When you married your spouse, you may not have realized that abuse was in your future. However, after a while, your spouse showed his or her true colors by getting physically aggressive, emotionally abusive or even sexually violent toward you or your children.
Now, you feel trapped and nervous about how to get yourself and your children out of this unsafe environment. City nuisance laws may leave you feeling like you can't even rely on local law enforcement in violent situations.
Thankfully, Arizona recognizes that domestic abuse is a serious issue in modern marriages. You can request that the courts authorize an order of protection to prevent your spouse from contacting you in any form or stalking you.
While an order of protection doesn't physically prevent such actions, it provides you with recourse, meaning you can call police if the order gets violated in any form.
How to file for an order of protection
Unless your spouse has gotten convicted of a crime where you or your children were the victims, a civil order of protection is generally your best option. Many times, abused spouses choose not to call law enforcement after facing serious violence, out of fear of retaliation.
The good news is that the courts will consider a broad range of evidence against your spouse, including records of abusive texts or emails, medical records for or photographs of injuries, and even a sworn statement about the abuse.
You will need to go to the local courthouse and file a petition. In cases where you believe immediate violence is possible, you can seek an emergency order of protection. This order only lasts until the close of business the day after it gets filed, so you must file a request for a standard order of protection.
These typically last a year. In some cases, you could receive authorization to remain in the marital home, while your spouse seeks alternate housing. In other cases, it may be easier for you to leave.
Your spouse, as the accused abuser, has the right to challenge the order in court by requesting a hearing. You, as the filer of the original petition, will have to appear in court for that hearing to testify about the need for the order.
Understanding the limits of an order of protection
As noted above, a standard order of protection in Arizona lasts for one year. You can renew an expired order of protection, which may be a good idea in some cases. In other situations, it may not be necessary. While an order of protection does offer legal recourse for you and consequences for your spouse if the order gets violated, it shouldn't be your only form of protection. Changing the locks, having your address unlisted or even attending self-defense classes may all be wise complements to the order.