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If a family member feels that another member of their family has engaged in a terrible act against them, they can file for a family offense petition. A family offense petition may be filed for offenses including:
• Aggravated harassment
• Reckless endangerment
• Attempted assault
• Disorderly conduct
When a person feels the need to file a family offense petition and they speak to their lawyer, they may be surprised to learn just how frequently this type of petition is filed. People see the family unit as a source of comfort and protection. So they find it surprising when horrific acts occur within the family. The legal system understands how detrimental and complicated these types of cases can be, and that is why the option to pursue these issues in court has been created.
When a family offense petition is filed, those involved are family defined by blood relation or by means of marriage. The family definition by means of marriage includes family members that are now divorced. It can also include individuals who were never married but share a child together. The reason why unmarried individuals who have a child together are able to file in this way is because their shared child creates unique circumstances that would fall within the boundaries of what this law was created to address.
The petition would be filed in court. When the petition is first filed, the petitioner is within their right to make an immediate appearance in the court. Depending on the circumstances and depending on the judge involved in the case, a decision may be made including good cause to issue a child support temporary order, or there may be need to issue a temporary protection order.
These temporary orders will be in place until the alleged abuser or the alleged respondent is able to appear in court. The judge will then have a summons sent directly to the alleged abuser or respondent. There are some circumstances where the petitioner is in imminent danger. In these cases a judge may issue a warrant, which would require the respondent to appear in court immediately.
The respondent will have the right to either agree with the allegations brought against them, or they will be able to deny the allegations. If the judge is recommending an order of protection, they can also agree to it or fight against it. In most cases, orders of protections are extended by the Family Court. However, if the Family Court is not in session, the petitioner may be able to get the same protection order from the Criminal Court if on examining the circumstances, it is clear that the circumstances require said order.
In most cases, the respondent will deny it. This means that a new hearing will be held in order to identify the facts of the case. In this hearing the judge will attempt to identify which allegations are true and which are not. If the judge feels that the allegations are factual, then there will be a dispositional hearing. At any time the judge has the ability to adjourn court and make further inquiries before making the final decision.
If the allegations are not proven to the judge, then the case is dismissed. If the judge’s decision is in favor of the petitioner, the respondent may be required to:
• Pay medical bills if there was abuse
• Avoid committing future family offenses
• Limit their contact with children to designated places and times
• Pay counselor fees
• Stay away from the petitioner or children involved
A family offense petition attorney can work with their clients and help them get the protection that they need. They understand the laws pertaining to these cases and may be a source of practical knowledge to an individual looking to get protection from their family.