What is the legal definition of domestic abuse in Guam?
For purposes of getting a civil order of protection, domestic abuse means the occurrence of one or more of the following acts between family or household members:
- causing or attempting to cause you bodily injury or serious bodily injury (with or without a deadly weapon);
- placing you in fear of imminent (immediate) serious bodily injury by physically menacing (threatening/intimidating) you; or
- sexual abuse of a minor child.1
Note: The criminal definition of family violence under the law is slightly different. Therefore, these are the acts that are considered to be criminal family violence:
- attempting to cause or causing bodily injury to another family or household member;
- placing a family or household member in reasonable fear of immediate bodily injury; or
- intentionally disrupting the normal breathing or circulation of the blood of a family or household member by:
- applying pressure to the throat or neck; or
- blocking his/her nose or mouth.2
What types of orders of protection are there? How long do they last?
There are two types of orders of protection, a temporary order and a permanent order of protection.
A temporary order of protection can be given to you by a judge if s/he believes it is necessary to protect you or your minor children from abuse. The order can be issued ex parte, which means without the abuser being notified beforehand or being present in court, if the judge believes that notifying the abuser ahead of time would further endanger the safety and welfare of you or your minor child/ren. However, if the abuser is already represented by an attorney, then the attorney needs to be notified beforehand.1
After you file your petition, the judge may ask you some questions at an ex parte hearing. If you are not in court but rather your attorney is filing the papers for you, the judge can still issue the temporary order. The order will last for up to ten days until the case is set down for a “show cause hearing.”2 The temporary order must first be served upon the abuser before it takes effect.
After the abuser is served, s/he has the opportunity to appear at the “show cause hearing” where both you and the abuser will have an opportunity to tell your own sides of the story to a judge. The court can postpone the hearing for a reasonable period of time if the abuser wants to get an attorney. During the continuance, the judge can change (modify) the temporary order or continue it as-is (or, in some cases, even make it permanent). At the hearing, you will have to prove your allegations in the petition to be granted a permanent order of protection by the judge or you and the abuser may agree to have a “consent agreement” issued in which the abuser agrees to not abuse you and/or your children. The order can last for a period of time determined by the judge.2
1 MR 2.1.3.(A)(1), (A)(3); 7 Guam Code § 40104(a), (b)
2 MR 2.1.3.(A)(4), (B)(4), (B)(5)
What protections can I get in an order of protection?
A temporary ex parte order of protection and a permanent order of protection can do the following:
- order the respondent to stop harassing, abusing, threatening, using or attempting to use physical force or cause bodily injury to the you and your minor children;
- order the respondent to have no communication with you and your children, either directly or indirectly;
- order the respondent to stay 500 feet away from you, your minor child/ren, your home, your place of employment, and your school;
- award you temporary custody of your children in a temporary order or permanent custody in a permanent order;
- allow the respondent to have visitation or prohibit all visitation;
- order the respondent to not interfere with your temporary custody and to not remove your children from Guam;
- if the home is jointly owned or leased by you and the abuser, giving you exclusive possession of the family home by evicting the respondent or, if you already left the home, you can be put back in the home;1
- if the home is owned or leased only by the respondent, the judge can still give you exclusive possession of the family home by evicting the respondent or, if you already left the home, you can be put back in the home if the respondent has a legal duty to support you or your minor children who were living in the residence. Note: Another possibility, if both parties agree, is that the judge can approve an agreement that would allow the respondent to remain in the home but to provide you with suitable, alternative housing;
- if you are married to the abuser, or if you have a minor child in common and you live together, the respondent can be ordered to:
- not take any action that could result in the termination of any necessary utility services or services related to the family home or your home where you live with your children; and pay for (maintain) utility services or other necessary services;
- not take any action that could result in the cancelation, change of coverage, or change of beneficiary of any health, automobile, or homeowners insurance policy that would harm you or your children with the abuser; and maintain such policies without change in coverage or beneficiary designation;
- provide you with temporary possession of any automobile, checkbook, documentation of health, automobile or homeowners insurance, a document needed for purposes of proving identity, a key, or other necessary specified personal items;
- make rent or mortgage payments on the family home or your home where you live with your children;
- pay child support if the respondent has a legal duty to support them and the ability to pay;2
- order the respondent to pay certain costs and fees, including rent or mortgage payments, child support, medical and dental costs, court costs, or attorneys fees; and
- order the abuser to temporarily or permanently surrender any kind of weapon or instrument that could cause harm or injury if it were in the possession of the respondent.1
Note: In a permanent order of protection, if the judge finds “probable cause” to do so, the judge is supposed to require the respondent to immediately surrender all firearms and ammunition to the Marshal of the Court, or to another other law enforcement officer. “Probable cause” can come from the allegations you made in your petition or from evidence presented at the hearing. In addition, the judge can issue any search warrants that are necessary for the Marshal to get the weapons and ammunition.3
1 MR 2.1.4.
2 7 Guam Code § 40105(a)(3), (a)(4), (a)(5)
3 MR 2.1.8.(A)(1), (A)(2)
How can a victim advocate help me in court?
A victim advocate is allowed to be with you in the courtroom and talk to you during the case to help you make decisions. An advocate can also help you prepare your petition for an abuse protection order.1
1 7 Guam Code § 40103(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.
If I am afraid to go to court for the hearing, is there another option?
You can request that the court allow you to “appear” in court by telephone, video conference, or by another two-way electronic communication device. In making this decision as to whether to allow it, the judge should consider whether your safety or welfare would be threatened if testimony were required to be provided in person at a proceeding. The same protections also apply to a witness who is called to court to testify.1
1 7 Guam Code § 40103(c)