How To Effectively Serve Orders of Protection in Domestic Violence Cases

This article will provide guidance on How To Effectively Serve Orders of Protection in Domestic Violence Cases.  The impact of civil protective orders on women is complicated and affected by subtle differences in jurisdiction. A restraining or civil protective order can compel an offender to stay away from a particular person or place, such as their home or place of employment. Some states have clarified that a certain amount of residency time is unnecessary.  Click Here for Frequently Asked Questions About Process Servers!


At this time, victims of domestic violence can seek civil protection orders in every one of the fifty states as well as the District of Columbia. These laws are successful in lowering the rate of violence against intimate partners. Keeping these laws and making them better enforced in different jurisdictions nationwide can save lives. Our Undisputed Legal private process servers are well-versed in these laws. Click here for information on How Rush Process Service Can Expedite Your Case.

In addition, a protection order may be considered in many states when the plaintiff and defendant are already involved in a different civil case. Neither this nor the order should limit the availability of other civil remedies; statutes usually state that neither should be a barrier to obtaining a protection order.  Click here for information on How Process Servers Protect Your Rights: Myths Debunked

An Order of Protection: What Is It?

A court order that specifies what one individual must do or refrain from doing in the event of a crime is known as an order of protection.  There are various forms of an order of protection, including a stay-away order. In the stay-away order,  the parties are required to ‘stay away’ from one another and not communicate in any way, either directly or via intermediaries. The order to ‘stay away’ states that the offender must maintain an absolute minimum distance from the victim. One hundred yards is the typical distance. It encompasses not just the victim but also their residence, place of employment, or educational institution. In this instance, the respondent may also be instructed to avoid particular areas listed in the order.  Click here for information on How To Navigate the Process of Orders of Protection

‘No contact’ means the offender cannot contact the survivor or their relatives. The survivor or minor children can be communicated through peaceful contact, but only for specific purposes. In most cases, the family court will specify when each party can communicate. This is a common practice when helping people transfer assets or gain temporary custody of children. Click here for information on How To Overcome Language Barriers in Process Service 

An Exit order requires an individual to vacate the premises indefinitely. Those in possession of firearms are compelled to relinquish all firearms. The weapons might also be seized by law enforcement or police officers. That will remain in place until the restraining order’s term ends or the court decides to lift it.

There are also limited contact orders of protection. Under the limited contact order, both sides can be in contact. Still, the offender must not engage in any behavior that could be considered criminal or harmful to family members (such as stalking, assault, or harassment). A person can be ordered to avoid protected individuals and the places they frequent, such as places of employment or education. However, the order of protection can also be included to refrain from doing anything that could cause harm to them. A party can also ask for an order of protection that asks for the support of law enforcement to accompany them to their residence to retrieve their property. Parties may also request an order of protection to return critical documents to the protected party or to permit a protected individual to end a lease.

Furthermore, a protection order issued by the Family Court can grant the petitioner custody of the children or compel alimony or child support to be paid. Visitation rights and demands for coverage of legal expenses also come into play here.  With an appropriate order of protection, the petitioner can subject the respondent to the supervision of a probation officer or make any additional orders necessary to ensure the petitioner’s safety. Counselling orders may also propose that the individual participates in a substance abuse or anger management program.

How Can An Order Of Protection Be Obtained

In the event of a domestic violence incident, a judge in the Family Court may grant a protective order. Criminal mischief, disorderly conduct, harassment, assault, sexual abuse, menacing, reckless endangerment, strangulation, and stalking are all incidents that fall under the umbrella of family offenses.

If in need of a restraining order against someone who is a spouse, intimate partner, child’s parent, or a blood relative, parties can seek one through the Family Court.  The process begins with submitting a petition for a family offense to the clerk of the Family Court. An advocate is very helpful in the emotionally fraught process of Family Court. A judge may issue a hearing after submitting the family offense petition. The court will grant a preliminary injunction to protect the plaintiff if reasonable grounds are shown. The continuation of the order of protection will be decided at a later court date. 

The order of protection can only be enforced if the other party is served with it by law enforcement. A private process service agency like Undisputed Legal is vital in these cases. During arraignment, a judge has the authority to issue a protective order if the abusive partner has been arrested. This order is only in effect for the time being. As a sentencing or plea deal component, a judge may issue a ‘final’ protective order. An order of protection can be included in a divorce decree by a judge of the Supreme Court.

Until the next scheduled court date, a protective order will remain in effect. It can be extended until the matter is resolved. Two years is the maximum duration for a protective order issued by a family court. A family court order can be upheld for up to five years in cases with aggravating factors. The time a criminal court final protection order may remain in effect varies by case and offense but can be as long as eight years. Divorce decrees that include a Supreme Court order of protection stay in effect indefinitely.

Protecting Survivors’ Safety

It is essential never to initiate contact with the subject of an order of protection; doing so could jeopardize your safety. On the other hand, a protected party cannot, by law, disobey a protective order. It is entirely at the judge’s discretion to modify an order of protection. Changing or removing a protective order is never a good idea because of the risks involved.

When people are in danger, the courts can intervene with protection or restraining orders to ensure their safety. It should be noted that a ’restraining order’ is reserved for orders about ongoing cases, like a divorce, which prohibits the party in question from selling or giving away their assets while the case is continuing in certain states. In some states, orders for protection are known as protection from abuse (PFA) orders.

Courts often issue protection or restraining orders in cases of domestic violence, sexual assault, harassment, stalking, and similar crimes. Victims can seek protection orders in civil actions or concurrently with ongoing criminal proceedings in most states, regardless of whether criminal charges have been filed. 

Getting away from the abuser is a common strategy for survivors and their loved ones seeking refuge. To further isolate themselves from their abuser, they might even uproot their lives and relocate away from the state where the abuse took place. However, every state must uphold these principles under the Constitution’s Full Faith and Credit Clause and federal law(VAWA). Both the state of issuance and the victim’s residence will recognize the domestic violence restraining order.
Consequently, law enforcement officials must enforce the protection order if a victim is stalked in their new residence. On the other hand, the court considers all relevant factors and hears both sides of the argument. As such, a private process service agency like Undisputed Legal can ensure tailored process service and that your papers are carefully served.

Violence Against Women Act

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is a federal legislation passed in the United States that, among other things, protects women from further abuse and increases the legal mechanisms for preventing such crimes. Domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking were all brought to light by the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which did more than just change laws. Additionally, VAWA requires public funds to be allocated to research on violence against women. Victims of hate crimes motivated by gender were initially granted civil rights remedies under the VAWA, including the ability to sue in federal court. 

Suppose the judge finds that each party is entitled to a protection order. In that case, orders issued against both parties cannot be enforced against the petitioner unless the respondent files a cross-or counter-petition for a protection order. No matter what, protection orders must be carried out. It is essential to ensure that the victim complies with the filing or registration requirements of the enforcing jurisdiction.

Unless the petitioner specifically requests it, the respondent will not be notified upon registration or filing a protection order issued in another jurisdiction. The filing, issuance, or registration of a protection order cannot be made publicly available on the Internet by a state, tribe, or territory if doing so would likely expose the identity or whereabouts of the party protected by the order. Suppose a defendant is found guilty of violating an order from another jurisdiction. In that case, they should be charged with the same criminal offenses that apply to orders from their authority. In the charging complaint, it is essential to state that the defendant was given due process.

Types of Restraining Orders

A court can issue a binding directive known as a protection or restraining order to safeguard an individual from abuse. Officials from the police force or the legal system can enforce it. The standard procedure is to initiate a new civil lawsuit for this purpose. Both short-term and long-term restraining orders are available in this jurisdiction.

Immediate protection for the victim and their household members from an abuser is the goal of a Restraining Order or Temporary Protection Order. It is common practice to file a petition ex parte or with just one party present and submit it to the judge on the same day. The victim may be asked by the court to testify if necessary. A judge will issue and serve a temporary protection order on the perpetrator if he or she determines an imminent threat based on the available evidence.

The order will be effective once the court has served notice of it on the party responsible. The order, however, is usually only valid for a few days at most. The next step is to inform the parties that a full hearing regarding the request is imminent. The entire hearing allows both sides to present their witnesses. The court can uphold, modify, or vacate the order during the entire hearing.

A restraining order or permanent protection order is also a valid option. Suppose the victim continues to feel threatened and the court finds that the offender committed domestic violence. In that case, the court may award a permanent protection order to modify the temporary restraining order during the entire hearing. The duration of validity for this restraining order is more significant.

Provisions beyond abuse prevention can also be included in this court order. When parents share children, the court will typically decide issues like visitation rights, custody, and exclusive use of a residence. The court will set a longer duration, say one or more years, for the order. If you want to know more about the different protection orders in your state, a local process server like those at Undisputed Legal becomes essential,  as the processes differ from state to state. 

A court may issue a directive known as a Criminal Protective Order or an Emergency Protective Order at the request of law enforcement. Police usually get this kind of request when they’re responding to severe emergencies, like cases of domestic violence. Additionally, the request can be made by the responding law enforcement officer. The court may also grant an ex parte protective order in such a case, skipping the formal hearing altogether.

There may be a limited duration for which an Order for Criminal or Emergency Protection is in effect. During the arraignment of a criminal case, the protection order is typically heard or amended. The victim may ask the judge to keep the protective order in place while the criminal case is ongoing at this hearing. Criminal charges or civil actions may follow a party’s protection order violation. Severe or recurrent offenses usually warrant felony charges. Contempt of court charges may also be levied against an individual who disobeys the order. 

Due to concerns about putting the offender in double jeopardy, some states may not back the state’s pursuit of charges of contempt of court and violation of protection order. Violation of a restraining order is grounds for immediate arrest in the majority of states. The individual seeking the protection order must be in imminent danger for this to be granted.

Importance of process service

The process for carrying out protection and restraining orders varies from state to state.  When it comes to obtaining a protective order, the advice given to victims of domestic violence to seek legal help is essential. However, the request and subsequent approval of the order constitute only half of the fight. For the order to be valid, service must be made.  A good private process server like those at Undisputed Legal can be critical. 

Many people believe that the police can find an abuser quickly. But the truth is that abusive partners can be very elusive if they think the police are looking for them. Even in a single jurisdiction, there could be dozens, if not hundreds, of people with the name you’re trying to get an order against.  The defendant’s complete name, DOB, SSN, present address, business hours, and any other information that could be useful in locating them can be found via a skip tracer, like those at Undisputed Legal, when you petition for a protection order. A process service agency specializing in skip tracing, like Undisputed Legal, can thus be one of the most important aspects of a legal case. 

On behalf of victims of domestic abuse, the majority of law enforcement agencies will fulfill protection orders. First, however, the party will have to find out which agency is responsible for serving the paperwork, and then they will have to deliver it to their office physically. In some counties, document service is handled by sheriff’s deputies. In other instances, the responsibility falls on the local law enforcement agency in charge of apprehending the offender. However, a private process server can aid in the service of your papers.

No matter what, the party must get the order to the police station closest to the delivery address. If the defendant has dual residence or employment, the case should be brought to the jurisdiction where the defendant is most likely to be located. Unlike residences, most places of business are easily accessible by law enforcement, so it is usually easier to have the defendant served at work.

If the defendant is located in a remote area, the party should ask the court who would be responsible for serving the order if it is possible to send a copy to them via email or fax.  The order will be served as best the police can, but they also have many other calls to answer. For the sole purpose of serving legal documents, they will not institute surveillance. A private process service agency can ensure your papers are diligently served.

According to department policy, most law enforcement agencies will attempt to service a predetermined number of times. The usual number of tries is three. They will contact the party to arrange for the paperwork to be picked up if they cannot serve the defendant after that many attempts. After that, hiring a process server like those at Undisputed Legal is your best option, especially if the defendant is difficult for the police to locate or if you are unsure of their residence

What Happens If The Offender Does Not Comply With The Order Of Protection

A restraining order, or order of protection, would be effective if it prevented the abuser from making contact with, threatening, or physically harming the protected party. However, offenders do not always comply with protective order terms. Before reporting a violation, one must be familiar with the distinction between civil and criminal court orders.

Upon arrest for a domestic violence charge, criminal orders are usually issued. The judge will typically grant a protective order during the arraignment process. The victim is usually not there in these instances. The district attorney may need to contact or provide them with a copy of the order.

However, civil protective orders differ slightly. The victim submits a petition for a protection order independently to civil or family court. It is up to the judge to determine if a protection order should be issued. The protection order cannot take effect until the perpetrator is served. That occurs during arraignment for criminal orders but takes a little longer for civil orders because the defendant is not served with them immediately after the judge makes them.

The victim has two options for reporting the offender’s violation of the court order after it has been served: either filing a police report or going to court and requesting contempt. In both civil and criminal cases, it is a crime that warrants arrest if the court’s order is violated. The seriousness of the infraction will determine whether or not the police decide to make an arrest. The judge may also exercise their discretion when considering a contempt petition.

Keeping detailed records and reporting any infractions is a survivor’s best bet. Parties can use them to strengthen their case for a judge to modify the conditions of a court order, even if they do not lead to the offender’s arrest. 

Prioritize your safety above all else since not all infractions will be punished. To ensure personal safety and the safety of loved ones, it is wise to get a personal protection order. If someone violates the order, parties should record all details regarding the infraction. It is essential to capture the date, time stamp, email address, or phone number when the abuser contacts the petitioner electronically. Screenshots of texts or emails in this regard are beneficial. It is essential to maintain no communication with the respondent but to retain all proof of communication if they violate the order.  If the respondent is not immediately arrested for the violation and you are worried about your safety, notify workplace security, break from the usual routine, and find a safe place to stay. 

A private process service agency like Undisputed Legal can be invaluable when discreetly serving a protective order. We aim to ensure the safety and privacy of the protected person while also meeting all legal obligations. 

Our servers have extensive training in discretion when dealing with delicate and confidential matters. They can find the respondent covertly and serve them without drawing attention to themselves or the situation, protecting the person seeking protection from harm or additional harassment.

Written by: Undisputed Legal Inc.


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1 A restraining order can be issued when a victim asks the court to do so, and the court can then determine and prohibit the perpetrator from doing any of the following:

  1. Keep your distance from the victim and their loved ones.
  2. Put an end to all means of communication, even through someone else.
  3. Provide temporary funding for child support
  4. Maintaining mortgage or rent payments on a shared residence
  5. Surrender all weapons and ammunition to the authorities.
  6. Counseling for substance abuse or domestic violence should be part of a regular program that includes drug testing.
  7. Keep your distance from the kids and their school, or go there with an adult.
  8. Take additional measures to ensure the victim’s safety
  9. The victim’s needs will be considered by the judge who issues the restraining order or protection order.

2 Full faith and credit is the requirement, derived from Article IV, Section I of the Constitution, that state courts respect the laws and judgments of courts from other states. This clause attempts to prevent conflict among states and ensure the dependability of judgments across the country

3 Title IV of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, H.R. 3355

4 U.S. President Bill Clinton first signed it into law in September 1994.

5 The original Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, which was titled ‘Title IV,’ was passed in 1994

6 . However, The United States Supreme Court ruled in a 5–4 decision in U.S. v. Morrison (2000) that this act was unconstitutional due to the Fourteenth Amendment and the Commerce Clause.

7 Non-Indians can enforce protection orders issued by Indian tribal courts through civil contempt, exclusion, or other legal mechanisms. 

8 Verification is not mandated by federal law. Nevertheless, in cases where the order’s terms or status are unclear or if your jurisdiction calls for it, you can check the details of a protection order by consulting the relevant state, tribal, or territorial registry or NCIC POF or by contacting the police.

9 The respondent should be given notice and a chance to be heard in ex parte orders within the time frame mandated by the law of the jurisdiction that issued the order, or at least within a reasonable time. section 2265(b)(2) of the United States Code

10 The following are examples of situations in which courts may grant such orders when appropriate grounds exist:

  1. Domestic abuse
  2. Mistreatment of children
  3. Kidnapping a child
  4. Mistreatment of vulnerable adults
  5. Stalking
  6. Armed conflict
  7. Infringement upon Intervention Orders

11 The following actions may be taken to address the violation:

  1. The offense is classified as a felony or a low-level offense as applicable
  2. The  offender is charged with the crime of contempt of court

12 Typically, a class A misdemeanor would be levied in case of deliberate or knowing infraction. Class A Misdemeanors include most DUIs, some assaults, simple possession of drugs (for personal use), and petty thefts. These cases will be tried before a U.S. District Court Judge unless the party consents to a magistrate judge handling the case.


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