When a Spouse is a Threat: Protection Orders in New York

When a Spouse is a Threat: Protection Orders in New York

My Spouse Is A Threat To Me. How Can I Protect Myself?

All too often in family law matters the threat or act of violence is real. What can a spouse in New York do if they feel their partner is a danger to them?

The State of New York offers some protection to those who are in danger or who fear that they may be in danger. It is not unusual that a spouse (usually a wife) expresses concern, not that they were already physically harmed (though this happens, too), but rather that they fear the occurrence of harm.

To obtain an order of protection, a person need not have been harmed already; a threat is enough. A New York court will grant an order of protection in response to threatening behavior or when actual harm has been caused to a person or to their minor child. In other words, it is enough to fear that harm will occur. The threat of it alone is enough to obtain protection under the law.

Where do I go to get an order of protection?

  1. Family Court: Family Court is an appropriate venue when you are seeking an order of protection from a family member, parent of your child, former spouse, close friend or companion.
  2. Criminal Court: To obtain the order in criminal court, the request must be against a person who is charged with a crime. The crime can be in your matter or as a condition precedent to a release from custody or bail.
  3. Supreme (Trial) Court: If you already are in court for a divorce, you may seek an order of protection from the Judge overseeing your divorce proceeding, either by written motion to the court or orally while in front of the Judge.

I have an order of protection. How do I make sure it is obeyed?

The way to enforce an Order of Protection is to stick to its terms and not allow it to be violated. If the order directs, for instance, that a person stay out of your home or a certain distance away from you, do not allow that person into your home, or within that distance from you, no matter how safe it seems at the moment. If there is a violation of any kind, you must call the police. As long as your abuser knows about the order of protection, and was served with a copy of the order by the police or while in court, the police should arrest the abuser for violating the order.

Keep a copy of the order of protection with you at all times, including extra copies in your home, in your car, and at your place of employment.   Be vigilant always and keep in mind that an order of protection is not a guarantee against further violence.  If you are in danger, immediately call 911 and trust your instincts in doing so.

Image source:  Rori. D on Flickr. Used with Creative Commons license.

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