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
1 7 Guam Code § 40101; see also the petition for an order of protection
2 9 Guam Code § 30.10(a)
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 (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 and/or minor child/ren. However, if the abuser is already represented by an attorney, then the attorney may need to be notified beforehand.1 After you file your petition, the judge may ask you some questions at an ex parte hearing. (However, if you are not in court but rather your attorney is filing the papers for you, the judge can still issued the temporary order.) The order will last for up to 10 days until the case is set down for a “show cause hearing.”2 The temporary order must first be served (given) to 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 modify (change) 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),(3); 7 Guam Code § 40104(a),(b)
2 MR 2.1.3(A)(4),(B)(4),(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/or your minor child/ren
- order the respondent to have no communication with you and/or your children, either directly or indirectly;
- order the respondent to stay 500 feet away from you and/or the minor child/ren; and to stay away from 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 of the minor child/ren and/or to not remove them 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 restored to the home (put back in);1
- if the home is owned or leased solely 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 restored to the home (put back in) but only 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);2
- order the respondent to pay certain costs and fees, such as rent or mortgage payments, child support, medical and dental costs, court costs, or attorneys fees;
- give you use of a vehicle or other personal possessions; 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.1Note: If the judge finds “probable cause” to do so, the judge is supposed to require the respondent to immediately surrender all firearms and/or 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 and affidavit or from evidence presented at hearing. In addition, the judge can issue to the Marshal any search warrants that are necessary to obtain the weapons and ammunition.3
1 MR 2.1.4
2 7 Guam Code § 40105(a)(3)
3 MR 2.1.8(A)(1),(2)
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.