A child protection order is a type of court order that is issued by a judge for the purposes of shielding a child from acts of child abuse or from exposure to domestic violence. It is most commonly used in situations where the child needs protection from an abusive parent or their siblings.
Each state has enacted its own separate laws for child protection orders. The varying state statutes will typically contain instructions on how to obtain a child protection order and what is included in the terms of a protection order. Oftentimes, the order will be based on the facts of a case.
Aside from protecting the child from abuse, the order may also contain information about visitation restrictions, property or document surrender, and the rules regarding contact with the child. For instance, the court may issue a no contact order against the father or mother of the child. This will require the abusive parent to maintain a specified distance from the child and prohibit the abuser from visiting the child at home or in school.
In extreme cases, the court may also require a parent under a no contact order to refrain from communicating with the child via phone calls, emails, social media, and/or other forms of communication.
Depending on the state where the no contact order is granted, these orders may be similar to your average restraining order, or the state may recognize it as a separate order. In cases where a state differentiates between the two orders, a no contact order will carry criminal penalties if violated.
How Long do Child Protection Orders Last?
There are three main factors that will determine how long a child protection order will last. These include the terms of the order, the length of time listed in its conditions, and what the state statute provides as standard expiration dates. Thus, child protection orders will vary according to state law and will depend on the facts of a case.
Some states, however, will limit protection orders to a 90-day time period, whereas others will set their statutes at three to five years. In general, the typical limitation for many child protection orders is one year, with the possibility of an extension.
Once an order is issued, the child protection order will then be enforced by the court until more evidence has been collected for the case. For instance, if there is evidence that the child is still being abused, the court will not lift the order. Instead, the court may place a permanent restraining order on the abusive party, which can have an infinite duration.
If the child is in immediate danger, however, a judge will sometimes issue an ex parte order. This type of order refers to one made without the offending party present at the hearing. They are most often granted when there is an immediate need for relief or protection, if the other party cannot be reached, or if there is an emergency situation. In such cases, an emergency protection order can be obtained in a short time when necessary.
One other important thing to keep in mind about child protection orders is that as with any case that involves a child, the legal principle that the court will use to make a decision on whether to grant or lift a child protection order is the child’s best interest standard.
How Do I File a Child Protection Order?
As discussed above, the process for obtaining a restraining order against the father or mother of a child will primarily depend on the laws of a particular state since each one has their own set of requirements.
Generally speaking, however, a party seeking a child protection or restraining order will usually need to prove a valid reason for obtaining one. In some states, this may require the party to report an incident of abuse to law enforcement or child protection services. Next, the petitioner will have to fill out a form petitioning an order. These forms vary by state and also by the type of order the party is seeking.
Once the form is completed, the party must file it in the appropriate court where a judge will review the request. From there, the judge will either grant or deny the request. If it is denied, the party will have a certain amount of time to request a hearing based on the denial. If it is granted, the order will be issued and a hearing will be scheduled usually within 30 days.
At the hearing, both parties will have a chance to argue their side of the matter (e.g., why or why not the order should be enforced). The judge will consider their arguments and decide whether to lift the order or issue a final protective order, which will last for a certain amount of time. The date the order expires will typically be written on the order itself.
What are the Legal Consequences for Violating a Child Protection Order?
The legal consequences for violating a child protection order will depend on the type of order it is, as well as the laws of the state in which it is issued. Violating a child protection order is a very serious matter that can result in both civil and criminal penalties.
If the child protection order carries criminal consequences, then the defendant can be charged with either a felony, misdemeanor, or as being in contempt of a court order. Regardless of which one the defendant is charged with, a conviction for any of the three can lead to a term of imprisonment and heavy fines.
For example, all felonies can be punished by a fine and a prison sentence for one year or longer. In cases involving a violation of a child protection order, a defendant may be charged and convicted of a felony if they are a repeat offender or have committed a severe violation. In these instances, some states will impose a fine of up to $1,000, and a mandatory prison sentence.
In addition, a person who has a child protection order issued against them may not even have to violate the order to experience legal consequences. For instance, federal law dictates that those who are subject to a child protection order will be prohibited from owning a firearm. Other penalties a person under a child protection order may face is loss of certain parental rights, including the right to custody and/or visitation.
Do I Need an Attorney for Assistance with a Child Protection Order?
As discussed above, child protection orders are very serious matters. Oftentimes, they have far-reaching consequences that can impact the rest of your family’s life. Therefore, whether you are seeking a child protection order or are currently accused of being in violation of one, you should contact a local family lawyer immediately for assistance.
An experienced family lawyer will be familiar with the laws of your state, can explain how they affect your case, and depending on the issue, can discuss which remedies or defenses may apply. Your lawyer can also help you to enforce a child protection order, or alternatively, defend your rights against an accusation of violating one.
Lastly, if you are required to appear in court, your lawyer can provide representation on your behalf as well.