How Are Protective Orders, Family Law, and Criminal Law Related?
They’re actually separate proceedings, which causes clients some anxiety. It can be confusing, but they have a direct relationship to each other that is very important. For example, Protection from Abuse cases or restraining order cases – those often are the beginning of a family law case, divorce, or Parental Rights Determination case. Sometimes they’re preceded by a criminal case often without much time in between. How they interrelate is a Protection from Abuse Action is often brought without the knowledge of the person who is accused of committing abuse.
A Temporary Order issues without the person knowing about it. It has a profound effect on where the person lives, what kind of contact they may or may not have with the children or their spouse or significant other. Ultimately at the final hearing, it can have a profound impact on spousal support, child support, ultimate possession of a residence, pets. It is modifiable by the divorce or family court with regard to contact with the children, but it persists for initially up to two years and can be extended.
A criminal case is often related to a family case and a Protection from Abuse case because of an incident that’s alleged, be it a domestic violence assault, or criminal threatening, or stalking, terrorizing, any number of things that are often related to a domestic case. There are interesting aspects of that. First, if there was an arrest, there is often a bail condition that the person charged can’t have contact, direct or indirect, with the alleged victim, and that’s often a spouse or the parent of a child situation. That charge moves through the criminal system with an arrest and then an arraignment.
Then it proceeds to a dispositional conference, a motion hearing, and ultimately a trial. It moves on a completely separate track from the family case or the Protection from Abuse Action. Often times you need to amend the conditions of bail to comply with or be consistent with a Protection from Abuse Order. Sometimes you have to do that first and then amend the Protection from Abuse.
If you have a client who has a Protection from Abuse case against them or they’re charged criminally, you have to make sure that the conditions are consistent, or at least not inconsistent, so that they don’t get arrested for violating their Protection from Abuse or violating their bail while they’re litigating the family case.
The other important aspect, especially to a lot of Maine residents – imposition of a Protection from Abuse Order often restricts a person’s right to possess and use firearms, explosives, and ammunition at least during the period of the protection order. A conviction for certain offenses, broadly deemed domestic violence offenses, carries with it a lifetime prohibition against possession of those things. A lot of Maine folks are quite interested in hunting.
They’re all separate tracks, separate cases, but very related.