If you or someone you know is being abused, harassed, intimidated or threatened, the law can offer protection. From teenagers involved in troubled relationships, to middle-aged couples on the brink of divorce, to feuding parents who share custody of a child, issues of domestic abuse impact every age group and demographic in Arizona. If you are faced with an abusive or potentially abusive situation, there is help available.
While Orders of Protection can be applied for online, contacting an attorney will make the process easier and may also improve your chances of getting your petition approved. Contacting a lawyer will also offer you the chance to discuss all of your family law challenges with an experienced advocate who can offer practical guidance. Especially if you plan on navigating the process without a lawyer to guide you, familiarize yourself with the petition process before contacting the court Orders Office in your county.
There are four general types of ex parte Orders of Protection in Arizona and particular steps that must be followed to obtain them. “Ex parte” means that the alleged abuser or harasser (the defendant) named in the order does not need to be present at a court hearing to decide the petition. Obtaining an Injunction Against Harassment follows many of the same steps and the defendant is also not present at the required hearing. The Orders and the Injunctions both provide legal protection for the target of abuse or harassment and, if the orders are violated, the defendant will face serious consequences that may restrict their right to possess a firearm, impose large fines on them and put them in jail for a substantial amount of time. The available ex parte orders in Arizona are:
- A Permanent Order of Protection (OP): If you are being abused or fear that you will be the target of abuse, you can ask the court to prohibit the abuser from contacting you in any way. Such an order can also be used to protect a child who is being abused or is at risk of such abuse. An OP is used for a “family” relationship between the person seeking the order and the defendant. A family relationship may be defined as any of the following: married to each other now or in the past, living together now or cohabitated in the past, sexual and or/romantic partners now or in the past, parents of a child in common, or one of the parties is pregnant by the other. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, nephews and other relatives are included as well. Though they are called “permanent” they actually only last a year from the date that they are served.
Making a Request: You must identify and describe the defendant, explain what locations should be restricted from them, and state how an act of domestic violence was threatened or committed against you or a child in your care within the last year. This information will all be put in your petition. You will then appear at a hearing before a judge who will decide if the request is granted. An attorney can guide you through this process and help you highlight the crucial details to maximize your chances of success.
- Emergency Order of Protection (EOP): This type of order is meant to protect someone who is in immediate danger of domestic violence or abuse. Such orders are intended to prevent an imminent trauma but only provide a temporary defense because they are only valid, typically, for a 24 hour period.
- Making a Request: These can be requested at any time of day or night. In many Arizona counties, the Superior Court ensures that a judge is always available to grant them in emergency situations. A judge may grant such a request in writing, verbally or over the phone. By contacting an attorney or local law enforcement agency, you can find out the details for your particular county.
- Injunction Against Harassment (IAH): If someone has committed more than one act of harassment against you in the last year, you may request this injunction. Harassment may include drive-bys, unwanted phone calls, text messages, emails, letters, in-person visits, or any contact whatsoever. Neighbors, people who you are or were dating and even strangers can be included in the petition for this injunction as long as you know their names. There is no court fee for this service if the petition arises out of a dating relationship. If the defendant is not a current or former romantic partner, there may be a fee involved.
- Making a Request: You must describe the harassment and indicate who is perpetuating it. Harassment is legally defined as a series of acts over a period of time that is directed at a specific person to alarm or annoy them. To obtain this injunction, you must tell the person who is your alleged harasser or persuade the judge that you have a good reason for not telling them about the court order.
- Injunction Against Workplace Harassment (IAWH): This may be filed by an employer or owner of a business or their representative if an individual has performed a single act or a series of disruptive acts that can be defined as harassment. If you are an employee who has been intimidated, threatened or otherwise feel that your rights have been violated by a fellow employee, a customer, or someone who visits your workplace, you may be able to obtain a IAWH. In some cases, you must convince your employer that such a measure is warranted. In others, the owner or operator of the business does not want harassment to disrupt business operations and may file for an IAWH to stop picketers, protestors, or disgruntled former employees from disruptive acts that are legally defined as harassment.
- Making a Request: Similar to the steps involved with obtaining an (IAH) the actions in question must be described and the defendant must be described in the petition. Also, to obtain this injunction, the person who is the defendant must be informed that their behavior is being restricted by court order. If telling the defendant about the injunction seems particularly unwise, a convincing argument must be made to the judge for why the defendant should not be told.
For all of the above, there are multiple details to consider. There is a process in place to obtain protection from abuse or defense from harassment but no two situations are exactly the same. How old are the people involved? Is a child part of the conflict? Is there a pattern of abuse? Is a release order necessary? Is the order valid throughout Arizona? While an attorney is not legally required to obtain a court order, an experienced lawyer will have answers to even the most challenging questions. Furthermore, a professional ally can make the difference between a petition being granted or denied.