Am I still protected from domestic violence if the courts are closed? Yes.
The entire state of Kentucky is in a state of emergency due to the novel COVID-19 virus. All non-essential business are closed, with essential businesses significantly restricted on how they conduct in person meetings. The courts are no exception. The access to courts is an essential right and remains available, although there are significant restrictions. The Kentucky Supreme Court has closed the courthouses to the public with the exception of emergency and time-sensitive matters, including but not limited to, domestic violence hearings, emergency custody hearings, temporary child support hearings. This order is in place (currently) until May 31, 2020. Therefore, if you have been a victim of domestic violence, you can still seek protection.
What is a protective order?
An emergency protective order (EPO) or Temporary Interpersonal Protective Order (TIPO) is an order signed by a judge which provides temporary protection to a victim of domestic violence, harassment, stalking and abuse until a hearing can be held.
Who can get a protective order?
In the past, only family members could obtain an EPO, such as a spouse, grandparent, parent, child, stepchild, or members of an unmarried couple who have lived together with a child in common. However, Kentucky recently expanded this protection to persons in a dating relationship, and victims of stalking or sexual assault where there is no intimate relationship. This is called a TIPO.
How do I get an EPO/TIPO?
During regular business hours, you can call your local Circuit Clerk’s Office, or contact law enforcement after hours. You then fill out a petition under oath describing the situation to obtain a protective order 24 hours a day. This is at no cost to you.
What happens after I file the petition?
Once you fill out the petition, it will be submitted to a judge. If the judge issues an EPO or TIPO at that time, then the matter will be set for hearing. A hearing must be held within 14 days. The purpose of the hearing is to establish long-term protection for the victim.
What happens at the hearing?
At the hearing, you will be able to testify and give your story to the judge. You also have the opportunity to call witnesses who can support your case. The judge may dismiss the case, or issue a domestic violence order or interpersonal protective order (DVO/IPO). These orders are long-term in nature and can achieve a variety of things, such as, ordering the opposing party to leave your residence and maintain a specified distance from you, limit communications, to not abuse or threaten you, grant temporary custody, and grant temporary child support.
Do I need to hire an attorney for the hearing?
Hiring an attorney is not mandatory to obtain a protective order, being represented by counsel at the domestic violence hearing is highly recommended. You must properly introduce evidence to establish the elements of domestic violence and amount of support required. Attorneys are trained and have experience in how to present the evidence to meet your burden of proof in front of the judge. This will definitely help your case and put you in a stronger legal position.
For more resources describing protective orders in detail, visit kycourts.gov.
This article is not intended to provide legal advice, but rather, provide information to the curious. We always recommend seeking the advice of a licensed attorney to answer your questions and fulfill your legal needs.