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Do protection orders actually help?

You suffer physical abuse at the hands of your spouse. You want to get a divorce, and you want to end the relationship, but it makes you nervous. Clearly, your spouse is going to be unhappy and may harm you when you ask for the divorce. It traps you in the relationship.

One option is to seek a protection order, which can tell your spouse to have no contact with you at all. This means staying away from you physically, but it may also mean no phone calls, emails, social media messages, text messages and all the rest. Breaking the order means police can arrest your spouse and take them to jail.

But does it really work? After all, it's just a piece of paper. It's not going to keep your spouse from harming you if he or she decides to ignore it and enter your home.

Imperfect, but helpful

Experts do agree that protection orders do not offer a perfect solution. If the situation is bad enough, you could still be in danger. If your spouse wants to harm you, the threat of an arrest or jail time may not matter. After all, getting caught for domestic violence also means an arrest and jail time, so an abusive spouse is clearly willing to risk it.

That said, they are helpful and can "serve a useful role in threat management." They can help. If you feel threatened, you should get one. It's the first step toward protecting yourself and your children. It allows you to move forward with the divorce and with your life.

Preventing escalation

One way in which these orders do work is that they keep situations from escalating. After all, many domestic abuse situations do not start as physical abuse.

Instead, they start as a minor disagreement. This escalates into a full-fledged argument. Your spouse starts yelling at you and threatening you. You stand your ground. Then things escalate again as your spouse resorts to physical violence to force the issue.

The reality is that the two of you struggle to even be around each other. Any time you are, disagreements crop up and this destructive path starts all over again. It's not as if your spouse plans out how to threaten or harm you. It's just that your normal conversations tend to spiral out of control when you're together.

A protection order puts an end to this. Your spouse stays away under the threat of arrest. This makes contact illegal and makes escalation impossible. In that sense, the order can protect you from abuse.

Getting an order

If you are suffering from abuse or you fear for your safety, make sure you immediately look into the steps you need to take to get a protective order. This is nothing to take lightly, and it must be dealt with.

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