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Know the Laws: Arkansas

UPDATED January 20, 2014

Domestic Violence Orders of Protection

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A domestic violence order of protection is a civil order that can protect you from abuse by someone with whom you have a specific relationship.

Basic information

back to topWhat is the legal definition of domestic abuse in Arkansas?

This section defines domestic abuse for the purposes of getting an order of protection.

Domestic abuse is when someone close to you commits, attempts, or threatens you with one of the following acts:

  • physical harm;
  • bodily injury;
  • assault;
  • makes you afraid that physical harm or bodily injury is about to happen;
  • assault between family or household members; or
  • sexual conduct (of a criminal nature) between family or household members, whether minors or adults.*

* A.C.A. § 9-15-103

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back to topWhat types of order of protection are there? How long do they last?

An Order of Protection is a court order designed to protect you from the abuser. There are two types of orders:

Temporary Order of Protection
A Temporary "Ex-parte" Order of Protection is a court order designed to provide you and your family members with immediate protection from your abuser. A judge may issue an ex parte order on the day you file your petition for an Order of Protection if s/he believes that you are in immediate danger, or if your abuser is scheduled to be released from prison within 30 days and you will be in danger when he is released. "Ex-parte" means that the order is issued without your abuser present.

In order to get a permanent Order of Protection, you need to have a full court hearing with your abuser present. A Temporary "Ex-parte" Order of Protection will protect you from the time you file until your full court hearing takes place, usually within 30 days.*

Permanent Order of Protection
A Permanent Order of Protection is like a Temporary Order of Protection, but it lasts longer and can be issued only after a court hearing takes place where you and your abuser both have the opportunity to tell your own side of the story. A permanent order will last for at least 90 days and at most 10 years.**  The order may be renewed after it expires if the court finds that the threat of domestic abuse still exists.

 * A.C.A. § 9-15-204
**A.C.A. § 9-15-205(b)

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back to topHow can an order of protection help me?

In both a Temporary Order of Protection and a Permanent Order of Protection, a Judge may order your abuser to:

  1. Stay out of your home or the home you shared together;
  2. Stay away from your work, school, or other places you go.
  3. Not contact you directly or through someone else. Certain exceptions can be made and stated in the order. For example, you can ask the judge to allow your abuser to contact you about your children through your lawyer.

An Order of Protection may also:

  1. Award temporary custody or establish temporary visitation rights for any minor children you have with your abuser;
  2. Order temporary financial support for you (if you are married to your abuser) or your minor children (whether or not you are married). These temporary orders will be enforced just like any other child support or alimony awards;
  3. Compensate you for reasonable attorney fees;
  4. Award custody or care of a pet in the home;
  5. Order anything else that the judge thinks will help keep you, your family, and other household members safe, which can include that the abuser not attempt or threaten to injure, mistreat, molest, or harass you.*

Whether a judge orders any or all of the above depends on the facts of your case.

 * A.C.A. § 9-15-205

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back to topHow much does it cost? Do I need a lawyer?

Nothing. There is no filing fee to get an Order of Protection.

Although you do not need a lawyer to file for an Order of Protection, it may be to your advantage to find a lawyer. This is especially important if your abuser has obtained a lawyer. Even if your abuser does not have a lawyer, if you can, it is recommended that you contact a lawyer to make sure that your legal rights are protected.

If you cannot afford a lawyer but want one to help you with your case, you can find information on legal assistance and domestic violence organizations by clicking on the Where to Find Help tab at the top of this page. In addition, the domestic violence organizations in your area and/or court staff may be able to answer some of your questions or help you fill out the necessary court forms. You will find contact information for courthouses on the AR Courthouse Locations page.*

 * A.C.A. § 9-15-202

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back to topIn which county can I file for a domestic violence order of protection?

You can file for a domestic violence order of protection in the county where you live (which includes a temporary stay in a domestic violence shelter), where the abuse occurred, or in any county where the abuser can be served with the court papers (i.e., where s/he lives or works).*

Note: If you are trying to keep your address confidential, filing in the county where you are in shelter would likely not be a good idea since it would alert the abuser to the fact that you are living in that county.

* A.C.A. §§ 9-15-103(1); 9-15-201(b)

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Thank you to the Arkansas Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the Office of the Prosecutor Coordination in Little Rock for assisting us with this page.

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