Divorce proceedings can bring out some very ugly behavior in some people. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for a spouse or ex-spouse to threaten or inflict physical violence on the other party. In a child custody dispute, a party may threaten to harm or abduct the children. If this occurs, the victim has important rights under Minnesota law.
In Minnesota the court can issue a protective order against a spouse, a former spouse, someone who has a child in common with the victim, a former romantic or sexual partner and other specified individuals.
A judge can issue an ex parte order if he or she concludes the victim is in immediate danger. “Ex parte” means the order is issued without advance notice to the abuser and the abuser is not present at the hearing. An ex parte order will be in effect for a limited time, usually up to two years. If the court grants an ex parte order, the victim does not have to return for a hearing on a full order unless the abuser requests a hearing, or the victim seeks additional protection beyond what is in the ex parte order.
If the court does not grant the ex parte order, a hearing can be scheduled to request a full order for protection. The abuser will be notified of this hearing and has the right to attend and object to the proposed order. A full order of protection can be granted for a maximum of two years, but the victim can request that it be extended if they still need protection when the order expires.
If the abuser violates the protective order the petitioner should contact the police immediately. There are serious consequences for violating a protective order, including arrest, fines and possible jail time.
When spouses going through a divorce believes they or their children are in physical danger, they should act quickly to seek a protective order. There are a number of agencies that are available to help victims through the process, or a victim can seek advice from their family law attorney.
Source: womenslaw.org, “Minnesota: Orders for Protection,” accessed June 26, 2016