While not exclusive to family law and divorce matters, protective orders may be companion cases to family law, when one party feels threatened by the other. However, there are specific standards for why a protective order may be issued. Additionally, there is a public policy argument in support of protective orders, as they may prevent domestic violence or other harm between persons.
Protective Orders fall under the purview of the Indiana Civil Protection Order Act (ICPOA)1. The ICPOA provides that a person who is or has been a victim of domestic or family violence may file a protective order against a family or household member who commits an act of family or domestic violence, stalking, or sex offense2.
Additionally, these terms are broken down even further by defining domestic or family violence as attempting, threatening, or causing physical harm, place a family or household member in fear of physical harm, causing one to involuntarily engage in sexual activity, or beating, torturing, mutilating, or killing a vertebrate animal without justification3.
A recent Court of Appeals issue addressed the issue of a protective order issued against an ex-husband. The Court ultimately reversed the trial court’s issuance of a protective order against the ex-husband, finding that the petitioner did not meet the requirements of the ICPOA4.
In Maurer v. Cobb-Mauerer, Wife filed a order for protection against Husband (during a pending dissolution), which was granted ex parte (without a hearing). When a hearing was then held to address the protective order, neither of the parties testified, but rather, their attorneys testified and argued on their behalves.
Ultimately, Wife’s claim, through her attorney, was that Husband had sent her numerous emails about putting their marriage back together which she felt like him “trying to sell her something [sic]”. Additionally, the attorney testified for Wife that Husband had physically touched her in an effort to save the marriage. The trial court granted the protective order, finding harassment. Husband appealed.
The Court of Appeals laid out the definitions under the ICPOA and examined the requirements of domestic or family violence and stalking. As no violence was claimed, that category was ruled out. As to stalking, the Court noted that only one (1) email was presented as evidence, there was no evidence that Wife requested Husband to stop communicating, and there was no evidence about the effects the contacts had on Wife. As such, the Court of Appeals reversed the issuance of the protective order as the requirements had not been met.
Protective orders are serious tools, used to help protect victims of domestic and family violence. They may be utilized in conjunction with divorce or other family law matters where a party is threatened by another and the criteria of the ICPOA are met. We hope that this blog post has been informative about the requirements of protective orders. Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. practices throughout the state of Indiana. This blog post was written by attorney, Jessica Keyes.