When a couple gets married, they usually have great hope and optimism about the future. Unfortunately, some relationships grow sour, even to the point where one of the spouses becomes increasingly violent. When domestic abuse occurs, the victim often has no other choice but to take legal action. The best legal mechanism for an abused spouse is a protective order.
What is a Protective Order?
Also known as restraining orders, protective orders are court orders that provide legal protection for individuals who have been harassed, threatened, or physically abused. The order instructs the abuser to stay away completely from the victim, and to stay away from others in the household (if applicable). For example, if you have a temporary protective order (aka temporary injunction) against your spouse, your minor children may also be covered by this order.
Under the Alabama Protection from Abuse Act (PFA), a civil protective order can be obtained against the victim’s spouse, partner, or parent of children they have together. If it is an emergency situation, the court may be able to grant a temporary protection order the day the victim files in court.
A temporary injunction is valid for two weeks, and a hearing should be scheduled within that two-week period to decide whether or not to finalize the protective order and decide related issues as well. A final protective order can be issued at the hearing, which is usually valid for one year unless the court specifies a different period of time.
A protective order can include several provisions (as needed) to provide the appropriate relief to the abused party. These include:
- Requiring the abuser to move out of the home shared with the victim. This may require a police escort;
- Ordering the abuser to stay away from the home, work, and/or school of the victim and any minor children;
- Prohibiting the abuser from threatening, harassing, or abusing the victim, minor children, and/or other household members. This may include prohibition of various types of communication;
- Awarding temporary custody of children of the victim and abuser who are under the age of 18;
- Prohibiting the abuser from contact with the children except when legally authorized (most likely under a supervised visitation arrangement);
- Preventing the abuser from selling jointly-owned property or hiding assets;
- Requiring the abuser to pay the victim’s legal fees incurred to obtain the protective order or injunction.
One thing a protective order does not do is dissolve a marriage. Although the order can force the abuser to move out of a shared residence, the marriage is still valid until you file for divorce. In this regard, the order functions similarly to a legal separation.
What Happens When a Spouse Violates a Protective Order?
While a protective order gives legal directives to a domestic abuser, there is no guarantee that the abuser will adhere to these directives. There are harsh consequences, however, if an abuser chooses to violate the order. In Alabama, a first-time violation is a Class A misdemeanor with fines of up to $6,000 and up to one year in county jail. A second-time offender receives a minimum of 48 continuous hours in jail, and a third-time offender receives a minimum of 30 days in jail. The abuser can also be found in contempt of court for violating the order.
If your spouse violates a protective order or temporary injunction, you can initiate the enforcement of the order by reporting it to law enforcement and contacting your attorney to file a petition for contempt of court. From there, the abuser may be arrested and charged with a Class A misdemeanor. However, the authorities may decide on a different course of action based on how egregious the violation was. For example, if the abuser is sending repeated texts begging you to reconcile, that is not likely to be treated as seriously as the abuser showing up at your front door belligerent and making threats.
If you are in immediate danger from a protective order violation, call 911 or the police right away. If you need a safe place for you and your children to go, call the Alabama Statewide Domestic Violence Hotline any time 24/7 at 1-800-650-6522.
Speak with an Experienced Alabama Family Law Attorney
No one deserves to live in fear of threats, harassment, or abuse. If you are in this situation, contact the skilled and compassionate attorneys at Haygood, Cleveland, Pierce, Thompson & Short, LLP at (334) 821-3892 for legal help. You may also send a secure and confidential message through our web contact form.