What is the legal definition of domestic abuse in Arkansas?
This section defines domestic abuse for the purposes of getting a domestic violence order of protection.
Domestic abuse is when a family or household member commits any of the following acts against you:
- physical harm;
- bodily injury;
- the fear that physical harm, bodily injury, or assault is about to happen to you; or
- sexual conduct (of a criminal nature) whether the victim is a minor or an adult.1
1 Ark. Code § 9-15-103(3)
What types of order of protection are there? How long do they last?
There are two types of orders:
Temporary Order of Protection
A temporary order of protection is an ex parte court order designed to provide you and your family members with immediate protection from the abuser. A judge may issue an ex parte order on the day you file your petition if s/he believes that you are in immediate danger, or if the abuser is scheduled to be released from prison within 30 days and you will be in danger when s/he is released.1 “Ex parte” means that the order is issued without prior notice to the abuser and without the abuser being present. The temporary order will protect you from the time it is granted until your full court hearing takes place, usually within 30 days.2
Final Order of Protection
A final order of protection can be issued only after a court hearing takes place where you and the abuser both have the opportunity to appear in court and present evidence. A final order will last for at least 90 days and at most 10 years. The judge may renew the order after it expires if s/he finds that the threat of domestic abuse still exists.3
1 Ark. Code § 9-15-206(a)
2 Ark. Code § 9-15-204(a)(1)
3 Ark. Code § 9-15-205(b)
What protections can I get in a protection order?
In both a temporary order and a final order of protection, a judge may order:
- the abuser not to commit any criminal acts against you;
- that the abuser not injure, mistreat, molest, or harass you, or threaten to do any of those things;
- the abuser to stay out of your home or the home you shared together;
- the abuser to stay away from your work, school, or other places you go;
- the abuser not to contact you directly or through someone else.
- temporary custody or temporary visitation rights for any minor children you have with the abuser;
- child support for any child you have in common with the abuse;
- temporary financial support for you if you are married to the abuser;
- that the winning party compensate the other party for reasonable attorney fees;
- that one party have custody or care of a pet in the home;1
- that any cell phone numbers/accounts be transferred to your name if you share a cell phone with the abuser and the abuser is the account holder; Note: You can request this in the first court hearing or in any follow-up court dates. However, you have to prove to the judge that you and any minor children in your care are the primary users of the wireless telephone number(s);2 and
- anything else that the judge thinks will help keep you or your family and other household members safe.1
Whether a judge orders any or all of the above depends on the facts of your case.
1 Ark. Code §§ 9-15-206(b); 9-15-205(a)
2 Ark. Code § 9-15-218(a)
How much does it cost? Do I need a lawyer?
There is no filing fee for an order of protection.1
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 the abuser has a lawyer. Even if the abuser does not have a lawyer, 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 on the Places that Help 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.1
If you are going to be in court without a lawyer, our Preparing for Court – By Yourself section may be useful to you.
1 Ark. Code § 9-15-202(a)(1)
In 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;1
- the abuse occurred; or
- where the abuser can be served with the court papers, usually where s/he lives or works.2
Note: If you are trying to keep your address confidential, consider that filing in the county where you are in shelter could alert the abuser to the fact that you are living in that county.
1 Ark. Code § 9-15-103(1)
2 Ark. Code § 9-15-201(b)
If the abuser lives in a different state, can I still get an order against him/her?
When you and the abuser live in different states, the judge may not have “personal jurisdiction” (power) over an out-of-state abuser. This means that the court may not be able to grant an order against him/her.
There are a few ways that a court can have personal jurisdiction over an out-of-state abuser:
- The abuser has a substantial connection to your state. Perhaps the abuser regularly travels to your state to visit you, for business, to see extended family, or the abuser lived in your state and recently fled.
- One of the acts of abuse “happened” in your state. Perhaps the abuser sends you threatening texts or harassing phone calls from another state but you read the messages or answer the calls while you are in your state. The judge could decide that the abuse “happened” to you while you were in your state. It may also be possible that the abuser was in your state when s/he abused you s/he but has since left the state.
- If you file your petition and the abuser gets served with the court petition while s/he is in your state, this is another way for the court to get jurisdiction.
However, even if none of the above apply to your situation, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t get an order. If you file, you may be granted an order on consent or the judge may find other circumstances that allow the order to be granted.
You can read more about personal jurisdiction in our Court System Basics - Personal Jurisdiction section.
Note: If the judge in your state refuses to issue an order, you can file for an order in the courthouse in the state where the abuser lives. However, remember that you will likely need to file the petition in person and attend various court dates, which could be difficult if the abuser’s state is far away.