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Protection Orders

Introduction

In a perfect world there would be no need for restraining orders, but it is an unfortunate truth that people often find themselves in abusive relationships.  A protection order serves as an abuse victim’s first line of defense against his or her abuser.

Sources of Protection

Under Colorado law there are generally two sources of protection for victims of abuse outside of the criminal statutes.  The first are the protections afforded by the automatic temporary injunction and the available temporary orders protection found in the divorce statutes.  The second is a civil protection order.

Divorce Statutes

Sometimes the stress of going through a divorce or legal separation can lead to hostility between the parties that result in acts of domestic violence.  The Colorado legislature has recognized the potential for domestic situations such as divorce and legal separation to lead to domestic abuse and have therefore, accounted for this possibility by applying an automatic temporary injunction to actions for dissolution of marriage (divorce) or legal separation.  The injunction goes into effect against both parties upon the filing of the petition, and prohibits the parties from molesting or disturbing the peace of the other party.

Should a party to a divorce or legal separation need further protections while their domestic case runs it’s course, the divorce statutes provide for stronger protection under temporary orders.  Temporary orders are orders that a party may request during the pendency of their dissolution or legal separation.  Under this statute, a party can ask for an order enjoining the other party from molesting or disturbing the peace, an order excluding the other party from their home, or for the issuance of a formal temporary or permanent civil protection order.

Civil Protection Order

A civil protection order is a court order restricting a person from harassing, threatening, contacting, or approaching another specified person or persons in order to prevent and prohibit violence or intimidation.  Protection orders are commonly referred to as “restraining orders.” 

A protection order will identify the victim or victims, the abuser, and the locations and manners in which an abuser is prohibited from contacting the victim or victims.  Within the context of a protection order, the victim is called the protected party, and the abuser is called the restrained party.  Civil protection orders can be temporary or permanent.

In contrast to the protections afforded to parties going through a dissolution or legal separation, a victim who has not legally formalized his or her relationship with an abuser through marriage can seek a civil protection order.  A protection order can be issued against an adult or a juvenile over the age of 10 to prevent stalking, domestic abuse, sexual assault, physical assault, or threatened bodily harm.  A protection order may also be issued to prevent the emotional or other mistreatment of the elderly or at-risk adults. 

District, county, and most municipal courts in Colorado can issue protection orders.  Venue (where the case should be heard) is proper in the county where the abuse occurred, any county where either the protected party or the restrained party resides, or in any county where one of the parties is employed.

How do I get a Civil Protection order?

Although using an attorney is advisable, an abuse victim can obtain a protection order without counsel.  The first step is to contact the court to determine the days and times that protection order hearings are held. The second step is to fill out the necessary forms.  The court will be able to tell you what forms are required, and they can be obtained online, or picked up from the clerk of court’s office.  The completed forms must be filed with the court prior to a Temporary Protection Order Hearing. The Court will waive the standard $46 filing fee when the person seeking protection has been the victim of domestic abuse, stalking, sexual assault, or unlawful sexual contact.

During the hearing the court will inquire about your request to obtain a temporary protection order and inquire as to whether there are any issues regarding children.  If you are not represented by an attorney you will want to make sure that you are prepared to answer any such questions.

If the court grants the temporary protection order, you will be provided with copies of the Order, and given a date to come back for a hearing to determine whether the order should be made permanent.  This will be called a Permanent Protection Orders Hearing or a Return Hearing.  By statute, this second hearing will take place within 14 days of the issuance of the temporary protection order.

You will need at least two copies of the Order, one for yourself and one to be served on the restrained party.  It is also a good idea to get as many certified copies of the order as you might think are prudent. For example, you may want a copy to give to the school if the order prohibits the restrained party from contacting the children at school.  Depending upon your situation, you may want to have certified copies to provide to your work, daycare providers, etc.

Once you have obtained the temporary protection order, you are required to ensure that the Order is served upon the restrained party.  The easiest way to obtain service is to contact your local sheriff’s office.  You can also hire a private process server.  Once you have obtained service you will want to make sure that you carry a copy of the Order as well as the Affidavit or Certificate of Service with you at all times.

At the Permanent Protection Order Hearing, both parties will be allowed to call witnesses and present evidence, and the court will examine the evidence to determine whether the protection order should be made permanent.  By statute, if the court determines that the restrained party committed the acts alleged, and will continue to commit such acts unless permanently restrained, then the Order will be made permanent.

Conclusion

There are protections available to those suffering at the hands of domestic abuse.  Obtaining a restraining order however, is not a decision that should be taken lightly.  If you are the victim of abuse, it is imperative that you take any and all steps necessary to protect yourself, and your children.  If you are in a situation where you have not yet experienced any abuse, but think that the stress and emotion of a divorce may lead to abusive behavior you should know that there are basic protections automatically in place as part of the divorce process.  Like most other well-intentioned precautions, the use of protection orders can be abused, and filing for a protection order where one is not needed can make a long and stressful divorce process even more difficult for the parties involved.

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