If you have been served with a temporary domestic violence order, formally known as an ex parte Civil Protection Order, you have many considerations to weigh and some important decisions to make.
By way of background, in the District of Columbia, there are four ways for a domestic violence proceeding to resolve: 1) through an evidentiary trial and the issuance by the Court of a Civil Protection Order; 2) by a consented-to Civil Protection Order with an admission by the Respondent that domestic violence has occurred; 3) by a consented-to Civil Protection Order with no admission that domestic violence has occurred; and 4) by a private agreement between the parties and dismissal of the court case. How a domestic violence case resolves can have enormous impact on both Petitioner (the party bringing the domestic violence case) and the Respondent (the party against whom the domestic violence case was filed).
For the Petitioner, clearly the impact of a Civil Protection Order is to secure the safety and security of herself or himself and any children involved. The stay-away provisions of the Civil Protection Order can order the Respondent to stay away from a Petitioner’s home, vehicle, work, the children’s school or child care, and any other relevant place, and can also require limited or no communication between the Respondent and the Petitioner. The Court has the latitude to make other provisions to protect the Petitioner’s and the children.
For the Respondent, the entry of a Civil Protection Order can have a potentially far- reaching impact, both with regard to any future custody case and with regard to the Respondent’s work and financial life. Although it is a civil remedy rather than a criminal one, it can still damage a security clearance or complicate a background check, affect credit, create difficulty in renting an apartment, obstruct job opportunities, and restrict or prohibit the use of a firearm.
Entry of such an order is also relevant in any future custody case. In the District of Columbia, there is a presumption of joint physical and legal custody in custody cases. Thus, it is presumed that both parents are capable of providing the physical and legal care for any minor children. While “joint” does not equate to “equal,” it does ensure a significant level of participation by both parents in their minor child’s life. When a Civil Protection Order has been issued, the presumption of joint physical and legal custody is rebutted and the Respondent never again stands on equally footing with Petitioner on issues related to their children. However, when a consented-to Civil Protection Order is issued, the presumption is not rebutted and the Respondent maintains his ability to seek joint physical and legal custody.
An additional advantage of a consented-to Civil Protection Order or a private agreement is that the parties can avoid the pain and loss of privacy of a contested trial in a public forum, as well as avoiding the uncertainty of the outcome when decisions about their lives are turned over to a stranger in a black robe.
In this complex legal area, an experienced Family Law attorney can assist you in weighing the pros and cons of your different options given your unique circumstances.