This week's topic is orders of protection. An order of protection is used for domestic abuse victims' safety. Domestic abuse is defined as physical harm done or threatening of physical harm with intent. In Columbia County, orders of protection are handled by the victim assistance coordinator, Darla Longino. The address is 204 W. Calhoun in Magnolia, but you must call (870) 901-3547 to set up an appointment to fill out paperwork. There is a screening process to verify that you qualify for an order of protection prior to filling out paperwork. The initial paperwork for getting an order of protection can be lengthy; please take this into consideration when filing for one. The process also takes time. It is not done in one day.
Orders of protection can only be filed against your spouse, former spouse, someone you have a child with, someone you live with or formerly lived with, someone you are dating or have dated, or other family members (including in-laws). If you are a victim at anyone else's hands, it must be handled through the court system. The person you are filing the order of protection against will receive a copy of the paperwork that you fill out. Orders of protection can make your batterer move out if you are living together, exclude your batterer from your residence, place of employment, and other places you may be present, state who will have temporary custody of children involved, as well as set up visitation arrangements, tell your batterer to pay monetary support for your children. With an order of protection, the police can arrest your batterer without a warrant if he/she violates the order, after they have been served with the paperwork. Orders of protection should not be used as a mean of control over someone, which means the victim cannot violate the order of protection by making contact with the defendant (the batterer).
The first order of protection that is received is temporary, you must appear in court for a final order of protection to be granted by the judge. You are also required to testify with the court on record. A final order of protection can be issued that is in effect for between three months and ten years.
After the order of protection paperwork is signed by a judge and filed at the courthouse, it cannot be undone. It can only be dismissed by the judge that is assigned your order of protection case. Dismissals must be handled in front of the judge on your court date.
If you are in danger, please call 9-1-1.
If you are a victim of domestic abuse, but do not wish to get an order of protection, these phone numbers may be of assistance to you: Local Crisis Center - (870) 235-1414 (Women's Shelter)
Legal Aid - (800) 950-0368
The Domestic Violence Hotline is (800) 269-4668