How can protection orders be used as a tool in the fight against domestic violence?

February 4, 2017

How can protection orders be used as a tool in the fight against domestic violence?

By: Elaine McCreery, Law Clerk and student at Robert H. McKinney School of Law

The criminal justice system is charged with prosecuting perpetrators of domestic violence; however, for most victims, the criminal justice system cannot address all the effects of the abuse. In addition to the pressing need to escape the violence, victims often face a variety of other obstacles, such as financial difficulty, homelessness, and health problems.  While prosecution of the abuser is important, civil protection orders may offer different remedies that victims need to escape the violence.

The Indiana Civil Protection Order Act (I.C. § 34-26-5) allows victims to file for a protection order.  The victim can seek a variety of remedies to bring an end to the domestic violence.  After the victim files for a protection order, and before a hearing is held, a judge can prohibit the abuser from contacting the victim. This means that the abuser cannot harass, annoy, telephone, or contact the victim, not even by sending a message to the victim through another person.

The protection order can also be used to ensure safety in places that the victim frequents.  A judge can exclude an abuser from a shared home and order that the abuser stay away from other places the victim will be, such as the victim’s workplace, church, or child’s school. If the victim leaves items necessary for survival at the abuser’s home, such as clothing, medication, or even a car, a judge can order the sheriff to accompany the victim to retrieve the items.

Certain remedies, such as eviction, firearm restrictions, and parenting time, require that a hearing is held where both sides are given the opportunity to speak.  At a hearing, a judge can also order that the abuser is not allowed to use or possess firearms and may order the abuser to surrender firearms to law enforcement.  If requested, temporary parenting time and child support orders may be entered; however, custody cannot be determined through a protection order, and any orders regarding support or parenting time only exist for the duration of the protection order.

A protection order is primarily intended to provide safety, but it can also help a victim who needs financial reimbursement for medical costs and other damage resulting from domestic violence.  The judge can order that the abuser reimburse the victim for medical expenses as a result of injuries the abuser inflicted or pay for property that requires repair because of damage caused by the abuser.  Victims can even request that the abuser reimburse them for the cost of counseling needed as a result of the abuse.

Although most protection orders are in place for two years, a victim can request to renew a protection order if needed. For victims who need additional remedies to escape domestic violence, a protection order may be the answer.

Indiana Code § 34-26-5 can be found here: