In Arkansas, there are three types of court orders typically used to protect victims of domestic abuse: orders of protection, restraining orders, and no contact orders. People often use the terms interchangeably, but there are important differences between them.
Issued in the context of a divorce or other civil proceeding, Retraining Orders are unlike an Order of Protection. It is common for a Restraining Order to prohibit the parties from harassing each other and also requires both parties to protect the marital property interests during the time preceding divorce. Restraining Orders are enforced by the court when a party seeks a contempt citation following a violation. The court should be notified should a Restraining Order be violated, not law enforcement, as this is not a criminal offense.
“No Contact” Orders
These may be issued when criminal charges are involved. This order directs the defendant to have no contact with the victim and the victim’s family. This order may be issued by the court in association with criminal charges, as either a condition of pretrial release/bond or as a condition of probation/S.I.S. (post-trial). The order remains in effect until the date of trial. After conviction, the prosecutor can request that the order be extended and made a condition of the defendant’s probation or S.I.S. As a condition of probation or S.I.S., the No Contact Order remains in effect for the entire duration of the probation or S.I.S.
Order of Protection
Issued by the court when the judge finds that a petitioner (victim) has been threatened or harmed by a respondent (offender) and is in immediate and present danger of domestic abuse. Domestic abuse can be either physical or sexual abuse. Orders can be issued for as little as 90 days or for as long as 10 years. A petitioner for an Order of Protection may file for the order in the jurisdiction where the petitioner resides, where the respondent can be served or where the abuse occurred. To qualify for an Order of Protection, the petitioner and respondent must qualify as “family or household members.” This includes the following relationships:
- Spouses (present or former)
- Parent and child
- Currently reside together or cohabitate
- Are a child residing in the household and a family or household member
- Formerly resided together or cohabitated
- Are blood relatives (to the fourth degree of consanguinity)
- Have or have had a child in common
- Are presently or in the past have been in a dating relationship.
In order to get an Order of Protection, the petitioner/victim must complete and file with the court clerk a petition and affidavit alleging domestic abuse and stating the specific relief sought. There are no initial fees for filing the petition or for service on the respondent. As soon as possible, the court will hold an ex parte hearing on the petition to determine whether there is enough evidence of abuse to issue a temporary Order of Protection. If the court finds sufficient evidence to support the petition and evidence of immediate and present danger of domestic abuse, or that the respondent is scheduled to be released from incarceration within thirty (30) days and upon the respondent’s release there will be an immediate and present danger of domestic abuse, it must grant a temporary order.
If a temporary order is granted, it may provide relief for up to 30 days. A copy of the temporary order must be personally served on the respondent at least five days prior to the full hearing on the final (sometimes called “permanent”) Order of Protection, advising the respondent of the hearing date. The final hearing must be set no later than 30 days from the issuance of the temporary order. The court will hear evidence relating to abuse at the hearing and will decide at that time whether to issue a final Order of Protection. At the end of the order’s duration, the final Order of Protection may be extended upon petition to the issuing court. Orders may be modified upon application of either party, notice to all parties, and a hearing thereon.