Domestic Violence - What the Law Can Do to Help Victims
What is domestic violence?
Domestic violence can take many forms, including physical, emotional, verbal, sexual, and financial. In general, domestic violence is any behavior used to gain power or control over a person. Domestic violence does not mean that your abuser must be a spouse or partner; an abuser can be any family member. For more information about different types of domestic violence and abusive behaviors, visit the Arizona Coalition to End Sexual & Domestic Violence.
Can the law help me if I’m a victim?
If you are in immediate danger, call 911. When the police arrive, tell them what happened. The police can help you get an Emergency Order of Protection (EOP), which can be granted by an on-call judge right on the spot and served on the abuser. An order of protection legally requires the abuser to stop contacting you and to stay a certain distance away from you. The court may also include other instructions and requirements that it believes are necessary for your protection. It is important to note that an EOP is only good until the close of the next judicial business day unless the on-call judge says otherwise. If you need protection for a longer period than that, you will need to apply for a normal order of protection.
You can apply for a normal order of protection during the superior court’s business hours. (You can find your nearest courthouse here.) This is done by filling out a written petition. You may also include any evidence you want the court to consider when deciding on whether to grant your petition. If the court grants your petition, it becomes effective as soon as your abuser is served with the order. Again, you can request that the police serve the order for you for free. The order of protection is valid for one year from the date of service. The abuser has the right to request a hearing with the court at any time while the order is effective. If the court grants the request for a hearing, you must attend to help protect the validity of your order. Keep a copy of your order of protection on you at all times.
Do I need to get an order of protection for my children, too?
You can include your children in your petition for an order of protection. If granted, the order will protect any person named in it. You do not need to file separate petitions for your children.
Will an order of protection really protect me?
Not necessarily. Even though the order of protection tells your abuser that he or she needs to stay away from you and to not have contact with you, that does not mean that your abuser will follow the rules. If you feel unsafe even though you have an order of protection, you should trust your instincts and seek additional help. Arizona has many shelters specifically for domestic violence victims aimed at protecting them and keeping their locations confidential. Please note that if you and the abuser have children, you should seek legal advice before hiding them or leaving the state with them because those actions may present legal problems for you.
Good resources for legal advice are:
- National Domestic Violence 24-Hour Hotline 800.799.SAFE (799.7233)
- Arizona Coalition to End Domestic Violence Legal Advocacy Hotline 800.782.6400
- Southern Arizona Legal Aid 520.623.9461
- Community Legal Services 602.2531536
What happens if my abuser violates the order of protection?
If you think you are in danger, call 911. But even if you do not believe you are in immediate danger, you should call the police. Violating an order of protection is illegal. Depending on the situation, the abuser may face consequences for doing so.
I don’t know how to fill out court papers. Can someone help me?
Yes. Most courts have self-help centers where you can get the appropriate paperwork and have staff help you understand how to fill them out, although they cannot fill them out for you. Some organizations, like the Arizona Coalition to End Domestic Violence, offer free help as well. You can view and download electronic copies here. You can also find your nearest courthouse here.
I don’t want my abuser to know where to find me. Do I need to put my address on court papers?
No, you do not. If your abuser does not know your location, you can request to the court to not provide your address on the petition itself. However, the court will still need to know your contact information, so you will need to give it to the court. The court will keep the document with your address on it separate and confidential.
How much does it cost to get an order of protection?
Nothing. It is completely free to apply for an order of protection. Unlike other court filings, the law prohibits the courts from charging any fee for these petitions. In addition, the law allows you to request that local law enforcement officers serve the order to your abuser for free.
Will I be reported to ICE if I apply for an order of protection?
Getting an order of protection does not require that anyone report you to ICE. However, that does not mean that it cannot happen. Anyone, including an angry spouse, can report you to ICE—you just need to know that it is not automatic just because you apply for an order of protection. In some situations, though, undocumented victims of domestic violence who are married to U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents can petition for special status. You should talk to a lawyer about the options.
Will my abuser be arrested?
An abuser will not be arrested if you get an order of protection. An order of protection is a civil—not a criminal—action by you against the abuser. An abuser will only be arrested if the police have “probable cause” to believe that he or she has committed the crime of domestic violence according to Arizona’s legal definition, which can be found here.
What if I have nowhere to go?
Many shelters are available throughout the state. You can find lists for the various shelters here:
City of Phoenix Domestic Violence Resources and Referrals - This site provides information on emergency shelters, shelter hotline, advocacy centers, State and National Services, Legal services, other services and outreach, and a links to local courts.
Maricopa Association of Governments Domestic Violence Council - This is a listing of various shelters within the cities of Maricopa County and includes shelter phone number.
Catholic Charities Community Services - This website links the various services provided by “My Sister’s Place” and includes a 24-hour hotline.
Sojourner Center - This organization provides shelter and support services to women, children, men, and pets affected by domestic violence and human trafficking.
Jewish Family & Children’s Service - This site provides information on their program Shelter Without Walls to assist male and female victims of domestic violence.
YWCA - This site provides information to various shelters throughout Metropolitan Phoenix including resources for both men and women.
Allie Phillips - This site provides links and information to shelters that can accept families of domestic violence along with their pets. While there is no guarantee that a shelter will have space for a given family or pet, they provide web links and phone numbers for people to check availability.
Raising Arizona Kids - This site provides various shelter options for families.
Do I need a lawyer? How do I find one?
Are there any additional resources?