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In virtually any family, disagreements occur. However, in some families, disagreements turn into serious situations and lead to dangerous consequences. Because of this, those who are affected have a legal remedy known as a family petition. Used for a variety of situations, it allows an individual to gain legal protection from another person, receive compensation for child support, or other actions ordered by a court.
Filing a Family Offense Petition (Domestic Violence)
If you are in an “intimate partner relationship” and you’re a victim of Domestic Violence, you have the right to start a case in a Family Court by filing a Family Offense Petition. Your petition will request that the court issue an an Order of Protection. It is free to file a petition at the Family Court in your county.
Take Note: it is recommended that you get help from a domestic violence advocate who understands the process and can support you through the case and help you remain safe. Visit Domestic Violence Resources first to get free help.
If you are not working with a domestic violence advocate group, you must file (submit) the petition in person at the courthouse. You can visit the Clerk’s Office or Court Help Center to file. You can carry your completed form with you, or you can ask the court staff to help you complete the paperwork. If you don’t speak English well, tell the Court Clerk that you need a court interpreter. You can ask the court for a free lawyer if you can’t afford one.
What Information to Provide in Your Family Offense Petition
Who is Who. The person who is filing the petition is referred to as the Petitioner. This would be the victim of domestic violence. The person against whom the petition is called the Respondent (accused abuser).
All Addresses. You will have to provide your address and the respondent’s address, unless the addresses need to be kept secret. If you don’t want the respondent to know what your address is because you are afraid for your safety, you can add an Address Confidentiality Affidavit to your petition.
The Intimate Partnership Relationship. You will have to explain how you and the respondent are related to each other.
Domestic Violence Offenses or Acts. You will have to list which “family offenses”, or acts of crime, the respondent committed. These could include assault, harassment or stalking.
Description of What Occured. You will need to provide as many details as you can about the ‘family offenses” that the respondent committed.
Relief you Are Seeking. You have to specify what you would like the Judge to order the respondent to do or not do. Some examples of what you can ask for are:
Reasons to File a Family Petition
If one family member claims another family member committed certain acts against them or another member of the family, a family petition may be filed. These acts include:
–Assault or attempted assault
To file a family petition, it’s important to remember that a “family member” is defined legally as people related by blood or marriage, were formerly married, or those who are unrelated but have a child together.
What Happens Once a Family Petition is Filed?
When a family petition is filed, several things begin to happen from a legal standpoint. For example, on the day the petition is filed, the petitioner has the right to an immediate court appearance. If this occurs and the judge determines “good cause” exists, a temporary order of protection or child support may be issued. The protection orders stay valid until the respondent or the person alleged to have committed the abuse appears in court, and if the petitioner is deemed to be in immediate danger, the judge can issue a warrant for the respondent to be brought to court immediately. While most of these petitions are filed in Family Court, they can also be granted by a criminal Court if circumstances dictate.
What Happens Next?
After the petition is filed, the respondent has various options. They can admit the allegations are true, deny the allegations, or simply consent to the order of protection. However, if the respondent denies the petition’s allegations, the judge will set a time for a fact-finding hearing. If after this hearing the judge determines the allegations to be true, a time is set for a dispositional hearing. However, before this occurs, the judge will likely adjourn court so that additional information can be gathered regarding the capacities, conditions, and surroundings of the individuals involved in the matter. But if the allegations are deemed to be untrue, the judge will dismiss the case.
The Dispositional Hearing
At a dispositional hearing, the judge issues a dispositional order which can include numerous requirements. These can include suspending the judgement for six months, placing the respondent on probation for as much as one year, requiring the respondent to complete drug treatment, alcohol treatment, and/or anger management classes, pay restitution up to $10,000, or make the Final Order of Protection good for an additional two to five years, depending upon the severity of the offense.
Final Order of Protection
If a judge issues a final order of protection, not only will it be good for up to five years, but it will also contain very specific conditions the respondent must adhere to, or be faced with criminal charges that can result in jail or prison sentences. Some of the most common requirements found in final orders of protection include:
–Staying away from petitioner and their children
–Paying petitioner’s medical bills for injuries sustained due to abuse
–Staying away from schools and places of employment of petitioner and children
–Refrain from injuring or killing pets owned by petitioner and children
–Participate in various types of treatment programs
Along with these requirements, the court may also include in the final order of protection times that the respondent may remove personal property from a residence, as well as times they may be permitted to visit children, if the court deems this can be done in a safe manner.
Violating the Protective Order
If the respondent violates the order of protection, the court has various options. These can include modifying the protective order, transferring the case to criminal Court, and revoking the respondent’s license to carry a firearm. And along with these options, the respondent can be sentenced up to six months in jail for each act committed that is deemed to be in violation of the order.
Spodek Law Group have offered me excellent support and advice thru a very difficult time. I feel I've dealt with someone who truly cares and wants the best outcome for you and yours. I'm extremely grateful for all the help Spodek Law Group has offered me. I can't recommend them enough.
Spodek Law Group was incredibly professional and has given me the best advice I could wish for. They had been helpful and empathetic to my stressful situation. Would highly recommend Spodek Law Group to anyone I meet.
Best service I ever had. Todd is absolutely class personified. You are in the safest hands with spodek. They have their clients interest in mind.
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