Divorce is complex and when it involves domestic violence it is even more so. Stalking, harassment, and coercion often relate to any claim for domestic violence and divorce makes things more even more confrontational.
The most common way to fight this sort of behavior is to get a restraining order (the technical term is “protection order”). These sorts of orders make it a criminal offense for the person who is restrained (the “restrained party”) from being near you and often from being near your home. However, these orders are drastic legal remedies and should never be sought lightly. Read on to learn more about how Colorado protection orders work and the differences between a temporary and a permanent civil protection order. For more on divorce generally, take a look at Griffiths Law’s Colorado Guide to Divorce.
But first, here is the standard for obtaining one of these orders.
Standard to Obtain a Civil Protection Order
A civil protection order can be obtained for the following purposes:
- To prevent assaults and threatened bodily harm
- To prevent domestic abuse
- To prevent emotional abuse of the elderly or of an at-risk adult
- To prevent sexual assault or abuse
- To prevent stalking
To issue a temporary civil protection order (a “TPO”), a court must find that an “imminent danger” exists. To determine whether an imminent danger exists, courts consider just about any relevant evidence. By law, courts cannot deny a protection order because of the length of time between any abuse or threat of harm and the request for protection. However, although time is not a component, the person seeking protection must show an imminent danger. Of course, a showing of imminent danger implies that the actions occurred recently.
Accordingly, although courts cannot technically consider when the events took place, a court may determine that no imminent danger exists if the events took place long ago. Once a TPO is issued, the court can make the temporary order permanent if it determines that the “restrained party” committed the acts and the person will continue to do so if he or she is not under continued and permanent restraint.
Obtaining a Civil Protection Order
Just about any Colorado court has jurisdiction to issue a civil protection order. Thus, during a divorce, the domestic relations court can do so. Courts are required to set and hear protection order hearings quickly and protection order hearings are prioritized over almost other matters on the docket.
This first hearing to issue a temporary protection order may occur “ex parte,” meaning without the other party present. If the court finds that an imminent danger exists, it will issue the TPO. The TPO must be served by a process server or by the sheriff on the restrained party. A TPO may prohibit the other party from going to a particular place such as the marital home. However, the restrained party can obtain an exception so that they can pick up their personal items with a police officer. Additionally, the restrained party might be prohibited from being within a certain distance of the protected party and may also be prohibited from going near the protected party’s workplace.
Because a TPO is often issued without the other party present, the court will set a hearing within 14 days from the date of the TPO. At the hearing, the court will determine whether to dismiss the TPO or convert it to a PPO. Once the court issues the TPO, it can be a contempt of court or a criminal act to violate it.
Practical Considerations for Those Seeking a Protection Order
Whether you should request a protection order depends on your circumstances. While safety is paramount, there may be consequences concerning protection orders. For example, if the parties have children and the children are not protected by the protection order, there will not be any changes to any existing parenting time orders. It may worth considering whether some communication between the parties limited to specific issues and in writing would be appropriate.
If this is necessary, you must be specific as possible to avoid any confusion about a violation of the order. If parenting time exchanges occur, such exchanges may need to be at a police station or through a supervised exchange program so that the parties do not have to interact. This protects the protected party from further contact but also protects the restrained party from inadvertent violation of the order.
Jon Eric Stuebner is a associate attorney at Griffiths Law. Jon Eric’s practice focuses on domestic relations matters including divorce, allocation of parental rights, post-decree disputes, and child support matters.