Domestic Violence

Violence and the Law - Civil

Violence and the Law - Civil Court Remedies

Introduction to Civil Courts - What Can They Do?

Surprisingly, if you are willing to agree that there are some limitations, the Civil Courts can assist a battered spouse in many ways. One of the first ways to obtain assistance is through the Civil Court. While the criminal court requires that a crime has occurred (even though an assault crime has a fairly low proof level), the Family or Civil Courts do not have such a requirement. In some instances, it is easier to obtain some type of Restraining Order against the batterer than to get the police to take action.

Typically if you are proceeding to some type of Civil or Family Court and you are not yet seeking a divorce, you will be filing paperwork that will enable a court to grant some type of Restraining Order.

What is a "Restraining Order" a "Protective Order" and/or an "Order of Protection?"

In Civil Courts, judges issue orders to enforce their rulings, state statutes or other case law. If a judge did not issue an order, no entity or person would know what to do, and no entity or person would be able to act. Orders issued by judges are required to be filed, and usually it is incumbent on some form of enforcement branch, such as the police, to ensure enforcement of the order. If the order is not followed in Civil Court, contempt citations may be issued by the court, which will enable the law enforcement agency to enforce the order, and arrest the non-complying party.

A Restraining Order or a Protective Order typically requests the court to order some or all of the following actions:

  • Order the batterer to remain away from the children
  • Order the batterer to stay away from all aspects of the children, including babysitters, nannies, daycare, teachers and other such persons
  • Order the batterer to stay away from you
  • Order the person not to call, write or otherwise contact you
  • Order the batterer not to harass your property or your house and not to visit the house or reside there
  • Order the batterer not to abuse you
  • Order the batterer not to visit your work, or harass your colleagues

In order to obtain a Restraining Order, a victim must prove certain elements required by the courts. States vary in their restraining order requirements and a local lawyer should always be consulted in such cases. However, as a general rule, the victim must prove that there is some harm either being inflicted on the victim, or his/her children, or some threat of harm to either. Also, such orders may issue for demonstrations of harm to property, harassment, and other behavior that is viewed in the light of harassment and interferes with the victim's normal life.

It is wise to remember at least two things in seeking a Restraining Order: (1) Courts are most concerned with serious harm or threats of harm to children and/or victims; and (2) Courts require that the party seeking the order bring the evidence to the court in the format required by the court.

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