What should I do when I leave the courthouse?
Here are some ideas of what you can do:
- Make several copies of the PFA order as soon as possible.
- Keep a copy of the order with you at all times.
- Leave copies of the order at your workplace, at your home, at the children’s school or daycare, in your car, with a sympathetic neighbor, and so on.
- Give a copy to the security guard or person at the front desk where you live and/or work along with a photo of the abuser.
- Give a copy of the order to anyone who is named in and protected by the order.
- If the court has not given you an extra copy for your local law enforcement agency, take one of your extra copies and deliver it to them. One week after court, call your local law enforcement offices to make sure they have received copies of the order.
- Take steps to safety plan, including changing your locks (if permitted by law) and your phone number.
Ongoing safety planning is important after receiving the order. People can do a number of things to increase their safety during violent incidents, when preparing to leave an abusive relationship, and when they are at home, work, and school. Many abusers obey protective orders, but some do not. It is important to build on the things you have already been doing to keep yourself safe. Go to our Safety Planning page for suggestions.
Can the abuser have a gun?
Once you get a protection order, there may be laws that prohibit the respondent from having a gun in his/her possession. There are a few places where you can find this information:
- first, read the questions on this page to see if judges in Maine have to power to remove guns as part of a temporary or final order;
- second, go to our State Gun Laws section to read about your state’s specific gun-related laws; and
- third you can read our Federal Gun Laws section to understand the federal laws that apply to all states.
You can read more about keeping an abuser from accessing guns on the National Domestic Violence and Firearms Resource Center’s website.
What happens when the judge orders the defendant to turn in his/her firearms?
If as part of a temporary or final protection from abuse order, the judge rules that the defendant cannot have a firearm or other dangerous weapon, the judge will direct the defendant to give up his/her firearms within 24 hours or sooner after service of the order. They can be given to law enforcement or to someone else. If the weapons are turned over to someone other than a law enforcement officer, the defendant must file with the court or local law enforcement agency within 24 hours a written statement that contains the name and address of the person holding the weapons and a description of all weapons held by that individual. Later on, the judge can issue a search warrant authorizing a law enforcement officer to take any firearms and other dangerous weapons at any location if there is probable cause to believe that the defendant did not turn in such firearms or dangerous weapons.1
1 ME ST T. 19-A §§ 4108(3); 4110(4)
Can the order be extended or modified?
A final PFA order lasts for up to two years.1 However, if the order is going to run out and you believe that you need protection, you can file for an extension of the order before the order expires. If you do not file the motion to extend before the old order runs out, you may have to start all over again by filing a new protection from abuse complaint. The judge will hold a hearing that the abuser can attend. In determining whether to extend the order, the judge could consider:
- the underlying reasons for the original order, including earlier abuse and the history of abuse;
- conduct that has occurred since the final protection order was issued;
- the continued effect on you of the abuse; and
- all other relevant factors.2
The judge can extend an order for as much time as s/he believes is necessary to protect you or your minor child from abuse. It is not limited to two years like the final PFA order is. A final protection order may be extended more than once.2
Either you or the abuser can file to change (modify) a final order. The judge would hold a hearing to decide if there is “sufficient cause” to do modify it. Judges can modify an order from time to time as circumstances may require.3
1 ME ST T. 19-A § 4110(5)(A)
2 ME ST T. 19-A § 4111(1)
3 ME ST T. 19-A § 4111(2)
What can I do if the abuser violates the order?
Violations of an order can be pursued through the police and/or through filing a contempt petition in court. However, the police can only arrest for certain violations. If any of the following terms of the order are violated, the police can make an arrest and it can be a Class C or D crime:
- the defendant must leave you alone and have no contact with you;
- the defendant must not to hurt you or threaten you;
- the defendant must stay away from your home, school, business or place of employment;
- the defendant must not to follow you or otherwise stalk you;
- the defendant must not interfere with your property;
- the defendant must not to possess a gun or any other dangerous weapon;
- you are granted possession of the home; or
- the defendant must provide suitable housing for you.1
If any of the following terms of the order are violated, the police cannot make an arrest; you would have to file a motion in court for civil contempt and the judge can punish the defendant accordingly:
- the defendant must get counseling or attend a certified batterers’ intervention program;
- you are granted custody and care of any pets;
- the division of personal property ordered by the judge;
- the defendant must not terminate a life insurance policy that is owned by the defendant if you are the person whose life is insured;
- the defendant must pay temporary support for you and/or your child;
- the defendant must pay you for loss of earnings, injury to you, medical bills, or property or moving expenses that occurred as a direct result of the abuse;
- the defendant must pay court costs or attorney fees; or
- anything else ordered by the judge that is necessary for you to stay safe.2
1 ME ST T. 19-A § 4113(1), (5)
2 ME ST T. 19-A § 4113(2)
Can I get in trouble if I allow the abuser to violate the order?
You cannot be criminally punished for “allowing” the abuser to violate any provision of the PFA order.1 However, the abuser’s attorney could try to hold this against you in court to prove that you are not, in fact, afraid of the abuser if you allow them to ignore the terms of the order without reporting the violation.
1 ME ST T. 19-A § 4111(3)
I was not granted a protection from abuse order. What are my options?
You may want to get advice from a lawyer as to whether or not you can appeal the decision. However, there are specific grounds for appeal and there is a limited amount of time to file. Generally, appeals are complicated and you will most likely need the help of a lawyer. See our File an Appeal page for basic information on appeals.
You may also be able to reapply for a PFA order if a new incident of abuse occurs after you are denied the order. Also, you may decide to report the abuse to the police to see if they will arrest the defendant if they believe a crime was committed.
If you were not granted a PFA order because your relationship with the abuser does not qualify, you may be able to seek protection through a protection from harassment order.
In addition, remember that there are still some things you can do to stay safe. It might be a good idea to contact one of the domestic violence resource centers in your area to get help, support, and advice on how to stay safe. They can help you develop a safety plan and help connect you with the resources you need. For safety planning help, ideas, and information, go to our Safety Planning page. You will find a list of Maine resources on our Maine Advocates and Shelters page.
What happens if I move?
If you move within Maine, your order will still be valid and good. Additionally, the federal law provides what is called “full faith and credit,” which means that once you have a criminal or civil protection order, it follows you wherever you go, including U.S. territories and tribal lands. To read more information about moving out of state, visit our Moving to Another State with a Protection from Abuse Order page.
If you are moving to a new state, you may also call the National Center on Protection Orders and Full Faith & Credit (1-800-903-0111 x 2) for information on enforcing your order in another state.
If I get a protection order, will it show up in an internet search?
According to federal law, which applies to all states, territories, and tribal lands, the courts are not supposed to make available publicly on the internet any information that would be likely to reveal your identity or location. This applies to all of these documents:
- the petition you file;
- the protection order, restraining order, or injunction that was issued by the court; or
- the registration of an order in a different state.1
1 18 USC § 2265(d)(3)