If you’ve been served a domestic violence petition by a current or former romantic partner, spouse, or family member, you may be feeling confused, and maybe even angry.
While it is hard not to react to allegations of domestic violence, it’s also important for you to keep your composure. If you disagree with the document, you will have the opportunity to defend yourself in family court. Due to the emotional nature of this session, you may also want to hire an attorney to represent your best interests.
What Is a Domestic Violence Petition?
A domestic violence petition is a legal document in which those who have been affected by domestic violence can request legal protection. The person filing will have to name their abuser and explain what led them to file the petition.
If someone named you as a “respondent,” they are formally accusing you of domestic abuse. Once you are notified of the petition, you will have a chance to refute the allegation, as long as you attend all hearings in family court.
What If I Miss a Court Date?
Failure to attend your court dates will likely result in a restraining order against you. Facing a restraining order can affect your record and make you susceptible to criminal prosecution. Additionally, if you violate the terms of a restraining order or try to communicate with your accuser after the fact, you may even be arrested for something as minor as a phone call.
What Is Domestic Violence?
The state of West Virginia defines domestic violence as threats, attempts, and causation of physical harm, including psychological and sexual abuse. If your partner or family member is afraid of you, they may file a domestic violence petition against you, even if you do not believe you are an abuser.
To be successful in family court, you will need to tell your side of the story and clarify any behavior that could have been misconstrued. A good family law attorney can help you prepare your case.
Will My Children Be Affected?
If you co-parent with your accuser, they may have requested protection for your children, as well. In some cases, the person filing may even request temporary custody of the children they share with you. If their request is granted by the court, you may be barred from seeing your family altogether until the protection order lifts, or the petitioner may permit supervised visitation.
Anyone who has children has an extra responsibility to show up for their court dates. You and your lawyer may be able to show that a protective order is not in the best interest of your children and ask the court to dismiss the petition entirely.
Even if an order is ultimately filed against you, your presence in court can help make it temporary and delay the time you are separated from your loved ones.
If you disagree with the court’s decision, you can also file an appeal.
How Does a Protective Order Work?
When an individual files a domestic violence petition, they are requesting legal action against you. If their petition is granted, the court will order Mandatory Relief.
This means the court must order you to:
- Stop abusing harassing, stalking, threatening, or intimidating anyone named in the petition
- Refrain from possessing firearms or ammunition while the order is in effect
- Uphold the terms of the petition in every county of the state
- Understand that violating the terms of the order may be a criminal offense
Sometimes, those who file request Permissive Relief. If they do so, you may be barred from contacting anyone listed on the petition, and your partner or family member may inherit temporary possession of any home or vehicle you share. They may also get temporary custody of any children or animals you have together.
Family drama can take its toll on anyone, and domestic violence petitions are often filed in the wake of contentious divorces or child custody battles. If you’ve been served with a petition, try not to react negatively. Know that you will have a chance to defend yourself in family court and start discussing your case with an attorney.
Also, remember that Hardy Pence, PLLC is here for you. We have more than 100 years of combined legal experience and pride ourselves on providing trusted advocacy.
To discuss your case with one of our attorneys, call us at (304) 345-7250 or schedule an appointment online.