Protection from Abuse Orders (for victims of domestic violence, stalking and sexual assault)
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A protection from abuse (PFA) order is a civil order that protects you from harm by a family or household member or dating partner. It also applies to victims of stalking/sexual assault where the stalking/sexual assault is not perpetrated by a family/household member.
Note: For people over age 60, or vulnerable or incapacitated adults, this order can protect you from abuse by an extended family member or an unpaid care provider as well. See Protection from Abuse Orders (for the elderly/dependent/incapacitated) for more information.
back to topWhat is the legal definition of abuse in Maine?
This section defines domestic violence for the purposes of getting a protection from abuse order.
Maine law defines "abuse" as the occurence of one or more of the following acts between family or household members or dating partners:
- attempting to cause or causing bodily injury or offensive physical contact;
- attempting to cause or causing sexual assaults (Note: the sexual assault can be committed by anyone even if not a family/household member/dating partner);
- stalking as defined by law (Note: the stalking can be committed by anyone even if not a family/household member/dating partner)
- attempting to place or placing another person in fear of bodily injury by threatening, harassing or tormenting;
- forcing a person to do things that the person has a right not to do;
- forcing a person not to do things that the person has a right to do;
- substantially restricting the movements of a person without lawful authority by:
- removing a person from his/her home, business or school without consent or lawful authority;
- moving a person a substantial distance; or
- confining a person;
- threatening a crime of violence that places the person in reasonable fear that the crime will be committed;
- repeatedly and without reasonable cause, following a person or being at or in the vicinity of the person's home, school, business or place of employment;
- engaging in the unauthorized dissemination of certain private images; and/or
- engaging in aggravated sex trafficking or sex trafficking.*
Note: If someone is at least 60 years of age, or a "dependent adult," or an incapacitated adult, and is being abused by an extended family member or an unpaid care provider, see our Protection from Abuse Orders (for elderly/disabled) page for more information on the additional definitions of abuse for these victims.**
* ME ST T. 19-A § 4002(1)
** See ME ST T. 19-A § 4005(1)
back to topWhat types of protection from abuse orders are there? How long do they last?
In Maine, there are two types of protection from abuse orders:
Temporary protection from abuse order - You can request a temporary protection order that will stay in effect until you are granted a full order, or an order terminating the temporary order is made. You may be granted a temporary order without a court hearing, and without the abuser's knowledge. If the judge who reads your complaint agrees that there is a "good cause" to grant the order, for example, that you are in immediate and present danger, you can be granted a temporary ex parte order. The order will take effect as soon as it is served on the defendant. Even if the judge does not give you a temporary order, a final hearing will be scheduled within 21 days of when the complaint was filed where you can try to prove the allegations in your petition to get a final order. Note: When there is no judge available in the District Court or the District Court courthouse is closed and no other arrangement can be made for the shelter of an abused family or household member or minor child, you can file an emergency petition (complaint) with another District Court Judge or Superior Court Justice and get a temporary order that way.*
Final protection from abuse order - You must attend the final hearing that was set by the court and listed on your temporary protection order. A protection from abuse order can be issued only after a court hearing in which you and the abuser both have a chance to present evidence or after both parties consent (agree) to the order being issued. A protection from abuse order usually lasts up to two years.** However, you may be able to have it extended. See: How do I change, extend, or cancel my protection from abuse order?
* ME ST T. 19-A § 4006(1),(2),(3)
** ME ST T. 19-A § 4007(2)
back to topHow can a protection from abuse order help me?
In a temporary, ex parte protection from abuse order, the judge can:
- make an order concerning the parental rights and responsibilities relating to the minor children living in the home; and
- can order the defendant to not:
- restrain, threaten, assault, molest, harass, attack you or otherwise disturb your peace;
- enter the family home or your home (if you live separately);
- follow you or be near your home, school, business or place of employment repeatedly and without reasonable cause:
- take, sell, destroy or damage property in which you may have a legal interest;
- have any direct or indirect contact with you;
- injure or threaten to injure any animal owned, kept or held by either party or by a minor child living in the household (and the judge can make an order regarding the care/custody of the animal); and/or
- engage in the unauthorized dissemination of certain private images;
- destroy, transfer or tamper with your passport or other immigration documents; and
- have or possess a firearm if certain conditions are met.* (For the list of conditions, read section 2-A of ME ST T. 19A § 4006).
A final protection from abuse order can do the following:
- order the defendant to not:
- threaten, assault, molest, harass, attack or otherwise abuse you and/or any minor children in the home;
- use, attempt to use, or threaten to use any physical force that would reasonably be expected to cause bodily injury against you or any minor children living in the home;
- enter your home;
- follow you or be near your home, school, business or place of employment repeatedly and without reasonable cause;
- stalk you;
- have any direct or indirect contact with you;
- have or possess a firearm or dangerous weapon; and/or
- take, sell, destroy or damage property in which you may have a legal interest and
- the judge can order the division of personal property and household goods/furniture;
- injure or threaten to injure any animal owned, kept or held by either party or by a minor child living in the household;
- order the defendant to remove, destroy or return any "private images" (as defined in the unauthorized dissemination of certain private images) and, if necessary, order the defendant to pay any costs associated with removal, destruction or return of the private images;
- if you and the defendant jointly own or lease your home, or if one party solely owns or leases the property but s/he has a duty to support the other party or the minor children living in the home, the judge can:
- give (or restore) possession of the home to one party, excluding the other; or
- if both parties agree, the party who has a duty to support the other can provide suitable alternate housing;
- order the termination of a life insurance policy that is owned by the defendant if you are the person whose life is insured;
- award some or all temporary parental rights and responsibilities, or temporary rights of contact with regard to the minor children, or both;
- order the defendant to pay temporary support for you and/or your child;
- order the defendant to pay you for losses suffered as a direct result of the abuse (i.e., loss of earnings, injury to you, medical bills, damaged property or moving expenses);
- grant custody and care of any pets in the household that are owned by you, the defendant, or a child in the home to you;
- order the defendant to get counseling or attend a certified batterers' intervention program;
- order the defendant to pay your court costs and/or attorney's fees;
- if the defendant committed sex trafficking or aggravated sex trafficking, order him/her to pay money damages related to the return or restoration of your passport/immigration documents and any debts you have that came from the trafficking relationship (in addition to any other orders that the judge thinks are necessary or appropriate related to the trafficking); and
- order anything else you need to stay safe.**
Note: If you file a petition that gets dismissed at a hearing where both parties are present, the judge can order you to pay court costs and/or the defendant's attorney's fees if the judge rules that your complaint (petition) is frivolous (without a legal basis).***
* ME ST T. 19-A § 4006(2-A),(5),(5-A)
** ME ST T. 19-A § 4007(1)
*** ME ST T. 19-A § 4007(1)(L-1)
back to topWhere can I file for a protection from abuse order?
You can file for a protection from abuse order in the district court of any division where you live permanently or temporarily or where the abuser lives.* However, if you have left the home and want to keep the address where you are temporarily staying confidential, filing in that division would likely not be a good idea since it would alert the abuser to your location. If you are unsure in which division you live, you may want to contact an attorney who is familiar with Maine laws. Go to ME Finding a Lawyer for more information.
* ME ST T. 19-A § 4007
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