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Know the Laws: Puerto Rico

UPDATED June 28, 2012

Orders of Protection for the Welfare and Protection of Children

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This order is issued to protect a child from abuse or neglect.

back to topWhat is an order of protection for the welfare and protection of children?

This is a civil court order that is signed by a judge when s/he determines that there is reason to believe that the child has been a victim of abuse or negligence or that his/her safety is in imminent (immediate) risk.  Taking into account the best interests and safety of the child, the judge can order the parent or person responsible for the abuse to stop any abusive behavior and/or negligent conduct.*

* 8 L.P.R.A. § 448a

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back to topWho can apply for this order?

Any of the following people can file for this order of protection on behalf of a minor against an someone who is abusing/neglecting a child or when the child is in immediate risk of being abused:

  • the child's parent;
  • the school principal;
  • a teacher;
  • a school social worker;
  • a police officer;
  • an advocate of Children’s Affairs or an advocate of Family Matters (Procurador de Asuntos de Menores o Procurador de Asuntos de Familia);
  • any prosecutor or officer authorized by the Department of Family Services; and/or
  • any family member or person who is responsible for the minor child.*
* 8 L.P.R.A. § 448

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back to topWhat types of orders of protection for the welfare and protection of children are there? How long do they last?

Temporary ex parte order of protectionThe court can issue a temporary ex parte order of protection if there are reasons to believe that notifying the abuser will cause the harm that you are trying to avoid by applying for an order of protection, or if you can prove that there is a possible risk of immediate abuse.*  ("Ex parte" is a Latin phrase which means to grant an order without notifying the other party (the abuser.))  Any ex parte order of protection will be issued temporarily.  The court will arrange for the abuser to be served with the papers immediately and the abuser will have the opportunity to tell his/her side of the story and defend him/herself at a hearing that will be scheduled within the next 5 days after  the ex parte order of protection was issued.  At the hearing, the judge will decide if a final order of protection needs to be granted or not.**

Order of Protection (final)
This order is designed to protect a minor child from abuse for the long-term, not in a temporary manner as the ex parte order does. An  order or protection can be issued after a hearing in front of a judge. In this hearing, both parties have the opportunity to tell their sides of the story.  If you have proven your case, the judge will grant the order for the time s/he considers it to be necessary.**
* 8 L.P.R.A. § 448c(b),(c)
** 8 L.P.R.A. § 448c

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back to topHow can an order of protection for the welfare and protection of children help my child?

In an order of protection, a judge can do one or more of the following:

  • grant temporary custody of the child to the plaintiff, to the Department of Family Services or to the closest family member who can guarantee the best welfare and security of the child;
  • order the abuser to move out of the house if s/he is living in the same house as the child;
  • order the abuser to stop harassing, stalking, intimidating or threatening the child, or to stop interfering with the temporary custody granted to the petitioner or to a close family member;
  • order the abuser to stay away from the child or from any place where the child is;
  • order the abuser to pay the rent or mortgage of the house where the minor child lives, in case the petitioner was ordered to move out of that house, or to pay child support if s/he has a legal obligation to do so;
  • order the abuser to attend a program or treatement to control his/her abusive or negligent conduct;
  • order the abuser to pay for any treatment or any program the child may need as a result of the abuse; and/or
  • issue any other order the judge considers necessary.*
* 8 L.P.R.A § 448a

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back to topWhat are the steps to getting this order of protection?

The steps to get an order of protection for the welfare and protection of children are similar to the steps for getting an order of protection for domestic violence.

The process to request this type of order of protection starts as follows:

  • filing a written or oral petition for the order;
  • requesting one within pending custody case, deprivation of parental rights case or within any other legal proceeding; or
  • through the petition of the advocate of Family Matters or any prosecutor within a criminal process, or as part of the terms for probation or conditional discharge.*
Court forms will be available at the courthouse, as well as help and guidance on how to fill out and file the forms. Once this process is completed, the court will send a summons to both parties for a hearing at the court.**

*8 L.P.R.A. § 448b(a)
** 8 L.P.R.A. § 448b(b),(c)

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back to topWhat happens if the abuser violates the order of protection?

If you believe that the abuser has violated the order of protection, you can call the police within Puerto Rico to report this. The violation of a an order of protection can be considered a misdemeanor in the third degree.*  Furthermore, you may be able to file a petition for contempt of court in the court that issued the order since a violation of the order can be considered contempt of court.  The punishment for contempt can be a jail sentence, a fine, or both.**

* 8 L.P.R.A. § 448f
** Vea 8 L.P.R.A. § 448d(b)

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