Domestic violence is an ongoing and increasing threat to the safety of families. Domestic violence often stems from addiction issues but can be prevalent even when alcohol or drug abuse is not involved. Oregon enacted a law called the Family Abuse Prevention Act (“FAPA”) to protect victims from further abuse. If you have been abused and are in imminent danger of further abuse, then you can file a Petition to obtain a restraining order. Pursuant to the FAPA, a victim can file a Petition with the court requesting a restraining order if the abuser is a spouse, former spouse or a person with whom you are cohabiting or have cohabited. You can also petition for a restraining order if the abuser is a person with whom you have a had a sexual relationship within the past two years. In the Petition, you must provide the court with details supporting your claim that abuse occurred. Oregon law, specifically ORS 107.705, defines abuse as attempting to cause or intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causing bodily injury or placing another in fear of imminent bodily injury. The law requires that an incident of abuse occurred within 180 days prior to when you file the Petition. You should be as specific and detailed as possible when describing the abuse. In your Petition, you should also describe any incidents that occurred prior to 180 days, especially if those incidents contributed to your fear that the abuser will continue to harm you. While verbal threats alone typically are not sufficient to obtain a restraining order, prior incidents of abuse or verbal threats may support your claim that you are in imminent danger of further physical abuse.
The restraining order can restrict the abuser in a variety of ways. It can restrict the abuser’s ability to contact you. This typically includes a restriction that the abuser may not even contact you through a third party. You can ask the court to restrict the abuser from going near you, your residence, place of work or other location. When children are involved, the court has the authority to order that the abuser has limited, supervised contact with the children. If you and the abuser have children together and may need to communicate with the children, you can ask the court to allow communication only about matters related to the children. You can also ask for monetary assistance as a part of the restraining order.
While the FAPA statute does not specifically mention firearms, it does give the court broad authority to order those provisions necessary to provide for the safety of the victim and the victim’s children. This may include restricting the abuser’s possession of or access to firearms while the restraining order is in effect.
If the judge grants the restraining order, the restraining order is in effect as soon as the restraining order documents are served on the abuser. If the abuser violates the restraining order, immediately contact the police. If there is probable cause to believe that there was a restraining order violation, the abuser will likely be arrested and may be sentenced to jail, depending on the outcome of the criminal investigation.
There are some situations when an order called a no-contact order in the civil, not criminal, context is appropriate. The no-contact order can contain provisions similar to that of a restraining order without criminal ramifications. A civil no-contact order may be appropriate for a few reasons. A restraining order may affect a spouse’s ability to maintain or find employment. If that spouse is the primary earner in the family, then a restraining order may impose a significant threat to the family’s financial security. Another situation when a civil no-contact order may be appropriate is when there is a volatile family situation that does not necessarily rise to the level of a domestic violence situation. In this circumstance, a person may file a Petition for a restraining order, but, instead of having a hearing to contest the restraining order, the parties will agree to a civil no-contact order. This type of order may serve to calm an unstable, escalating home environment. The order can also place restrictions on both parties. For example, the order may state that neither party can contact the other or go to the other party’s residence.
Unfortunately, there are situations where a parent files a restraining order based on false allegations of abuse. The parent files the restraining order to force the other parent out of the marital residence and gain leverage in the divorce proceeding, especially as it relates to custody and parenting time matters. This type of situation is unfortunate, especially because it minimizes domestic violence victims who have experienced severe abuse. Our experience has been that the truth often comes to light in situations involving false allegations of abuse. If you have been wrongfully accused of abuse, we can assist you with requesting a hearing to ask the court to dismiss the restraining order.
Domestic abusers appear in many forms. Victims often worry their story will not be believed if they come forward. Domestic violence is a matter with which our firm has significant experience. We can support you and encourage you to have the confidence and strength to take action to protect yourself and your children. If you are someone you know has been abused, please contact our firm or go to the courthouse in your county to obtain a restraining order. Please take the steps necessary to protect yourself.