Protective Orders
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How do I obtain a protective order?

Protective orders are cost-free to anyone who is a victim of domestic or family violence, stalking or a sex offense.  Because this is a civil proceeding, the Prosecutor's Office is not involved in the issuance of such orders.  Rather, a person must go to Marion Superior Criminal Court 21, where he or she will fill out the paperwork to be review and ruled on by a judge.

For the judge to approve a protective order, the petitioner must allege that the respondent has attempted to cause, threatened to cause or is causing physical harm to the petitioner, or that the respondent is actually placing the petitioner in fear of physical harm. 

What is a protective order and how far-reaching is it?

A protective order is a civil court order that restricts the contact certain people may have with the "petitioner" (the person requesting the order).  The person restricted by the order is called the "respondent."

A protective order requires one or more individuals over the age of 18 to refrain from directly or indirectly contacting the petitioner and from threatening, abusing or harassing any member of the petitioner's household.  The judge can create various exceptions, or modifications, as conditions of the protective order.  For example, if the petitioner requests, a judge may create a modification of the protective order that would permit contact between the parties only for purposes of child visitation.

A judge can order a number of conditions as part of the protective order.  These conditions include, but are not limited to:  ordering a respondent to vacate a residence, pay child support or not to possess firearms.  If the petitioner requests that the respondent be prohibited from having firearms, a hearing is required before the court can grant such a request.  If the respondent receives notice of the hearing, even if he or she is not present, then the court can issue an order prohibiting the respondent from having any firearms.

A protective order is entirely separate from any criminal matter.  If you wish to file a criminal complaint, you need to contact the Prosecutor's Criminal Complaint Division at 327-8500.

What if a divorce is involved?

If a divorce is pending, the application for the protective order should be applied for by the petitioner, and evaluated by the judge, in the court in which the divorce is pending.

Why do you suggest I get a protective order?

Protective orders enable law enforcement agencies to intervene at the earliest indications of threatening, harassing or otherwise violent behavior occurs.  Unfortunately, isolated, threatening acts, such as walking in front of an ex-spouse's home at three o'clock in the morning, dressed in black and carrying a knife, or walking up to an ex-girlfriend at her job and stating an intent to kill her, are not offenses which individually constitute crimes in the State of Indiana.  Therefore, absent a protective order, if someone were to report such conduct to the police, no legal recourse would be available.  However, were such threatening acts to occur in the face of an active protective order prohibiting all contact, abuse and harassment, then law enforcement officers would be able to make an arrest.

May I request additions to the protective order?

Upon request, the judge may make additions to a protective order.  Depending upon the circumstances involved, the judge may stipulate any of the following:

Eviction of the respondent from a residence shared by the petitioner.  Unless the protective order specifically calls for an eviction, it is not an eviction notice.  If both are listed on a lease or mortgage, the respondent cannot be evicted until the permanent protective order hearing.

An order may be issued for the Marion County Sheriff's Department to accompany the petitioner to the shared residence to collect emergency belongings.

An order may be issued for the respondent to pay child support or maintenance payments to the petitioner if the petitioner and respondent are married and have not filed for divorce.

The petitioner, respondent or both may be required to attend counseling, including domestic violence education.

Are there age requirements?

Anyone may request a protective order if they have been physically hurt or threatened.  A parent or guardian must file on behalf of anyone under 18 years of age as long as he or she lives in the same household.  Under certain circumstances a protective order may be issued against a juvenile.  There are no hard and fast rules regarding protective orders against juveniles and it will be up to a judge to decide if one is needed.

How long does the protective order remain in effect?

It depends.  The duration period of a protective order is usually two years.  However, the judge has the discretion to issue a protective order for as little time or as much time as he or she determines is appropriate.  The petitioner can renew the protective order near the time that the order is scheduled to expire.  Please note there is a one-month grace period to renew and if more time than this passes the petitioner will have to start the entire application process over again.  A protective order may only be renewed one time.  After the one renewal, the petitioner may reapply for a new protective order.

What are the limitations of protective orders?

The most recent studies indicate that filing for protective orders actually decreases violence in the overwhelming majority of cases.  Although protective orders are extremely helpful in curbing many forms of violence and preliminary stalking behavior, they are not bulletproof shields.  Therefore, it is EXTREMELY important that when obtaining a protective order, that a petitioner seek the advice of an advocate regarding safety planning and other resources within the community that will be able to provide assistance, just in case.

What happens if the order is violated?

If an individual violates the protective order, the person who is protected by the order may file for contempt of court (civil proceeding), or seek the filing of criminal charges ranging from Invasion of Privacy to major felony charges, depending on the severity of the offense.

What is the Protective Order Pro Bono Project?

This is a program whereby abused women, who meet certain income guidelines, may obtain an attorney, at no cost to them, to represent them in protective order hearings.  In the past, women have been discouraged by their abusers from proceeding on contempt charges out of fear that they will become "re-victimized" when they have to face their abuser (the respondent ) in court.  The Project provides legal assistance for such women, resulting in more cases where abusers are held accountable for violations of protective orders.  For more information, contact Annette Biesecker, Director of the Project, at 638-POPB.