The topic of Domestic Violence Prevention and the Personal Protection Order is in the news thanks to the 10th annual Tara’s Walk on October 1. “The event, named in memory of Tara Grant, who was murdered by her husband in 2007, is a fundraiser to raise awareness of, and prevent, domestic violence,” according to the Oakland Press.
The issue of Personal Protection Orders (PPO) is also making news in the wake of a recent domestic tragedy in Dearborn Heights. The horrifying death of four children and the torture of their mother brought to light how difficult it is for some people to get a PPO. In that case, the mother’s PPO petition was denied despite threats and her husband’s homicidal record, as reported in the Detroit Free Press.
What is a Personal Protection Order?
Michigan.gov explains that, “[A] personal protection action involves seeking an order from the court to protect you from harassment, assault, beating, molesting, wounding, or stalking by another person. The order can also prohibit a person from entering your premises and from removing minor children, unless the removal is part of court-ordered parenting time.”
A PPO can be requested to protect against someone you are related to or living with (domestic) or someone unrelated (non-domestic.)
Personal Protection Order Application Process
It is possible to petition for a PPO without an attorney. The Michigan Courts provide instructions.
That said, the instructions are prefaced with the following warning, “In order to receive the protection or action you seek, you must follow the instructions in this booklet and on the forms. If you fail to do even one of the required steps, the order you get from the court could be ineffective and you could remain unprotected.”
The eight-page packet goes on to list three essential steps involving a form that has six color-coded copies. Along the way, applicants are advised to file certain forms in specific offices, mail other copies and keep others. Everything needs to be notarized. The applicant is required to serve papers, present evidence and assemble a witness list. Once a hearing is scheduled, the instructions read, “Dress neatly. Get there 10 or 15 minutes early. Be prepared to spend most of the morning or afternoon in court.”
Following all of these steps can be confusing, time-consuming, potentially expensive and possibly intimidating. The rigor of the process is designed to deter casual, false, frivolous or malicious PPO petitions. The unfortunate side effect of this diligence is that the process can be so overwhelming that even the neediest domestic violence victims may not pursue it.
Overuse of PPOs
On the flip side, for those already undergoing divorce proceedings, the PPO petition may be just one more piece of paperwork. Critics claim that the authority of the PPO is becoming eroded by its overuse as a matter-of-course divorce strategy, according to the Huffington Post article, “The Worst Thing A Woman Can Do In Divorce Proceedings – The Abuse Of Orders of Protection.”
“While there are certainly advantages to filing for a PPO in some divorce cases,” says experienced Livingston County Divorce Attorney Kathryn Wayne-Spindler, “I take the weight of a PPO request very seriously so I am careful to avoid bogging down the courts with frivolous petitions. Not all divorce attorneys are so conscientious ”
Overuse of PPO requests can lead to clogged court dockets and enforcement issues.
PPO Enforcement Issues
Law enforcement agencies are stretched thin trying to protect domestic violence victims while also enforcing the non-violent property disputes that frequently arise during contentious divorces. In many communities, police officers responding to domestic disputes are required to have backup. That doubles the manpower necessary to enforce some PPOs. Every time a police officer responds to a domestic situation involving a PPO only to find a broken dish or keyed car, it could potentially reduce the immediacy of the response for the next victim. It’s the boy-who-cried-wolf philosophy.
There’s no easy answer but research is key.
Certain court orders are designed to keep people away. Others protect against actions like buying a gun or picking kids up at school. The terms restraining order and personal protection order are usually used interchangeably. The restraining order is typically milder. PPOs are usually longer-term and involve stiffer penalties. It’s also important to know the limits of the PPO before pursuing one.
- evict a person in a landlord/tenant relationship
- establish custody or parenting time
- protect personal property from damage
- mediate neighbor disputes
- stop a person from being rude or spreading rumors
- remove a person from a place they have a legal right to be, such as the local store
Consult with an Attorney
Part of that research may involve talking to an attorney. Although it may seem expensive, getting solid legal advice from an experienced lawyer right from the get-go may save hassle, time, money and ultimately a life.
Washtenaw County Divorce Attorney Kathryn Wayne-Spindler has years of experience helping abused partners get out of dangerous domestic situations and getting them the protection they need. Contact the experienced and compassionate attorneys at Kathryn Wayne-Spindler & Associates at 248-676-1000 for help with a Personal Protection Order, separation, divorce or custody issue. The law firm is based in Milford, Michigan assisting clients throughout Southeastern Michigan including Oakland, Wayne, Washtenaw, Livingston and Genesee Counties. The attorneys at Kathryn Wayne-Spindler & Associates handle Family Law cases in Milford; Highland; Hartland; Commerce; Waterford; Walled Lake; White Lake; Wixom; Howell; South Lyon; New Hudson; Linden; Holly; Grand Blanc and many more local communities.
Written and Posted by Christine Donlon Long
Communications’ Specialist for Kathryn Wayne-Spindler & Associates