PROTECTION FROM DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
The guide is meant to help someone who is not represented by a lawyer understand the general rules and procedures of a civil court case in Louisiana. It is not a complete guide to the law nor does it discuss every issue or aspect of the law that may affect your case.
This information is not meant to replace State laws or Court Rules. The purpose of this guide is to give general information and make it easier to represent yourself in court. You have a right to represent yourself in court, but it comes with the responsibility to follow certain court rules and procedures.
The guide will help you with issues concerning court procedure by:
*In order to file with the Clerk of Court, forms must be printed out and filled in completely. If you are unable to do this, or do not have access to a printer, you can visit your local library for assistance. For more assistance locating a library, click here.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT DOMESTIC VIOLENCE & PROTECTIVE ORDERS IN LOUISIANA
1. Does domestic violence only include physical violence?
Domestic violence is rarely an isolated incident, but rather a pattern of coercive behavior using tactics such as emotional and verbal abuse, threats and intimidation, isolation, and economic control to gain power and control over the victim. In light of these other tactics that produce fear, the use of violence need not occur often in order to make the victim comply with her abuser’s demands.
2. What happens if the abuse continues over time?
If nothing occurs to interrupt the pattern of abuse and violence, it is likely to occur more often and the level of injuries sustained during an incident will escalate over time. As the abuse becomes more severe, the victim often feels increasingly trapped in the relationship. Yet, it is also during this same period that he/she frequently increases her attempts to reach out for help. When reaching out for help, it can be hard for victims to describe their abusive relationship. It is helpful to write down specific events and a timeline of abuse if possible.
3. Can we tell who is likely to use lethal violence against their partner?
Lethality assessment in domestic violence cases is the examination of the abuser’s behavior and other indicators that may signal an increased likelihood of lethal violence. The following should be taken into account when assessing an abuser’s level of violence and the risk of becoming lethal to his partner:
• Threats of suicide or homicide
• Access to weapons
• A recent or impending separation
• Obsession with his partner
• Access to his partner
• A history of law enforcement involvement, and
4. Who are domestic violence victims?
Domestic abuse and dating violence cut across all demographic, racial and ethnic lines. Battered victims come from every class, race, and educational background. Further, men can also be victims of domestic violence. Victims may not display their fear to others in an attempt to minimize the problem when confronted by friends of family, and/or avoid having to seek help.
5. Why don’t victims of domestic violence just leave and stay away from their spouse/partner?
Many victims do leave and never return to their partners. Those who stay are likely to do so for a variety of reasons, such as:
• Lack of resources
• A belief system that discourages or prohibits him/her from leaving
• No place to go if he/she does leave
• Hope that the abuser will change their behavior; and/or
• Fear that the abuser will carry out threats to seriously harm or kill the victim or someone close to the victim.
6. Who are these abusers?
Abusers are found in every social class and employment status, every race and ethnic background. While they behave like bullies to their victims, many of these people can be civil to others and perhaps even charming. This can make it even more difficult for victims to break the cycle of violence, and also why it is important to contact local law enforcement or the court.
7. What happens to children in homes where one parent is abusing the other?
It is estimated that 85% of children who live in violent homes are eyewitnesses, attempt to intervene, and/or experience the violence themselves. Children in these homes are at greater risk of deliberate or inadvertent injury. In addition, these children experience a host of emotional and psychological problems as a result of the violence between parents. To find a list of resources in your area, please click here.
8. What works best to end domestic violence?
When different agencies work together to improve their community’s response to domestic violence, it is referred to as a coordinated community response. In some areas of the country, such efforts have brought about a significant reduction in the number of serious domestic violence injuries and deaths. At the core of a coordinated response is the shared belief that domestic violence is a crime and should be taken seriously; that the victim and children should be protected from further harm; and that creating meaningful consequences for abusers is the best way to hold them accountable.
9. What is a protective order?
Protective order, restraining order, injunction against abuse, peace bond, or criminal order of protection—these are all terms used generally to refer to court orders that require one person to stay away from another person. The intention of such orders is to prevent abuse and enhance safety for the person who is seeking the court’s protection. These orders may be issued by a civil court, a juvenile court, a family court, or a criminal court.
Although anyone can ask the court to issue an order restraining someone else in order to prevent behavior that is potentially harmful, only those orders issued to prevent domestic abuse or dating violence are included in the Louisiana Protective Order Registry.
La. R.S. 46:2136.2 describes as appropriate for inclusion in the Registry an order “issued for the purpose of preventing violent or threatening acts or harassment against, contact or communication with, or physical proximity to, another person to prevent domestic abuse or dating violence."
The terms for court orders of protection are often used interchangeably, but there are some distinctions.
• Temporary Restraining Orders (TROs). This term refers to an order that is issued in response to a petition to the court for protection and prior to a hearing by the court; it is also called an ex parte order. Temporary orders generally expire on the date of the hearing.
• Protective Orders (POs). Although all orders granting protection are frequently referred to as protective orders, more specifically, a protective order is an order that is granted under Louisiana’s Domestic Abuse Assistance Act, under the Protection from Dating Violence Act, or under the Children’s Code Domestic Abuse Assistance Act, after the court hearing.
• Injunctions Against Abuse. An injunction is also a kind of order of protection, and refers to an order issued after a hearing under the Post-Separation Family Violence Act.
10. Do protection orders work in other ways?
Even in those cases in which an order is violated, it provides other benefits. As an official legal intervention, such orders send a strong message to the victim, the abuser and the community that the court takes violence against an intimate partner or family member seriously and considers it in the best interests of society to intervene to protect the victim and children, while holding the abuser accountable.
In addition, orders of protection can provide material resources that the victim needs to remain safe, such as use of the family home to the exclusion of the abuser, interim financial support, or the use of a vehicle. In many instances, the existence of an order expedites and enhances law enforcement response to a call for help. Protection orders can also aid a victim in his/her effort to enlist the support of friends and family, an employer, landlord, or school officials. Most victims who seek protection orders report feeling safer and experiencing improved self-esteem as a result of having taken action to stop the violence and protect themselves and their children. Lastly, protection orders create a record of the abuse which may be considered in other matters that come before the court, such as determining permanent custody and visitation arrangements, or the disposition of a criminal case.
11. What makes an order of protection work?
First, the order should clearly spell out the relief provided to the victim and the consequences for any violation. Numerous studies have demonstrated that the more specific and detailed the order, the greater the likelihood that it will be enforced by police. Equally as important as the order itself, is the opportunity provided during the protection order process to assist the victim in developing a safety plan and to connect her to community resources that offer additional services. This requires coordination between the court and those community agencies that assist victims of domestic violence. Even if the order is specific and detailed, and there is coordination among all who play a role in assisting victims and their children, the primary measure of an order’s effectiveness is swift and decisive enforcement of its terms and conditions.
12. Why don’t victims follow through in obtaining a protective order after they receive an ex-parte (temporary) restraining order?
There is a perception that victims who file protective order petitions frequently do not follow through to obtain the order after being granted an ex-parte temporary restraining order. In fact, each year thousands of protective orders are granted to victims who do follow through. There are a number of reasons a victim may not appear for the contradictory hearing at which the TRO would be converted to a protective order if the court makes a finding that the defendant poses a credible threat to her.
For example, if the abuse abated after a victim has obtained a temporary order, he/she may believe it is not necessary to pursue the protective order. It is more likely, though, that the victim does not follow through after obtaining the temporary order for one of the following reasons: The abuser’s threats and violence increased after her initial petition and the victim is too frightened to follow through with the process to obtain the protective order; the abuser has threatened to retaliate against the victim if he/she follows through; he/she is not aware of how the process works and believes that the temporary order she received is the protective order; or the victim is intimidated by the court system and is too afraid to return for the contradictory hearing.
Studies have shown that a victim’s likelihood of following through to obtain the protective order is in direct proportion to the quality of information and assistance he/she received at the time she applied for the initial order.
13. What’s wrong with issuing mutual restraining orders?
In a 2001 La. Supreme Court opinion (Bays v. Bays, 779 So.2d 754), the court found that a protective order under the state domestic violence statutes may not issue without the filing of a petition. In other words, mutual or reciprocal orders of protection should not be issued, except in those instances where each of the parties has formally petitioned the court for relief and there is a finding that each poses a credible threat to the safety of the other.
Furthermore, mutual or reciprocal orders of protection undermine the victim’s safety, place him/her at risk of additional violence, and create confusion for the officials who are expected to enforce the orders.
14. Can a victim “violate” or “nullify” an order of protection if he/she agrees to speak to or meet with the defendant during the period of the order?
It is a common misconception that if the victim agrees to speak to or meet with the abuser during the period of the order, that the victim has violated the terms and conditions of the order, thereby nullifying it. The order, unless it is a mutual order obtained in the legal manner described above, does not address or proscribe behavior on the victim’s part. If the abuser, who is the subject of the order, is invited by the victim to engage in behavior that is prohibited by the court, only he can be held accountable. The order remains in effect unless and until the court convenes a contradictory hearing and makes a different finding. It is also important to be aware that abusers frequently claim that they are in the victim’s presence (and in violation of the order) at her invitation, when this is not the case.
15. How are orders of protection enforced?
Violation of a protective order can be addressed through both civil and criminal action. In civil court, the defendant who violates a protective order can be ruled back into court on an allegation of contempt of court. In addition, violation of certain orders of protection is a crime in Louisiana and the defendant can be arrested for the violation (see La. R.S. 14:79. Violation of protective orders). If found guilty, the abuser can be incarcerated and/or fined.
16. Where can I get help filing a protective order?
There may be specialized resources available in your area available to victims of violence. You can contact SAFE at (888) 41-1333 or the 21st Judicial District Court, which is located at 20180 Iowa Street in Livingston (for Livingston Parish); 369 Sitman Street in Greensburg (for St. Helena Parish); and 110 N. Bay Street in Amite (for Tangipahoa Parish). The offices are open 8am-4pm (closed between 12pm-1pm). For more information, you can call (225) 686-2216 (Livingston); (225) 222-4514 (Greensburg); and (985) 748-4146 (Amite) or click here.