Domestic Abuse Issues: Protective Orders without Finding of Abuse

To avoid a contested Protective Order hearing and the potential for damaging evidence to be made public in open court, a Respondent may elect to enter into a final Protective Order by consent (without a finding of abuse). It may be advantageous for a Respondent to agree to remain away from his spouse and allow a Protective Order be entered by consent but without any finding of abuse.  This allows the Respondent to avoid a potential finding of abuse. This may be particularly important where a Respondent holds a security clearance and does not want his spouse to air his dirty laundry on a court record.[1]

A final Protective Order without a finding of abuse can only be entered with the Respondent’s consent. The parties can also agree to support and visitation arrangements in the Protective Order by consent.  The Protective Order by consent is always cheaper and less stressful than a contested hearing before a judge. Although the Protective Order was entered without any finding of abuse, it is still a order.  A violation of a Protective Order (even one entered without a finding of abuse) could result in criminal contempt charges and incarceration.

Emergency Family Maintenance: 

If a Judge grants a petition for a Protective Order, the Petitioner may be awarded support (called Emergency Family Maintenance).  If the court denies the petition for Protective Order, then the judge may not grant any financial support. Emergency Family Maintenance is based on the Petitioner’s financial needs (as well as the needs of any child of the parties) and the Respondent’s ability to pay.  In short, if the Court grants the Protective Order it may award use of the house, custody of the children as well as support for the children and additional support to assist with the mortgage and other family living expenses. The Emergency Family Maintenance award also creates a precedent that is difficult for the Family Court judge to ignore in a subsequent divorce case.

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[1]   Most courts (although not all) record their courtroom proceedings as public records and a transcript can be purchased by any member of the public.