By Alyssha K. Duncan, Esq.
As family law attorneys, we routinely deal with families in crisis. The most serious of these crises involve issues of domestic violence. Sometimes, this domestic violence is severe enough to result in criminal charges and penalties, and in these cases, the court has the ability to issue a criminal Domestic Abuse No Contact Order (“DANCO”), prohibiting the abuser from contacting his or her victim. But what about cases that do not rise to the level of criminal charges, or where a DANCO has otherwise not been issued? Under these circumstances, a victim of domestic violence can choose to seek an Order For Protection (an “OFP”). OFPs protect both the Petitioner and, where appropriate, the minor children of Petitioner or other vulnerable household members.
In order to seek an Order for Protection:
The party seeking the OFP (“the Petitioner”) must be seeking the OFP against a family or household member. This includes:
- Spouses and former spouses
- Parents and children
- Persons related by blood
- Persons who are presently residing together or who have resided together in the past
- Persons who have a child in common regardless of whether they have ever lived together or been married
- A man and a woman if the woman is pregnant and the man is alleged to be the father, regardless of whether they have ever lived together or been married; and
- Persons involved in a significant romantic or sexual relationship
The Petitioner must allege domestic violence within the meaning of Minnesota Statute §518B.01, Subd. 2. This includes:
- Physical harm, bodily injury, or assault
- The infliction of fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury, or assault
- Terroristic threats, criminal sexual conduct, or interference with an emergency call
What Comes Next?
A party seeking an OFP must file a petition to the court, alleging that domestic abuse has occurred as described above. This is typically done ex parte (without notice to the party against whom the OFP is being sought) to ensure the safety of the Petitioner. If, upon review of the Petition, the Court determines that sufficient grounds exist to issue an OFP, the Court will issue an ex parte OFP. This OFP can grant a wide variety of relief, including, but not limited to:
- Restrain the abusing party from committing acts of domestic abuse
- Exclude the abusing party from the dwelling which the parties share or from the residence of the Petitioner
- Exclude the abusing party from a reasonable area surrounding the Petitioner's dwelling or residence
- Award temporary custody and establish temporary parenting time with regard to minor children
- Establish temporary support for minor children or a spouse
- Provide upon the request of Petitioner counseling or other social services for the parties, if married or if there are minor children
- Order the abusing party to participate in treatment or counseling services
Following the issuance of the OFP, the party against whom the OFP was granted will be served with a copy of the Petition and OFP by local law enforcement. The Respondent (the accused party) will have five days after being served to request a hearing. If the Petitioner requests a hearing in their initial Petition in the event that the Court is inclined to deny an OFP, the court may automatically schedule a hearing. If, after a hearing, the Court determines that domestic violence has occurred, the OFP will generally be effective for a period of two years (although a Court can choose to specify a different time period).
The attorneys at Arnold & Rodman assist parties in both obtaining and contesting Orders For Protection. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.