When you’re a victim of domestic violence, you’re likely familiar with phrases like “restraining order” and “protection order,” but what does that mean for you? If you’re ready to seek protection from someone who is abusing, stalking, harassing you, making you feel unsafe, or otherwise affecting your quality of life, then you may need to pursue one of these two legal orders. Let’s look at both types and their differences so you can be sure which one is right for you to pursue.
The Difference Between these Domestic Violence Orders
Domestic violence is a horrible thing to experience and anyone forced into this situation deserves to pursue an order that legally secures their safety from their abuser. In New Mexico, the courts recognize that domestic violence is not uncommon. Depending on the relationship between you and the abuser, there are two types of orders to help victims protect themselves: protection and restraining orders. While both offer similar things, one request is heard in Domestic Violence Court, while the other is overseen by the Civil Court. Let’s explore the similarities and differences in both orders.
Also known as Domestic Violence (DV) Orders of Protection, these orders are designed to grant you protection from the household member that’s causing you harm. This person can be anyone from a boyfriend or girlfriend to a coparent, family member or spouse, and you’re not limited to just the other individuals that live in your own home, which makes the “household member” term confusing for most people. If you have an intimate or continual relationship with another person, then you should be able to pursue a protection order to keep you safe from them.
Because a Petition for Domestic Violence Orders of Protection are an “ex-parte” procedure (meaning one does not need to obtain the other parties’ response before the Court will issue preliminary orders), the hearings are often set quickly to determine whether a permanent order of protection is appropriate. At DV hearings, the other individual is able to argue their side of the circumstances. During this period, the other person’s testimony is heard so the Court can determine if a continuous protection order is necessary for your safety or not. The DV court can enter orders temporarily deciding issues of custody but their jurisdiction is limited to six months, meaning any custody orders issued by a DV court will last only for a maximum of 6 months. After that, you will need to open a separate custody case to decide future custody matters. If your petition is intertwined with an ongoing divorce or child custody case, you will need an attorney who is skilled in both Domestic Violence and family law. If you’re in the Santa Fe or Albuquerque areas, the Kuffer Law team is here for you.
Restraining orders are similar to protection orders in that they help you gain the peace of mind and protection you need from your abuser or stalker. However, unlike protection orders, this type of order is designed to help you seek safety from a person who does not meet the definition of a household member. It is also not limited to the factors constituting “domestic abuse”. This can include anyone from current or former friends and coworkers to anonymous online stalkers. Whether the other party is harassing, stalking, or abusing you, a protection order heard in a Civil Court gives you an avenue to seek protection just as a protection order does in Family Court.
With a restraining order request, you’ll detail the harm that the other person caused you, the kind of relief you would like to receive (i.e. keeping the other party from contacting you or stopping them from returning to your property), and any other necessary details. The major difference in your restraining order petition versus a domestic violence petition is you will need to argue in a restraining order petition why the other person’s behavior presents a threat of irrevocable harm. The other major difference is that a civil restraining order, if entered, does not automatically constitute a crime if violated whereas a domestic violence order of protection does. In other words, if the abuser were to contact you in violation of a civil restraining order, you would need to notify the Court and seek to have the person punished. With a Domestic Violence Order of Protection, violations are considered misdeamenors and the violator can be automatically arrested. Regardless, while the defendant can provide their testimony if they feel your order is unjust, a competent domestic violence attorney can help argue for your safety and side of the story with either a civil restraining order or a domestic violence order.
If you are in an unsafe situation and need to pursue a protection or restraining order to ensure your safety in the state of New Mexico, contact the Law Office of Dorene A. Kuffer right away to connect with our domestic violence attorneys today. Our team of compassionate and thorough legal professionals will do everything we can to help you return to a secure, comfortable environment in your life, away from your abuser. Contact us to get started.