People who are living in imminent fear of physical danger or who have been a victim of an assault or stalking can apply to the Superior Court for a civil order of protection. There are three different types of civil restraining orders in Connecticut. Many people confuse civil orders of protection with criminal orders of protection, which are issued by a judge in a criminal case, usually in conjunction with a domestic violence arrest. Unlike criminal orders of protection, which are automatically issued by a judge when there is a criminal arrest, civil orders of protection require you to bring an application before the court requesting relief.Types of Civil Orders of Protection
There are three different types of restraining orders in CT.Civil Restraining Orders - C.G.S. § 46b-15
Civil restraining orders can be utilized to protect against family or household members who have subjected the applicant to a "continuous threat of physical pain or physical injury, stalking, or a pattern or threatening." Civil restraining orders are also known as relief from abuse orders. The application is known as an "Application for Relief From Abuse,"which can be found on the judicial branch web site JD-FM-137.
Family of household members is defined by the statute to include the following:
- People who are married or who were married
- A person whom you cohabitated within an intimate relationship
- Parents and their children
- Those who have a relationship by blood or marriage
- People who live together or who have lived together (roommates)
- Parents who share a child in common - even if they are not married
- Those who are in a dating relationship or who recently ended a dating relationship
Upon a sworn application, the court can enter a temporary ex parte order (which means without hearing any evidence) and schedule a hearing date within 14 days. If you are the respondent, you will be forced to vacate your home and stay away from the protected party until the time of the hearing.
These orders were designed for urgent situations where the protected party is under threat of a credible and grave danger and needs immediate protection and relief. Regrettably, over time many bad actors have used these orders to gain the upper hand in contested divorce proceedings. The applicant has the burden to prove that the allegations contained in the affidavit are true at the hearing.
It is common for victims of domestic violence to apply for civil restraining orders even through criminal orders of protection may be in effect. The reason for this is because civil restraining orders have a firm ending date, while criminal cases can end at any time. By having a civil restraining order in place, the victim can have the assurance that the order will remain on effect regardless of the disposition of the criminal case.
Civil restraining orders are heard by judges in the family section of the superior court. If the order is granted, it can last for up to one year and can be extended by the protected party for an additional year.Civil Protective Orders - C.G.S § 46b-16a
Civil protective orders are available for everyone that is not able to apply for a civil restraining order. If you are a family or household member, you can't qualify for a civil protective order.
Although a civil protective order can be granted against virtually anyone, the scope of conduct that is protects against is much more limited. To qualify for a civil protective order, you must have been:
- A victim of sexual abuse
- A victim of sexual assault
- A victim of stalking behavior who reasonably fears for their physical safety
Most of the applications for civil protective orders fall under the staking prong. The definition of stalking under C.G.S. § 46b-16a is different than under the criminal stalking statutes in Connecticut. Stalking is defined as "two or more willful acts, performed in a threatening, predatory or disturbing manner or: Harassing, following, lying in wait for, surveilling, monitoring or sending unwanted gifts or messages to another person directly, indirectly or through a third person, by any method, device or other means, that causes such person to reasonably fear for his or her physical safety ."
In order to qualify for a civil protective order, there can be no other protective order currently in effect.Foreign Orders of Protection - C.G.S. 46b-15a
Orders of protection, civil or criminal that are issued in other states, territory, commonwealth, possession or Indian tribe of the United States are given full faith and credit and enforced in Connecticut as if they were issued in Connecticut. These out of state orders are treated just like they were restraining orders in CT.Why Would a Victim of Abuse Need a Restraining Order? Why Not Just Go to the Police and Get the Abuser Arrested?
The legal standard to obtain a civil restraining order is that the applicant must have been subjected to a "continuous threat of physical pain or physical injury, stalking, or a pattern of threatening." This begs the question, why wouldn't an applicant seeking such an order just go to the police and ask the police to arrest the person who is abusing them? Ask any top Connecticut restraining order attorney, and they will explain that there are several reasons, and the answer varies from case to case.
- In some situations, the police are in the process of making an application for an arrest warrant, which can take up to several weeks to process. In these situations, the police will advise victims of domestic abuse to file for an immediate civil order of protection which can take effect as early as the same business day to provide immediate protection against the abuser until the arrest warrant is completed and the abuser can be arrested and brought before the court. (As a side note in many instances, I have obtained ex-parte civil restraining orders for crime victims under these circumstances and the subject of the restraining order has frequently violated the order within a few hours of being served and winded up being arrested for criminal violation of a civil restraining order).
- In other situations, which can be more borderline, the police may lack the probable cause or evidence needed to make a criminal arrest, but nevertheless, the situation between the victim and the abuser may be quite volatile and dangerous. In these situations often the police will advise victims to go to civil court and file for an order of protection because the police just do not have enough evidence yet to make a criminal arrest which requires a higher standard of proof than a civil order of protection which only requires a civil standard of proof which is proof beyond by the preponderance of the evidence.
- Sadly, in some situations, applicants go to court to seek orders of protection in weak cases as a precursor to a high conflict divorce case filing. Anytime someone makes an application for a civil order of protection at the same time they are commencing a divorce case, it should be looked at with a bit of suspicion. In many situations, unscrupulous aggressive divorce lawyers advise their clients to file these civil orders of protection in an attempt to quickly and effortlessly gain exclusive possession of the marital home and gain the upper hand on the opposing party in the divorce process. In these situations, often the applicant will raise incidents that have occurred years before the date of filing.
- Anyone can file for a civil order of protection, and they can fill out whatever nonsense they want in the affidavit. The judge who is reviewing the paperwork has no way of knowing when some allegations are simply totally false, inaccurate, and without merit. Over the years, I had defended many civil restraining order applications that were denied at the hearing phase before a judge who reviewed all the evidence.
While you do not need to have a lawyer to apply for a civil restraining order, it may be helpful to have an experienced Connecticut restraining order lawyer who has worked in this area of the law assist you in the drafting of your affidavit and in representing you at the hearing of the application. This is especially the case where the respondent (alleged abuser) is going to retain their counsel to contest the restraining order. If you are going up against an experienced attorney as a pro se litigant, you may be operating at a disadvantage.The Procedural Process for Filing for a Restraining Order
Civil orders of protection or restraining orders are processed and acted upon exceptionally quickly. A victim of domestic violence who wishes to seek an order of protection has to appear at the clerk's office of one of the Superior Courts during regular court hours and fill out a form JD-FM-137 application for relief from abuse and a JD-FM-138 affidavit.
In the application process choosing the correct language for your affidavit is the most critical factor in getting your request for "ex-parte"relief granted. If your words are not appropriately chosen regardless of the danger or harm, you face the court is not going to provide you the relief which you are seeking. When reviewing these affidavits, the court is looking to see if the applicant's allegations are sufficient to meet the statutory criteria. Often people who are not trained in the law will include a lot of irrelevant facts and being so emotionally involved in the subject matter at hand often lack the perspective needed to examine the totality of the circumstances from a disinterested perspective and isolate the key buzz words and facts that will trigger a judge to enter an " ex-parte" or immediate order.
For this reason, it is always a good idea with so much at state to consult with an experienced restraining order lawyer to get some assistance in drafting the affidavit which supports your application for an " ex-parte"restraining order."Ex-Parte" Relief - Temporary Orders
If the court finds the allegations in your affidavit meet the statutory criteria, the court will usually enter an immediate of ex parte order. "Ex-parte" relief means that the court will immediately enter a civil restraining order, temporarily, without hearing any input from the opposing party. The court has state marshalls on assignment to directly serve the civil restraining orders, and the court will register them with the local police department.
This extreme level of action is reserved for those situations in which the court feels that there is an immediate and urgent risk or danger of imminent physical harm. The court will enter the order of protection immediately and then schedule a hearing within 14 days at which the respondent can contest the allegations of the affidavit and put on evidence that refutes the claims of the applicant. These types of immediate and drastic orders can have very disruptive consequences, especially when you are residing with the applicant or when children are involved, and you suddenly have to vacate the family home on a moment's notice and find a new place to live until the hearing in 14 days.
In cases where the court does not feel that there is an immediate crisis or present danger of physical harm often, the court may deny "ex-parte" relief but set the matter down for a hearing in 14 days to ascertain whether or not a civil restraining order of some sort should issue.The Hearing on a Civil Restraining Order
By statute, the court must assign a hearing date within 14 days of the initial application. These hearings are like mini-trials in which testimony and evidence are presented, and the court will determine based upon the preponderance of the evidence if the applicant has proven the allegations contained in the affidavit. Generally, the applicant has the burden of proof and will present their side of the case first, subject to cross-examination by the respondent. This is not a jury trial, and the trier of fact is a Superior Court Judge who generally has lots of experience in handling these applications as they typically handle several of them every day.
The first step when you arrive will be a mandatory meeting with the office of family relations who's job is to try and convince the parties to agree to the entry of a civil restraining order without going before the judge for a contested hearing. If you are the applicant, this is a great way to resolve the case as you get the relief you are seeking by agreement without having to risk an evidentiary hearing which you may lose. However, if you are the respondent, it would seem foolish to voluntarily agree to the entry of a civil restraining order, which has significant negative consequences and implications without at least taking a crack at it and putting on your case before the judge. You have nothing to lose in fighting the case.
While these cases may move very quickly and seem somewhat informal, the consequences are severe, and all of the typical rules of evidence and procedure apply. Having a skilled legal advocate with experience in litigating civil restraining order matters can make a difference in the outcome of your case.
Depending on the nature of the allegations and the budget that you have to invest in a defense strategy in some situations we can use the two weeks while we are waiting on the hearing on the civil restraining order to take depositions and subpoena documentary evidence such as telephone records and social media accounts to aid in the defense or prosecution of the application.Criminal Penalties for Violations of and Zero Tolerance for Violations of Civil Orders of Protection
It is essential to understand that once a civil restraining order is in effect, it has the full force and effect of law and is registered with the police. If the terms of the order are violated in any manner, no matter how slight the violation, it can result in the filing of an arrest warrant for a felony charge of criminal violation of a civil restraining order. This is a severe criminal allegation, and it is a class D felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison. Police take these violations of orders of protection very seriously and will, in every case, make an arrest.
Having a criminal arrest for a felony charge can have a severe and lasting effect on your future employment prospects and is a serious matter.Defending Respondents who Have been Wrongfully Accused
Our firm has been defending false restraining order allegations for over 30 years. If you have been served with an ex parte restraining order, give us a call for a free consultation, and we can review the specific facts of your case and develop a plan to defend you. Having a skilled Connecticut attorney to defend, you can make a significant difference in the outcome of the case.The Negative Aspects of Having a Civil Restraining Order Imposed Against You
Many clients take the approach that they do not care about civil restraining orders because, for example, they feel that the relationship with the protected party is over. They have no further need to contact that party, so the entry of the order will not have any impact on their lives. However, there are significant and severe implications to consider about the imposition of a civil restraining order that will affect you for at least a full year and possibly an additional year if the applicant moves to extend the length of the order for an extra year. Here are some of the collateral consequences which you will face:
- Must surrender all firearms and long arms and ammunition, unable to possess, purchase, or own any weapons.
- Will be detained when entering the United States for enhanced screening and interrogation.
- When stopped by law enforcement for routine traffic stops will be subject to heightened levels of scrutiny and inquiry about the restraining order.
- The continual possibility that the victim is going to accuse you of breaking the terms of the civil restraining order in some manner, which would result in your arrest on a felony charge of violation of the order.
- Having a pending civil restraining order can come up on criminal background checks and have adverse effects on your ability to secure certain types of employment.
For these reasons, before you have a hearing on a civil restraining order, you should speak with a Connecticut restraining order attorney to plan the best defense and contest the allegations against you.Contact a Restraining Order Attorney Today!
We provide free initial consultations. We have more than 30 years of experience dealing with the filing of and defense of civil restraining orders throughout the State of Connecticut. Working with an experienced Connecticut civil restraining order lawyer with expertise in the area of domestic violence defense can make the difference in the result of your case.
Our rates are reasonable, and we offer payment plans as needed. Call Attorney Friedman at (203) 357-5555 to schedule your free initial consultation. We are available 24/7. Or you can contact us online for a prompt response.