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Essential Things to Know About Protection Orders

Spurned lovers in sitcoms are threatened with restraining or protection orders so frequently, one wonders if the other characters understand the concept.

To warrant what is also known as a protection order, some form of intimidation, violence or abuse must be clear to a court. Sitcoms made it a joke, but this is a great option for victims of abuse who need a fast and legally binding way to find peace.

If you or anyone you know fears for their safety due to the actions of an abusive (current or ex) partner, take action immediately. Read on to see how a restraining order works and whether it is the right solution for you.

What is a protection order?

A protection order is a court order intended to protect you from further harm from someone who has hurt you; to keep the abuser away from you, or to stop harassing you, or keep the abuser from the scene of the violence, which may include your home, place of work, or apartment. It is a civil order and it does not give the abuser a criminal record.

Who can get a protection order?

A victim of domestic violence can obtain a Protection Order. Who is that, specifically? The term includes any person who has been subjected to domestic abuse by a spouse or a present or former household member.

A victim, of any age, who has been subjected to domestic violence by a person who she/he says will be the father/mother of the child when the pregnancy is carried to term is also covered by this law. A victim, of any age, also includes any person who has been subjected to domestic violence by a person with whom the victim has had a dating relationship.

Domestic violence refers to violent behaviour between current or former intimate partners – typically where one partner tries to exert power and control over the other, usually through fear. It can include physical, sexual, emotional, social, verbal, spiritual and economic abuse.

A lot of people who go to the court and fill out a private protection order application make a range of domestic violence allegations. Allegations are just that – an allegation only. Allegations need to be proven. A person can’t just say – he/she abused me. The application must have details – dates, times, places, what exactly happened, witnesses, pictures, text messages, video footage, police reports. Evidence is key. Just throwing up an allegation will not mean a temporary order is given.

What does a Protection Order do?

If you are a victim of domestic violence, a judge can issue a Protection Order that requires the abuser to obey the orders of the court. This protective order is very specific in as far as what the abuser can and can’t do.

· The abuser can be ordered not to have any contact with you, in person or by phone, at home, work, or almost anywhere you ask the court to put in the order. The order against contact may also protect other people in your family.

· The court can order the abuser to leave the house or apartment that you and the abuser share; even if it is in the abuser's name.

· If you think your children are in danger of abuse, you should let the judge know why you think so and a Judge can make orders taking this into consideration.

· The judge can order the police to escort the abuser to remove personal items from the residence, or shared place of business so that you are protected by the police during any necessary contact.

· The judge has the power under the law to order anything else that will help to protect you, as long as you agree to it.

How long does this order last?

When you first get a protection under the law, it is only temporary. The order is called a Temporary protection Order. You must return to court on the date indicated by the judge at a later date for a hearing. Both you and the abuser will be asked to appear in court on that date.

What happens once a temporary protection order is in place?

A court date will be set and you will appear before a judge. Both parties will have the opportunity to explain your situations to the judge in an Affidavit format and through cross examination of witnesses.

You are allowed to bring a lawyer to this hearing, but it is purely your choice. At the end of this hearing, the judge will determine if you should receive a final order, for how long, and under what conditions.

If the abuser does not appear at the hearing, the judge will either continue the temporary order in effect until the abuser can be brought into court, or will enter a final order if there is proof that the abuser was served with the Notice to Appear.

If you don't appear, and have not made arrangements with the court to reschedule the case, someone from the court will attempt to contact you by phone at home or at work. The courts take domestic violence very seriously and will be worried about your safety if you do not call. If they cannot find you, your restraining order may be dismissed, and you will no longer have the protection granted in the order.

What happens after court?

The court will give you a copy of the protection order. Be sure to ask someone before you leave the court if there is anything you don't understand. Carry it with you at all times. If the abuser does not obey the order, call the police. The police have to arrest an abuser who violates any part of the order that protects you from threats or violence.

You have the right to police protection. If you carry your order with you at all times, it will be easier for the police to understand your current situation. If you lose your order, or it gets destroyed, return to the court and obtain another copy.

What can you do if the abuser violates the order?

If the abuser violates any of the other parts of the order, call the police. For some violations (having contact with you or coming to the house, for example) or if the abuser violated the order by committing a crime, (for example, stalking you, harassing you or trespassing) the local police will take a report from you and give you a police ‘event card’ with a file number on it. You can ring the police at anytime to ask what has happened about this ‘event’.

Can I file criminal charges?

You can file criminal charges against the abuser for acts of domestic violence, because they are all crimes. No. The police are the ones who proceed with Criminal charges should they have enough evidence to prosecute into the local magistrate’s court. Make sure you call the police each and every time you believe the abuser has breached the conditions of your Protection Order.

If you want help obtaining a protection order , call McKenzie Friend on 0466 889 199 or contact Legal Aid or there are numerous free Women's Legal Services in all states.

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