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Protection from Violence or Abuse

Can the Order of Protection Be Enforced in a County Other Than Where It Was Enforced?

An Order of Protection issued in one county is enforceable in all other counties in Arkansas and throughout the U.S.

Will My Abuser See What I Wrote in the Petition?

Yes. When the abuser (also known as the Respondent) is served with the Temporary Order of Protection, they will also receive a copy of the petition and affidavit where you explained why you need an Order of Protection. You may ask the judge to remove your address from the petition.

How Much Does it Cost?

You will not have to pay anything to file the petition for an Order of Protection or have the Order of Protection served on your abuser.

When the court has the final hearing on the Order of Protection, the judge may order fees to be paid for filing, service, and court costs. The judge may order your abuser to pay all costs. There are only few situations when you could be charged any fees, service, or court costs: (1) the judge finds that you provided false information in the petition, (2) you do not to attend the hearing, or (3) upon your request to dismiss.

How Will I Know If the Order of Protection Has Been Served?

You will need to stay in touch with the sheriff until the Order of Protection has been served. If you keep the Temporary Order of Protection with you at all times, it can be served on the spot if your abuser is threatening you and you have to call the police.

May I Have Contact With My Abuser Prior to the Hearing?

While the temporary order only applies to the abuser, initiating contact with your abuser may indicate to the court that you are not truly afraid for your safety. If you need to get personal items left behind, ask the court to order the police to go with you. If your minor children will visit their father, you may ask that a third party do the exchange so you do not have to have contact with your abuser. If this is not possible, consider meeting at a safe location, such as the local police station.

What if the Abuser is Not Served with Court Papers Prior to the Hearing?

Even if the abuser is not served, you must still appear at the scheduled court date. The case will most likely be continued (or postponed), but your temporary order will remain in effect. If you do not appear, your temporary order will be dismissed and you may be ordered to pay court costs.

How Do I Prepare for the Hearing?

You need to be prepared to tell the court everything that has happened and why you need protection. You need to bring any witnesses or documents that support what you will say.

If you can, bring:

  • witnesses who have seen violence or heard threats made by your abuser

  • police reports, having reported any domestic abuse incident to your local law enforcement as soon as possible and then having gotten a copy of the police report—this is important because it backs up what you are saying and makes an official record of the abuse

  • pictures of any visible injuries, having taken pictures when you have had visible injuries inflicted by your abuser— these give the court evidence to back up your side of the story (preferably print these pictures out in color)

  • medical or hospital records related to your abuse

  • formal clothes to wear—you should wear your best clothes for court, and do not wear shorts, tank tops, or flip flops

If you have children under age 18 and are asking for child support, also bring any available information you have about the abuser’s income (for example, a pay stub or last year’s tax returns), as well as for spousal support.

It is likely that the court will give visitation rights to the Respondent if you are married. If you have concerns about your children’s safety, you should come to court with an alternate plan for visitation. The court usually will not divide property at the hearing, other than the return of personal items.

Is it Absolutely Necessary for me to go to the Hearing?

Yes. If you do not appear, your temporary order will be dismissed and you will no longer have protection. In addition, if you fail to appear, the court can make you pay for filing, service, and other cost. Some counties will issue a warrant for your failure to appear.

What if My Abuser Violates the Order of Protection?

Violation of the Order of Protection is a crime. If your abuser does anything that the Order of Protection says they are not supposed to do, you can call the police. Tell them about the Order of Protection and have your copy ready to show them.

The police can arrest your abuser for violation of the Order of Protection. If convicted, the abuser can be sent to jail for up to one year or fined up to $1,000.

You may have to go to court to testify about what the abuser did to violate the Order of Protection. The Order of Protection is not a mutual order. You are not prohibited from going to any location or from participating in any certain conduct.

The order does not become “null” or “void” if you and the abuser reconcile after the final Order of Protection or by any conduct on your behalf. Only a court can dismiss the final Order of Protection once you have filed a petition.

What if I am Getting a Divorce or Filing Criminal Charges?

The Order of Protection is different from a divorce, legal separation, or criminal charges. You can get an Order of Protection even if you are filing for divorce or decide to press criminal charges against your abuser.

What if I Get Back Together with My Abuser?

If you and your abuser decide to work things out and you do not want the court to grant a final Order of Protection, you still must attend your scheduled court date to tell the judge that you want the court to dismiss your petition for an Order of Protection. The court may ask you questions about your reasons for wanting to dismiss your petition so that they can make sure you are safe and not being forced by your abuser to dismiss the action.

Safety

An Order of Protection does not guarantee your safety. Never face your abuser alone. If you do not feel safe in your home, stay with a friend, with a family member, or at a local shelter. There is a safety plan available on our website to help you.

Our website also contains information about Domestic Violence Shelters in your area who you can assist you. There are also Victim Advocates in Prosecutor’s offices, if you have filed criminal charges, who may be able to assist you.