Do I need a Temporary Protective Order (TPO) and how much does it cost?
A TPO is a civil legal document that is enforceable by law enforcement and under certain circumstances an immediate arrest can be made if the abuser violates the Order. A TPO may or may not address your current safety needs or your plan, so a Legal Advocate is available to discuss your individual situation and your needs. There is no cost to obtaining a TPO.
What does having a Temporary Protective Order do for me and my children?
A TPO is a legal document and it may order the abuser to stay away from, and have no contact with you and your children. The TPO may order that you and the children are also allowed to stay in the home or that your new location be kept confidential. You may also be granted a vehicle to drive and may be eligible to receive child and/or spousal support from your abuser.
Once a TPO expires or is dismissed, any legal relief granted by the Order ceases to exist. This means that unless you have filed to extend your Order or have requested relief in another proceeding, all of the issues addressed in your TPO revert back to how they were prior to the TPO being in place.
How do I get a Temporary Protective Order?
You must obtain the TPO in the county where the abuser resides; a Legal Advocate can assist you in determining the correct county.
Obtaining a TPO that lasts for a year is a two-step process. The first step is called the Ex Parte Order; this means one side of the situation is heard at this time. In Cherokee County, the first step is done one-on-one with a Legal Advocate. You will fill out some information and then you and the Legal Advocate will discuss your situation while the Legal Advocate puts the legal documents together to present to the Judge. You will be accompanied to the courthouse to see a Judge and once the Order is signed the Legal Advocate will ensure the paperwork gets to the Sheriff’s office for service and that you have all the copies of the paperwork you need. This Ex Parte Order lasts no longer than thirty days, or until your next court date (referred to as the 12 Month Protective order hearing).
What is a 12 Month Protective Hearing and do I need an attorney?
The purpose of the 12 Month hearing is to ask that your Ex Parte TPO be extended for an additional 12 months. You are also welcome to bring a support person to court to keep you company.
You are not required to have an attorney for this hearing, but if you do not have one, you may represent yourself Pro Se. When representing yourself Pro Se, you will need to present your own case to the Judge, including any witnesses or evidence. Your Legal Advocate with be with you at the 12 month hearing to assist with your safety and emotional support while explaining the court process. A legal Advocate is not an attorney and cannot give you legal advice.
When a 12 Month Protective Order is granted, there may be additional legal relief ordered, which includes child support, spousal support, Family Violence Intervention Program, a drug and alcohol assessment, or mental health evaluation if needed.
You will need to be present at the 12 month hearing or your Ex Parte Order may be dismissed. You may bring witnesses and any documented evidence you have. Be prepared to see your abuser at court for the hearing. As a safety precaution, you are encouraged to sit in the back row of the courtroom where you will be accompanied by your Legal Advocate. Your Legal Advocate will assist you in Pre-trial negotiations, so that you will not need to have any contact with your abuser. Following the hearing, your Legal Advocate will accompany you to the Clerk’s office to obtain copies of the order and deputies of the court are available to serve your abuser with the TPO immediately, and to escort you to your vehicle if necessary.
What is Family Violence Intervention Program?
The Family Violence Intervention Program (FVIP) is a state certified 24 week, group class that an abuser attends. This program is different from anger management because the FVIP program focuses on the abuser taking responsibility for their abusive behavior and not blaming the abusive behavior on you. While the abuser is attending FVIP, a Victim Liaison may contact you by phone and ask you if the abuser continues to use controlling/abusive behaviors. It is up to you if you want to talk to the Victim Liaison or share information with them.
The effectiveness of FVIP depends on the sincerity of your abuser and their wiliness to change. Some abusers may complete the program by attending the 24 sessions but not truthfully accept responsibility for their actions, while others abusers may accept responsibility. You may be able to determine the abuser’s level of accepting responsibility by watching the abuser’s behavior, overtime, rather than relying on what the abuser says to you.
What do I do if my abuser contacts me or my children while the TPO is in place?
If your abuser comes around you or contacts you in any way not specified in the order, this is a violation of the TPO. You may call 911 and report the contact, at least as a form of documentation, even if you do not want the abuser arrested. However, the abuser has violated an Order of the Court and he/she could be arrested. It is helpful if you get the name of the officer or Deputy that respond, the agency they work for, and the incident report number they assign to your case
Call your Legal Advocate to discuss the contact that was made and any safety concerns you may have. Discuss the type of contact: violent (damage to property, physical violence, threats), non-violent (calls, texts, emails, etc.), stalking (following, placing under surveillance). You may also want to get a notebook to document the abuser’s behavior so you have a record of your own should you need to take further legal action.
What do I do if my abuser’s family starts to harass me?
The TPO usually orders no direct or indirect contact; your abuser’s family contacting you may be considered indirect contact. If you are feeling harassed by the family, and it is safe, tell the family members to stop contacting you. You should also consider filing a report with Law Enforcement. If the family members do not stop, you may qualify for a Temporary Protective order against the family member. You can discuss this option with your Legal Advocate.
What do I need to do if I want my TPO dismissed?
If you want to dismiss your Order, call your Legal Advocate to discuss your options and review a safety plan. If after talking with your Legal Advocate you want to request the order be dismissed or modified, you will sign a motion for dismissal that will be presented to the Judge that handled your case.
The Legal Advocate will bring your signed Motion for Dismissal to the Judge for her/his review. The Judge may sign your dismissal that day, or may want you to appear at her/his next court date. In that case, the Judge will want to hear from you that you want the order dismissed and you are not being pressured or coerced into the decision. If the Judge wants to see you, your Legal Advocate will inform you and tell you the date of the hearing. The hearing is usually within two to three weeks and you must attend the hearing if you want the Order dismissed
Important-the Order is not dismissed until the Judge signs the dismissal Order and the other party can be arrested for violating the order by having contact with the protected parties, even if you are willing to allow the contact. The only way to guarantee the other party will not be in violation is to wait for the official Order of Dismissal. Your Legal Advocate can provide this to you or you can obtain a copy at the Superior Court Clerk’s Office at the Justice Center.
What can I do if my abuser does not pay child support, fails to pay utilities or fails to complete evaluations or classes?
You may file a Motion for Contempt. You can file this action on your own, but you may need an attorney to assist you. There are limited resources available to assist with hiring an attorney and your Legal Advocate can provide you with the details.
If you decide to file a motion, there will be a hearing date set. At your request a Legal Advocate can accompany you at the hearing to assist with your safety and emotional support, while explaining the court process. You will need to provide your evidence of the contempt issues. Your abuser will present their defense and the Judge will decide if the abuser is in contempt. If the abuser is found in contempt of Court, the Judge will then decide the sanctions to impose on the abuser in an Order of Contempt.
What other Legal Services does Cherokee Family Violence Center Offer?
Divorces, child custody, visitation, property division, and other legal matters can be very complicated to address on your own. You can discuss any of these issues with a Legal Advocate and they can offer support through the process. Cherokee Family Violence Center has developed a Pro Se Divorce Packet as a tool to use to assist you with the divorce process. Even with this tool, it is recommended you seek legal advice from an attorney.
Cherokee Family Violence Center does not have a staff attorney and has limited assistance available to retain attorneys. Legal Advocates are available to discuss possible options, safety and the legal process with you, but are not allowed to offer you direct legal advice.