What is the legal definition of abuse in Nebraska?
This section defines abuse for the purposes of getting a domestic violence protection order. The following acts are considered abuse (domestic violence) when they occur between family or household members:
- causing or attempting to cause bodily injury, with or without a “dangerous instrument” (i.e., a weapon, heavy object, etc.);
- placing someone in fear of bodily injury by “credible threat,” which means:
- a verbal or written threat (including via email, text, etc.)
- a threat that is implied through a pattern of conduct or a combination of verbal, written, or electronic statements/conduct that causes you to fear for your safety or your family’s safety; (Note: you do not have to prove that the harasser had the intention to actually act on the threat, just that s/he seemed to have the ability to do so if s/he chose to. If the harasser makes the threat while s/he is in jail, that does not matter – you can still believe that s/he has the ability to carry out the threat); or
- forcing unwanted sexual contact or sexual penetration, as defined by the law.1
Family or household members include:
- spouses or former spouses,
- people who are presently living together or who have lived together in the past,
- people who have a child in common whether or not they have been married or have lived together at any time,
- people related by blood or marriage, and
- people who are presently involved in a dating relationship with each other or who have been involved in a dating relationship with each other in the past.2
1 NE R.S. § 42-903(1)
2 NE R.S. § 42-903(3)
What types of protection orders are there? How long do they last?
In Nebraska there are ex parte temporary protection orders and final protection orders.
Ex parte is a Latin term meaning “from one side.” These orders are called ex parte because you may receive them without prior notice to the abuser or his/her presence in the courtroom. When you file your petition for a protection order, a judge can issue an ex parte order if s/he has reason to believe that you are in immediate danger of being abused based on your affidavit or your statements.1 (If the judge does not give you an ex parte order, the judge should schedule a hearing within 14 days where the abuser can be present and you will have to prove that the order should be issued.2) If an ex parte order is issued, it will be served upon the abuser along with a form for the abuser to request a “show-cause hearing” in which the abuser would appear in court and present evidence (“show cause”) as to why the order should be dismissed – and you would present evidence why you should keep the order.
If the abuser wants to request a show-cause hearing, s/he has to return the form to the clerk within 10 business days of receiving the order and the hearing would be scheduled within 30 days. The judge can also order that a hearing be held based on your request or based on the judge’s own decision to hold a hearing. The temporary ex parte order would be considered to be a final order if the respondent has been properly served with the temporary ex parte order and any of the following happen:
- the abuser does not request a show-cause hearing and you do not request one nor does the judge decide to order one;
- a hearing is held, and the abuser does not appear at the hearing;
- a hearing is held, and the abuser appears but cannot prove that the order should be dismissed. Note: If the respondent appears at the hearing and shows “good cause” why your order should not remain in effect, the judge can end your temporary order.3
A final protection order will last for one year but it can be renewed.4 See Can I extend my protection order? for more information.
1 NE R.S. § 42-925(1)
2 NE R.S. § 42-925(3)
3 NE R.S. § 42-925(2)
4 NE R.S. §§ 42-925(5); 42-924(3)
What protections can I get in a protection order?
An ex parte order or a final protection order can do the following:
- order the abuser to:
- not to restrain you or restrict your liberty (freedom);
- not to threaten, assault, bother, attack, or otherwise disturb you;
- not to contact you in any way;
- be excluded (removed) from your home (regardless of who owns the home);
- stay away from any place specified by the court;
- not have or buy a firearm; and
- grant you:
- temporary custody of any minor children for up to 90 days; and
- anything else that the judge believes is necessary for your safety.1
Whether a judge orders any or all of the above depends on the facts of your case.
1 NE R.S. §§ 42-924(1); 42-925(1)
In which court do I file for a protection order?
You must file the petition in district court and the case may take place in either district court or in county court.1 In the petition, you may be asked to include whether you want the case to be heard by a county court judge or by a district court judge.2 However, just because you choose a particular court, it doesn’t mean that the case will necessarily go to that court. If you are unsure of which court to request, you might want to ask an attorney in your county to see what the difference is (if there is one). For courthouse locations in your area, see NE Courthouse Locations. To find legal organizations, go to NE Finding a Lawyer.
1 NE R.S. § 42-924(2)
2 NE R.S. § 25-2740(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.