How to file for an Order of Protection in Orange County
Por: Community Legal Education with an Edge
File a petition in Orange County
Orange County Family Court is the place to go for help if one of these things applies to you:
- The action you are complaining about happened in Orange County
- You live in Orange County (this includes a shelter or temporary residence)
- The person you are complaining about lives in Orange County
Domestic violence advocates
A domestic violence advocate is usually available at the courthouse to help you write your family offense petition. The advocate may also be able to help you with referrals for services, such as a lawyer, emergency housing for you and your children, and a support group. You can call the court ahead of time to see when someone will be available and plan your trip to court at that time.
Orange County uses the state's model form petition for family offenses and orders of protection. When you file a petition, you are called "the petitioner," and the person you are complaining about is called "the respondent." Generally, you need to establish in your petition that you are in danger of physical, emotional, or psychological harm from the respondent. Physical harm in the recent past or a pattern of abuse is usually required. You will be asked to tell the date, time and place of any domestic violence you are complaining about and to give a description of each incident.
- Tip: Be certain to put on the form exactly what happened, in detail, so the judge can "picture" it. Give the dates and times, and attach copies of any police or medical reports you have, or any photos. Don't make up anything, because you must be able to prove everything you say. If you can't, you won't be able to get the order of protection.
- Tip: Sometimes it is helpful to mention several times when you were hurt or threatened. You might describe (1) what happened that caused you to come to court, (2) what happened the first time and (3) what was the worst time. Add any threats to hurt or kill you or someone you love, and say if the respondent owns or has a weapon, or has ever used a weapon against you or threatened you with a weapon.
- Tip: If your children have seen the violence you are describing, you should speak with an attorney before you file a family offense petition.
State clearly why you need the order and what kind of protection you would like the judge to order. Here are some of the things you can ask for:
- The respondent is to stay away from you, your children, your home, your work, your car, the children's school or daycare.
- The respondent is to move out of (vacate) your home or apartment. The judge can do this even if the respondent owns the home, if that is necessary to keep you and your children safe. The police can help you enforce this.
- The police are to help you get your things out of the house
- Emergency child support.
- The respondent is to give up any guns he has or can get his hands on.
- You are to have temporary child custody
- The respondent is not allowed to see the children, or he can only see them with someone else in the same room (supervised visitation).
- Visitation exchange is to take place at some place other than your home.
- Anything else you believe will keep you safe.
The clerk will take your petition and schedule an appearance before the judge, in about a week in most cases, and often as soon as the next day.
What to bring to court
Bring these things to court with you:
- The dates of birth and social security numbers of all your children, yourself and the respondent. You can still file a petition even if you don't have this information about the respondent
- Proof of who you are, because you will need it when you are asked to sign the petition. The best thing would be a photo ID card
- Police reports, medical records and photos of any injuries. You can attach these to the petition.
- The respondent's address, make and license of car, place of employment and a photo. This will help the sheriff get the summons and any orders to him after you file the petition.
Keeping your address private
If you don't want the respondent to know your address, explain this to the clerk so it will not be included on any papers. Because you will have to give some address, it might be a good idea to rent a mailbox so you will have some address to give that is not where you live.
Warning: Be careful with any papers that you give to the court, because the respondent has a right to see everything that is in the file. Be aware, also, that filing a petition in Orange County will alert the respondent to your connection with that county.
The clerk will prepare a summons that contains the date to return to court for what is called an "arraignment." The clerk will give you two sets of the summons and all the other court papers. It will be your responsibility to have someone deliver ("serve") one set of these papers to the respondent so he will know when to come to court.
The papers must be hand-delivered, but you are not allowed to do it yourself. You can bring the papers to the local police or to the Orange County sheriff and ask them to serve the respondent if he lives or works in Orange County. If the respondent is not in Orange County, you need to get the papers to the sheriff in the county where he does live or work
Any adult over 18 who is not part of the action can also serve the papers on the respondent, but it is recommended that this be done by the police or a sheriff. This is because the other person may not be safe and because there is additional paperwork they have file so the court knows respondent received the papers.
Immediate relief with a temporary Order of Protection
If you need an order of protection right away, tell the clerk that you want to have a temporary order of protection. The clerk will then take your petition to a judge, who will call you into court and ask you to answer several questions under oath. The judge will ask you if what you said in the petition is true, what relief you are asking and related questions. If the judge is satisfied that an immediate, temporary order should be issued, he or she will issue the order that day.
- Tip: Come early in the day, and be prepared to wait to see a judge. Family court judges usually will not see you until their regular calendar is complete or until they have a break in their day. They are extremely busy _ relax and wait
- Tip: You are more likely to get an immediate temporary order of protection if you file a petition as soon as possible after the abusive incident happened. It will be harder to get if you wait several days. Bring any police reports with you to the court
- Tip: Say clearly why you need the order now and what you want the judge to do to keep you and your children safe.
If the judge has issued a temporary order of protection, you will get a certified copy of it before you leave the courthouse. You must keep this order with you at all times, in case there is an incident and you need to show it to the police who respond. If the order is not issued, you will have to wait until the first hearing to tell what happened and ask again for an order of protection.
The clerk will take your petition and schedule a hearing on the permanent order for a date and time a week or two from the date you submit your petition.
The Orange County sheriff will serve a copy of the temporary order of protection on the respondent, along with the summons telling the respondent when to come to court. Once the respondent is served, he must obey the order or he can be arrested and jailed for contempt.
- Tip: The respondent is not required to obey the temporary order of protection until he has received it, so you should keep in touch with the sheriff's office so you will know when he has been served.
- Tip: Stop by your local police station (town, village or state police) and tell them you have a temporary order of protection. Make a copy of your order of protection so you can leave it with them, if they don't already have a copy. Give them your name, address and the name and address of the respondent, together with a description of him. Let them know you intend to have the order enforced and will call them if the respondent violates the order.
- Tip: Give a copy to the school if it affects your children and keep a copy in your car and other places where you can easily find it. If it orders the respondent to stay away from your place of employment, you can also give a copy to your employer, supervisor or security person.
First scheduled appearance in court
Your first scheduled appearance before the judge is usually called the "arraignment." The purpose of the appearance is to see if the respondent was served with the petition and to see if a hearing is necessary. If you fail to appear in court that day, your petition could be dismissed. If the respondent fails to appear, he could be arrested and brought to court on another day.
The judge will tell you both that you have a right to be represented by an attorney and that, if you can't afford one, the court can appoint an attorney for you. If there are children involved, the judge can also appoint an attorney to represent the children. This attorney is called the law guardian.
Unless you have agreed to drop the petition, or the respondent has agreed to have an order of protection entered, a hearing date will be set. You will be expected to return on another date to testify under oath and present witnesses supporting what you said in the petition and what you want the judge to do.
The judge will give the respondent a chance to say why he doesn't think there should be a temporary order of protection. The judge can continue the temporary order, unchanged, or can make changes in it. It is also possible that the judge will cancel the temporary order, once the respondent has told his side of things, and wait until the hearing to decide whether or not to give an order of protection.
- Tip: If you were not granted a temporary order of protection when you filed your petition, you should ask for one now! You will be asked why you need the order and what protection you want.
If you have a low income, the judge may appoint an attorney to represent you. You should ask for this on your first appearance in court.
Your second appearance -- for a hearing -- will be scheduled for two to six weeks from the date of your first appearance, depending upon the court's calendar.
Second appearance in court
The second appearance is usually for a "fact finding hearing." At the hearing, you will be expected to explain what happened and present any witnesses, or other proof, that will help you. The respondent will also have a chance to tell the judge that things didn't happen the way you said them in your petition. If you prove what you said, the judge will issue an order of protection. If you fail to prove what happened, or what happened does not qualify as a "family offense," your petition will be dismissed.
- Tip: At the hearing be clear and direct, and truthful. Tell the judge exactly what happened. Do not guess why things happened or assume the judge will know something. Do not make anything up.
- Tip: Bring witnesses with you who can tell the judge what they saw and what they heard. They can testify only to what they actually saw and heard, not what someone else told them or what they think happened. Bring any medical reports, police reports and photos you have. Also, bring someone who took the photos or who can say that the photos accurately show what happened or how you look then.
If the judge finds that a family offense happened, she will hold a "dispositional hearing," in order to decide what relief should be ordered. This may be on the same day or on a different day. This will be your chance to tell the judge what protection you need. The judge can issue an order of protection which is good for up to one year. A longer period of time can be ordered (up to three years), if there are "aggravating circumstances," like the use of a weapon. The judge can order any of the things discussed under temporary orders of protection, or anything else that will help keep you and the children safe.
The judge can also order any of these things:
- Put the respondent on probation
- Order the respondent to pay for medical bills or property he may have damaged
- Order the respondent to participate in a batterer's educational program
- Order the respondent to participate in alcohol or drug counseling
- Take away the respondent's license to carry a weapon and make him give his guns to the police
Other court appearances
You might have to make more than one appearance. This may happen because the judge orders an evaluation by a psychologist, or drug and alcohol testing and you have to wait for the test results. Also, if one party asks for an attorney, the judge will postpone the hearing to permit them to obtain an attorney or to apply for a public defender. Attorneys also may ask for other delays in order to gather more facts, to speak to witnesses, or to attempt to settle the case without a hearing. If this happens, the hearing is delayed and a permanent order may not be issued for several months. The judge can issue a temporary order to last six months to cover this period of delay.
- Tip: If the temporary order is due to end before the case is over, be sure to ask the judge to extend it until the case is finished and a final decision is made.
Violation of the order of protection
If the respondent does not follow the requirements of the order, it is considered a crime (contempt of court).
You can call the police, who are required to make an arrest for violating the order of protection. You can also file a violation petition in family court or in the local court that handles criminal matters. The worst penalty in family court for violation of an order of protection is up to 6 months in jail, but that is hardly ever ordered. The judge can also change the visitation schedule or make some other change in the order to help protect you and your children. In criminal court, the penalty can be more severe, but you will not have much control over what is done and you may not get the changes that you want.
- Tip: If you don't know which court to use for a violation, get advice from an attorney or a domestic violence advocate before filing.
- Tip: You can call the police or file a violation petition if the respondent fails to obey a temporary order of protection, as well as a permanent order of protection.
Child care arrangements
The court provides child care for people who have cases or are filing petitions. If you bring your child to court, you will be required to sign the child into the child care center when you go to the courtroom.
- Tip: Bring snacks, books and a favorite toy so your child has something familiar and doesn't get bored. Be sure to tell the people at the child care center if your child has any special needs.
Searches when you enter the courthouse
Everyone is required to go through a metal detector when they enter the courthouse. The security officer may also search your purse and pockets. If you have something you do not want an officer to see, do not bring it with you.
Separate waiting rooms
The courthouse has separate waiting rooms for petitioners and respondents so the two of you don't have to sit in the same room. The officer will tell you which room you belong in. For directions to the Orange County Family Court go to: http://www.nycourts.gov/COURTS/9jd/Directions/OraCampus.shtml
Organizations to call for assistance
Orange County Safe Homes Project, Inc.
Call the 24-hour Hotline for help: 845-562-5340
The Safe Homes Project also has a domestic violence advocate who works in the family courthouse.
Call the Domestic violence advocate at 1-888-503-4673.
Safe Homes provides shelter for women and children in need of safe, emergency housing. The shelter also provides supportive counseling, case management services, parenting services, children's programming, and extensive referrals. Safe Homes also provides non-residential services, such as supportive counseling and advocacy.
Orange County Crime Victim's Assistance Program
285 Main Street
Goshen, NY 10924
The Crime Victim's Assistance Program is a branch of the Orange County Probation Department. It provides the following services to victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, even if you don't report the crime to the police: crisis intervention; emotional support and short-term counseling; accompaniment to hospitals, police and courts; advocacy with police, courts and District Attorney; information and follow-up on case status in criminal and family courts; and assistance in filing NYS Crime Victims Board claims for restitution.
Domestic Violence Hotline - NYS Coalition Against Domestic Violence
Legal Services of the Hudson Valley
1 Corwin Court, Suite 102
Newburgh, NY 12550
Legal Services of the Hudson Valley provides advice, brief service and representation to persons who are victims of domestic violence under a federal Department of Justice grant, without regard to income or resources. Legal Services of the Hudson Valley will provide a full range of legal services, as needed, to persons not able to use other resources and can advise you as to your legal options and steps needed to seek an order or to enforce one
Orange County District Attorney's Office
255-275 Main Street
Goshen, NY 10924
Prosecutes criminal charges, including family offenses.
Child Protective Service Hotline