Restraining Orders During COVID-19

With the stay-at-home order requiring many people to either work from home or, unfortunately, not work at all, the dynamics in your household may be changing.  People are now spending more time at home, around their family all day, with nowhere to go.  Tensions are running high as people don’t know when they can go back to work, when they will receive their next paycheck, when they will be able to see their friends, and family again.  We understand that this time can be especially trying if your relationship is already a struggle.  This situation can be further exacerbated if suddenly, the sheriff shows up at your door and serves you with a DVPO or restraining order. 

Now what? How did this happen? 

Well, in order for there to be a civil restraining order (likely referred to as a Domestic Violence Protective Order or a Civil No-Contact Order) the plaintiff had to file a complaint.  Typically, when a complaint is filed an ex-parte hearing is held that same day.  Ex-parte meaning you, the defendant, will not be aware of, or even present for the hearing.  At this time a judge will read the complaint and listen to testimony from the plaintiff. He will then decide if the plaintiff is in immediate danger.  If the judge determines that the plaintiff is in danger, then a temporary restraining order will likely be granted against you. 

What if it’s granted?

If a temporary restraining order is granted, the most important thing to remember is that you cannot have any contact with the plaintiff.  No contact means you cannot communicate with the plaintiff directly OR indirectly.  Indirect communication means through any third party except through an attorney.

The order may also have other provisions as well.  Most importantly, if you live with the plaintiff, then you will likely be removed from your home.  During this pandemic, it is extremely important to find shelter with family or friends as soon as possible if you are ordered to leave.  If you live with the plaintiff, then this is the most likely situation.  The next biggest thing to know is that this order can dictate custody provisions if the judge believes that the children are in immediate danger.  Another important thing to note is that the judge can require that you turn over your firearms to the sheriff.  The judge will also set a date for a trial to be heard within 10 days.

How can an attorney help me?

As the defendant you will receive a copy of the ex-parte order, if one is granted, and a notice of hearing.  You will want to consult and hire an attorney as soon as possible.  The time between when you receive the documents and the trial date is very short.  Our attorneys will be able to file an answer denying any false allegations, and if appropriate, a Motion to Dismiss.  We will also compile all relevant evidence and prepare a defense.  On your trial date, the judge will most likely ask the parties to consult about a consent order.  With a consent order you would not have to testify and there would be no findings of fact or conclusions of law.  A restraining order would still be granted but you would have more input on what is ordered.  If a consent order cannot be agreed upon then the parties will move forward with a trial.  If the case makes it to trial, the judge will then decide if a permanent order needs to be granted and, if it does, then what restrictions need to be in place.  The DVPO will typically expire after 1 year. 

What happens if I violate the DVPO?

If you violate the DVPO you can be criminally charged with a misdemeanor and in some cases a felony.  Our firm will also be able to assist you with any associated criminal matters.  It will be beneficial to your case to work with a firm that can help you in both civil court and criminal district court.

Call our office today for a free consultation and discounted rates on defending a DVPO!

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