By: Rebecca Szewczuk
In light of all the media surrounding the NFL the past few weeks, the important issue of domestic violence has become “the” topic of conversation through the country. It is an issue that is being raised by the media at a more constant rate; the alleged offenders are our society’s celebrities and supposed role models. Unfortunately, victims are often too scared and traumatized to report their abuse, allowing it to continue and even worsen.
With Domestic Violence Awareness Month coming in October, attention on this is needed now, more than ever. It is important to have knowledge and understanding of all options, if ever faced with any form of domestic violence. Whether a victim or alleged offender, both parties have rights in order to protect themselves.
If you believe you are a victim of domestic violence, you have the right to take preventative measures such as, obtaining an order of protection in Family Court. An Order of Protection can be obtained if the allegations fit within one of the delineated family offenses set forth in the Family Court Act.
Anyone can go to their counties’ Family Court to obtain an Order of Protection. Most counties have employees who assist you in filling out the appropriate Petition. Once the petition is complete, you will appear before a Family Court Judge who has reviewed your petition. If warranted, the Family Court Judge will issue you a temporary Order of Protection.
The temporary Order of Protection must be served on the alleged offender known in the Order of Protection as the Respondent; all parties must appear for a future court date. If the parties cannot reach a resolution, the court will hold a hearing. On the hearing date, both parties have the opportunity to attend the hearing and present his/her side. Based on the evidence and testimony presented at the hearing, the judge will decide whether to issue a final Order of Protection. A final Order of Protection may last up to five years depending on the specific facts of a case. Most orders are usually for one to two years.
An order of protection can help in a number of ways including, ordering an individual to stop abusing you or your children, telling the abuser to leave the residence and telling the abuser to stay away from your work, home and children’s school. It can order an abuser to relinquish their firearms. An Order of Protection can be fashioned to prevent and stop the abuse specific to your case.
Both the Petitioner and the Respondent may hire an attorney to represent them in a Family Court Order of Protection proceeding. Depending on the allegations set forth in the temporary Order of Protection, a judge may appoint an attorney to represent children that are subjects of the allegations.
Orders of Protection may have severe consequences and all parties should take the proceedings seriously. If the alleged offender violates the Order, additional orders may be issued against him/her and they also face possible arrest and/or criminal charges. In addition, false allegations will not be tolerated by the Courts.
Domestic violence is never okay. Family Court affords people a safe home to speak about what they might have been afraid to say before. It is also a home to help families rebuild and offers programs to assist all parties to help prevent future issues.