal order issued by a judge when a victim of domestic violence files a complaint against their abuser. The order can be granted if the complaintant has been physically, mentally or emotionally abused, threatened, received implied threats, stalked, or has been subjected to coercion through threats to friends and family, destruction of property, economic control, or control through children. It is similiar to a restraining order in that it orders the defendant to stay away, however, it is tailored specifically to address the issues that arise in cases of domestic violence.
People eligible to obtain a DVPO are described as those who are married, formerly married, in a dating relationship, in a former dating relationship, sharing a child in common, members of the same household or former members of the same household. Those last two are the state's legalese for two people in a homosexual relationship. Since some states don't feel it is appropriate to forthrightly legislate protection for people being abused in a homosexual relationship, they get around it by calling them "members of a household". Whatever.
In addition to an order to stay away, the victim can request several other things from the judge. Some of them are spelled out on the form, so that the victim only has to check a box if she (or he) would like it considered. The listed items are:
- the defendant shall not assault, threaten, abuse, follow, harrass (by telephone, by visiting the home or workplace or other means) or interfere with the plaintiff.
- the defendant shall not assualt, threaten, abuse, follow, harrass (by telephone, by visiting the home or workplace or other means) or intefere with the children.
- the defendant shall not threaten a member of the plaintiff's family or household.
- the plaintiff is granted possession of, and the defendant is excluded from, the parties' residence and all personal property located in the residence, except for the defendant's personal clothing, toiletries and tools of trade.
- any law enforcement agency with jurisdiction shall evict the defendant from the residence and shall assist the plaintiff in returning to the residence.
- ____the plaintiff or _____the defendant is entitled to get personal clothing, toiletries and tools of trade from the parties' residence. A law enforcement officer shall assist _____the plaintiff or _____the defendant in obtaining these items.
- the defendant shall stay away from the plaintiff's residence or any place the defendant has temporary shelter.
- the defendant shall stay away from the following places: the place where the plaintiff works, the children's school, the place where the children receive daycare, the plaintiff's school, other (name places).
- the defendant shall have no contact with the plaintiff. No contact includes any defendant-initiated contact, direct or indirect, by means such as telephone, personal contact, email, pager, gift-giving, or fax machine.
- the plaintiff is granted possession and use of the vehicle.
- the plaintiff is awarded temporary custody of the children
- the defendant is ordered to make payments to the plaintiff for the support of the minor children.
- the defendant is prohibited from possessing or purchasing a firearm and the defendant's concealed handgun permit is suspended.
- the defendant shall attend and complete an abuser treatment program.
- Other: (write anything else you can think of in this space. Add blank pages if necessary.)
The defendant may request one or all of these items. It is a good idea to be liberal in making these requests to reduce the number of times a victim will have to appear before a judge. Also, it takes at least 10 days after filing for the order to be put into effect. Each time the victim files again to make a new request adds another 10 days to the process. However, the victim has the option of requesting an ex-parte order. An ex-parte is an emergency order that is good for the 10 day period. It can be granted in situations where the victim feels that she or her children are in immediate danger.
Standard petitions will typically request all the "stay away" orders. If the judge grants either the plaintiff or the defendant temporary access to the residence in order to obtain personal items, it is definitely recommended for both parties to be accompanied by law enforcement while this transaction takes place. This can be the most dangerous time in an abusive relationship. The abuser will feel that he is losing control over his victim and will sometimes go to great lengths, without regard for the consequences, in order to regain that control.
Issues of custody and child support are typically shied away from by judges when granting protective orders. Statistically, the judges prefer to deal with custody and child support as a wholly separate issue.
The rule regarding no contact goes one way. The defendant may not contact the plaintiff. However, if the plaintiff calls the defendant or approaches him in the grocery store, this action does not invalidate the protective order.
These rules do not apply everywhere. The law will vary from state to state. This also does not address how domestic violence is dealt with in countries outside of the United States.
What a protective order does:
- Gives the victim of domestic abuse a first step in taking back some control in his or her life. Domestic violence is about one person in a relationship having power and control over another. That dominance engenders a belief in the victim that she can never get away. Independance can start here.
- Makes a paper trail to document a history of violence with an abuser. It can be valuable in terms of getting police protection and building a case against an abuser.
What a protective order does not do:
- Guarantee safety. Defendants violate protective orders all the time. Be prepared. Notify police each time the order is violated. Women's shelters and support groups sometimes have donated cell phones that they will loan to women who are seeking assistance. These phones are not in service, but they can call 911.
- End the conflict. It takes an average of 7 tries before a battered woman is able to leave her abuser for good. It can be a long process and the protective order is often just a first step.
There have been 8 domestic violence linked murders in my home state in the past month. I sometimes feel fraudulent when I advise women to get a protective order considering the fact that 4 of these 8 women had such orders in place. So then I remind myself of "What a protective order does". But I am also quick to point out that it truly is just a piece of paper and is one weapon in an arsenal that they must train themselves to use every day in order to stay safe. Some of these abusers are predators in the scariest sense of the word. To beat them, you have to use your head and watch your back all the time and a piece of paper can't do that for you.