Orders for protection (“OFP”) are a restraint placed on another person for the protection of another person. OFPs can order the perpetrator to remain a certain distance from the protected person, move out of a home, follow custody orders, pay child support, or not possess weapons. The person seeking an order for protection is usually called the “petitioner” and the perpetrator is the “respondent” or “defendant.”
Filing an order for protection case takes courage. It can be difficult for individuals in those stressful situations to know where to begin the process. New York law has three routes for seeking an order for protection, two of which can be done either by filing alone or with the assistance of experienced family law attorneys.
OFPs and Family Court
To obtain an OFP, the petitioner must either be a current or former spouse, have a child with the respondent, be related to the respondent by blood or marriage, or belong in an intimate relationship. “Intimate” can refer to a sexual relationship or a relationship where the parties knew each other and saw each other for a certain period of time. To begin a proceeding, a petitioner must fill out and file a “family offense petition” with their local court office.
OFPs and Supreme Court
Parties to an ongoing divorce proceeding may request an order for protection. Rather than the request and petition existing as a separate action in family court, the OFP is wrapped into the divorce proceeding. Parties representing themselves or represented by attorneys can file a motion with the court and request an OFP, or a party can make an oral request at an already scheduled court appearance for the divorce.
The order itself describes violations. This could mean perpetrators do not have to harm or even be physically present to violate an OFP. If an OFP is violated, the protected person can choose between a criminal and civil form of relief, but not both.
To pursue the violation criminally, the protected person can call the police. The police may arrest the perpetrator for the violation, who then may be charged with a crime. To pursue the violation civilly, protected persons can file a violation of the order in Family Court. This method is unlikely to result in an arrest.