The Indiana Civil Protective Order Act (“Act”) provides powerful relief to help ensure the safety of certain covered Hoosiers who find themselves in dangerous situations, such as a victim of domestic violence. Additionally, the Act covers certain minor children in harmful situations or individuals, such as from an abusive or drug-addicted parent. While protective orders issued under the Act are unique and powerful tools, they may be abused in cases by a petitioner’s false allegations and issued against a person who is not a threat to anyone. This blog looks at four things to know about protective orders so that you may protect yourself as a victim, or defend yourself against false allegations.
Who Can Obtain a Protective Order? Indiana statutory code provides a specific list of individuals who can obtain a protective order (“PO”). First, a person who is, or has been, a victim of domestic or family violence may file for a PO against a family or household member who committed the act of domestic or family violence.1 Second, a victim of stalking or a sex offense can obtain a PO against the perpetrator. Third, a person who is, or has been, subjected to harassment may file for a PO against the person committing the harassment. Finally, a parent or guardian can file for a PO on behalf of a minor child who has been subject to domestic or family violence, or a victim of stalking.
Where Do I File for a Protective Order? An individual can file for a PO in any court of record. There is no residency requirement to file for a PO, as opposed to filing for divorce, for example. This means that, even if you are only temporarily residing in Indiana, or in a specific county in Indiana, you can file for a PO without having to worry about being a resident of the state or specific county. The only requirements on filing are that a petition for a PO must be filed in a county where (1) the petitioner currently or temporarily resides; (2) the respondent resides; or (3) where domestic or family violence occurred.2
A Protective Order Can be Granted Ex Parte. If a victim petitions for a PO and alleges that there has been domestic or family violence, then a Court may issue an order of protection ex parte. Ex parte simply means without a hearing, which is something of a rarity in the American legal system. The purpose, of course, is to prevent further abuse or violence. This ex parte exception for a PO can only be used when there is domestic or family violence, and it does not apply to Petitioner’s alleged harassment.
Sufficiency of Evidence to Obtain PO. In order to obtain a PO, an individual must have some sort of evidence which would show the Court that a PO is proper and needed. It is not enough to simply allege domestic violence or harassment. For example, if a Petitioner is alleging domestic or family violence, the Petitioner must prove that the Respondent: (1) was attempting to cause, threatening to cause, or causing physical harm; (2) placing a family or household member in physical harm; (3) causing a family or household member to involuntary engage in sexual activity; or (4) beating, torturing, mutilating, or killing a vertebrate animal without justification with the intent to threaten.3 There are similar provisions for harassment and stalking which dictate what a petitioner must prove.
Ultimately, the right to seek a protective order is limited to a narrow group of people and tied to very specific acts that are of social significance. Protective Orders are unique and very complex, but where granted, have significant implications. A skilled attorney can help you to navigate these murky waters if you seek a protective order or need to defend against a protective order issued against you. Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. attorneys handle all facets of protective orders and practice throughout the State of Indiana. This blog post is written by Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. advocates. This blog is not intended as specific legal advice or a solicitation for services. It is an advertisement.