A child protection order is a type of court order that is issued by a judge for the purposes of protecting a child from instances of child abuse, or from exposure to domestic violence. Most commonly, a child protection order is filed against a parent of the child who had previously abused the child, the child’s siblings, or the child’s other parent.

The main function of a child protection order is to prevent the abusive parent from coming within a certain radius of the child. This is to protect the child from exposure to further harm. Sometimes, they are referred to as CPO’s, or orders of protection.

Each state has varying laws regarding the process for obtaining orders of protection. Each individual child protection order will be issued based on the facts surrounding the specific circumstances. These orders can often provide a variety of protections for a child who has been subject to abuse, or is in danger of being abused.

Some of the issues covered by a child protection order include:

  • Rules Regarding Contact: This could include the abusive parent being required to maintain a specified distance from the child, or prohibiting the abuser from visiting the child at home or school.

    • Some judges may also dictate no communicating with the child through phone calls, emails, or other forms of computer communication. Stalking and harassment are also, obviously, prohibited in the order;

  • Visitation Restrictions: A judge may decide to strictly limit child visitation rights, or even deny those visitation rights as part of a child protection order. Family law very rarely wants to separate families or restrict one parent’s visitation, so if a judge chooses to restrict visitation as a means of child protection, it is generally for a very serious reason;
  • Property or Document Surrender: If the abusive parent is in possession of any property or documents belonging to the child, the child protection order will often require them to surrender those items. Examples include birth certificates, social security cards, passports, etc.;

  • Payment of Costs: Costs that the abusive parent may be responsible for include relocation expenses for the child and other parent on account of the abusive parent’s violence, and any expenses related to any physical injury or property damage as a result of the abusive parent’s actions; or

  • Counseling Requirement: A judge may require the abusive parent to attend counseling sessions and take steps towards self improvement. This could include anger management or substance abuse rehabilitation.

How Long do Child Protection Orders Last?

Each specific situation will influence what is included in the order, and how long the order will last. Child protection orders are similar to temporary restraining orders in that their expiration date is often specified by a state statute, which will vary by state.

Some states limit protection orders to a ninety day time period, while others will set the duration for three to five years. A typical time limit of a child protection order is one year with possible extensions.

Generally, the child protection order is enforced until more evidence is gathered regarding the case. Everything is done in the best interest of the child, so it is imperative that there be no evidence of abuse. In serious cases, a permanent restraining order can be granted by the judge. This type of protective order can last indefinitely.

If the child is in immediate danger, a judge will sometimes issue an ex parte protection order. An ex parte order is any court order that is made without the offending party being present during the hearing.

These hearings are allowed when the other party cannot be reached, there is an immediate need for relief or protection, or it is an emergency situation. Emergency protection orders can be obtained in a short time, if necessary.

What are the Legal Consequences for Violating a Child Protection Order?

As previously mentioned, what is considered to be in the best interest of the child is what matters first and foremost. As such, violating a child protection order is a particularly serious offense. Violations are treated very seriously and will result in strict legal consequences. There are typically three ways a child protection order violation will be treated: as a felony, as a misdemeanor, or as being in contempt of court.

A felony conviction for a child protection order violation is generally reserved for repeat offenders or especially serious violations. Some states will enforce a fine of up to one thousand dollars, and mandatory jail time for such violations.

Further, a person who has had a child protection order issued against them could experience legal consequences, even if they have not violated the order. An example of this is federal law prohibiting a person from owning a firearm if they are currently subject to a CPO.

Do I Need an Attorney for Assistance with a Child Protection Order?

A knowledgeable and qualified family law attorney is essential when obtaining a child protection order. They will also help with the enforcement of any such orders. Additionally, a family law attorney will be aware of the laws specific to each state and what remedies may be available based on the specific circumstances of your case.