Advice for victims of domestic violence: Orders of protection and divorce

An Order of Protection can be used to protect victims of domestic violence and help ensure the perpetrator does not get custody of children.

Those who experience domestic abuse are many times hesitant to bring it up in a divorce proceeding. Victims may fear their perpetrators could retaliate with physical force, by refusing to fairly divide marital property or by failing to pay child support. There are options available to those in these situations that help reduce these risks. One example is the use of an Order of Protection which can be obtained either following a Criminal Court complaint, Family Court complaint or in the midst of a Supreme Court divorce proceeding. The legal tool can help to better ensure the safety of victims while also ensuring the offending party is held accountable for his or her actions.

Domestic violence and New York Law

Domestic violence is defined by New York state law as:

A pattern of coercive tactics, which can include physical, psychological, sexual, economic and emotional abuse, perpetrated by one person against an adult intimate partner, with the goal of establishing and maintaining power and control over the victim.

The New York State Unified Court System also notes that domestic violence is a crime that impacts the lives of men and women from all backgrounds and socioeconomic statuses, regardless of race. Protection is available for those who are the victims of abuse, including the use of an order of protection.

More on orders of protection and divorce

An order of protection is an order issued by the court that is designed to limit the behavior of the offending party. It can include an order to refrain from injuring, threatening or harassing the victim. It can also extend protection to the victim’s family members, including children, siblings, parents and others listed in the order. It can include specific directions, such as a requirement that the offending party move out of a family home or that the offending party not own a gun.

In family law matters, these orders are completed with the Family Court. The person filing the petition is referred to as the "petitioner," and the abuser is referred to as the "respondent." Violations of the requirements outlined in the order can result in arrest of the respondent.

These orders can also be helpful for those who are considering filing for or are currently going through a divorce. In addition to aiding in helping maintain the safety of the victims, it can also provide further legal direction requiring the offender to make child support payments and follow custody orders. It can also prevent custody from going to the violent spouse, depending on the circumstances of the abuse.

Importance of legal counsel

Victims can also hold abusers accountable by suing for damages. This can include physical and mental damages. It is also important to note that in some cases an order of protection can be extended, possibly even made permanent. Those who find themselves in these situations are wise to seek the counsel of an experienced family law attorney. This legal professional can discuss these and other options and help to better ensure your legal rights and remedies are protected.