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Protection from Violence or Abuse

Where to Go

The Circuit Clerk in the county in which you reside has the forms. For a complete list, you can visit the Arkansas Judiciary website.

You can also go to the county courthouse where you live, where the abuser lives, or where the abuse happened to file your petition for an Order of Protection. If you are in a shelter, you can go to the courthouse in the county where the shelter is. There is no charge (you do not have to pay filing fees) to file the petition. You will complete a form, or a "petition," asking the judge to issue an Order of Protection. You will also complete an“affidavit.” Both forms should be provided to you. Based on your statements in the petition and affidavit and evidence you provide, the judge will decide whether to issue the order and what to include in the Order of Protection.

Why Judges Issue Orders of Protections

Judges can issue Orders of Protection to:

  • keep the abuser away from you at your residence, place of employment, church, children’s schools, or any other address where you want protection

  • make your abuser move out of the house if you are living together

  • decide who will have temporary custody of your children and set up a temporary visitation schedule

  • order your abuser to pay temporary support for your children or yourself

  • stop the abuser from contacting you except in specific instances that court allows

  • order the abuser to stop from harming, harassing, or molesting you

  • order a civil standby for you to retrieve your personal possession

 

If your abuser violates the Order, you can report it to the police and the abuser can be arrested.​​​​​​​

Step 1: Filing the Petition

To get an Order of Protection, go to the Circuit Clerk’s office at the county courthouse in the county of one of the following, where:

  • you currently live

  • the abuser currently lives

  • the abuse happened

  • the domestic abuse shelter you are staying at is

    Tell the court clerk you want to apply for an Order of Protection. The clerk will give you a form to complete called a petition. Fill the petition out as best you can. Victim Assistance Programs and domestic violence shelters have people who can help you complete a petition. You do not need a lawyer to file the petition for an Order of Protection.

 

Completing a Petition for an Order of Protection

Where the Order of Protection form asks you to explain what acts the abuser has committed, you must explain what the abuser has done to you physically. (For example, they hit you in the face with a fist, choked you, or threw you against a wall.)

You should also describe threats of physical violence made against you. (For example, they threatened to kill you or hit you if you told. You should not explain how the argument started or what the argument was about.) The court will not accept mental, emotional, or financial abuse as a basis for awarding an Order of Protection, so you must clearly describe what the abuser physically did or threatened to do to you.

You will not be asked to pay anything to file the petition for an Order of Protection or for the sheriff to serve your abuser with the order. The judge will decide later who will pay any fees. Generally, the judge will make the abuser pay, if anyone. However, if you do not attend the hearing or provide false information, the judge may make you pay the costs of filing the petition and service. It is important to attend all scheduled hearings and tell the truth.

 

Your Petition Must Be Notarized
You will need picture identification to show the notary in the clerk’s office. You will complete your affidavit at the same time, which must also be notarized.

Step 2: Temporary Order

After you give your completed petition and affidavit to the clerk to file, the clerk will give the petition to the judge to review it. This may happen while you wait or the clerk may tell you to come back later. If the judge decides that you have shown enough information in your petition, the judge will grant a Temporary Order of Protection (also called a Temporary Order or Ex Parte Order). Sometimes the judge will have questions about your petition.

The judge might say that you did not give enough information in your petition to grant an Order of Protection. If this happens, you have the right to have a hearing to explain to the judge in person why you need this order. You may have to ask the clerk to set the hearing. In some rural counties, you may have to go to another county for a hearing. In the meantime, you will not have an Order of Protection. It is important to give the judge all of the information available in your written petition. Tell the judge what you need in your petition.

You may ask that the judge:

  • leave your home and business addresses off the petition that will be given to your abuser

  • decide who will have custody of the children and set up a visitation schedule while the temporary order is in effect

  • order your abuser to pay child or spousal support (if married) if they are the parent of your children (it is rare

    that judges will order child support in a temporary order)

  • order temporary possession of the residence

  • allow you to get personal items from your home

  • order local law enforcement to go with you to get

    personal items or tell your abuser to leave

If the judge gives you a Temporary Order of Protection, make several copies of the signed order. If the Order includes your children, take copies of the Order to their school or daycare. Take a copy of the Order to your place of employment. Keep a copy of the Order of Protection with you at all times. If you call the police because your abuser is violating the order, the police will ask to see the order.If your abuser violates the Temporary Order of Protection by coming to your house, work, or any other address that is listed in the order, call the police and tell them you have an Order of Protection in effect. The police can arrest your abuser for violating the Order of Protection. Violating an Order of Protection is a Class A Misdemeanor, which can be enhanced to a felony for a second violation after a conviction on the first violation. The police cannot arrest your abuser for violating an Order of Protection until it has been served.

Step 3: Extending the Order

The Temporary Order of Protection is valid for no more than 30 days from the date it is issued. Your abuser will be served with a copy of the petition, the affidavit, the Order of Protection, and a summons that tells them when to come to court.

Within the 30 days, a hearing will be held so the judge can decide whether to extend the Temporary Order of Protection. You must attend this hearing. At the hearing, both sides will be allowed to tell their sides. Both you and your abuser will be allowed to present evidence and witnesses to support your story. Evidence may include medical records, police reports, photographs of any visible marks left by the abuser, and financial records if asking for support. Both sides will have a chance to question each other or any witnesses.

When the judge has heard both sides, they will make a decision on whether to extend the Order of Protection. The judge may stop the Order of Protection granted on an emergency basis if they do not believe you have shown you are in danger of imminent physical abuse, or the judge may extend it for anywhere from 90 days (the minimum) to 10 years (the maximum). At the end of this period, you may ask the court for another extension as long as you can prove you are still in imminent danger.

You do not have to have a lawyer to represent you at this hearing. However, if your abuser has an attorney, you may want an attorney to represent you. If your abuser does not appear at the hearing, the court may enter the Order after you tell your story. Because your abuser knows you will be going to court for the hearing, you may want to ask the judge’s bailiff to escort you in and out of the courthouse.

If the judge decides to extend the Order of Protection, then other issues may also be addressed at the hearing.

  • deciding who will have custody of the children and set up a visitation schedule while the extended Order of Protection is in effect
  • ordering your abuser to pay child support if they are the parent of your children, and possibly support to you if you and the abuser are married
  •  ordering temporary possession of the residence
  • allowing you to get personal items, like clothing and medications

  • ordering local law enforcement to go with you to your residence to get personal items or tell your abuser to move out ordering your abuser to pay court costs or attorney’s fees

Ask the clerk for a signed copy of the Order of Protection and keep it with you at all times. You will need to provide copies to your children’s school or daycare if they are included in the Order of Protection. Keep copies in places where you might need it.