What is the legal definition of vulnerable adult abuse?
To file for an order, you (a “vulnerable adult”) must have experienced any of the following acts committed by a caretaker, family or household member, or a person who is in a “confidential relationship” with you:
- emotional and psychological abuse, which includes repeatedly doing any of the following:
- a sexual act or the simulation of a sexual act directed at you and without your consent that involves nudity or is obscene;
- unreasonable confinement;
- harm or damage or destruction of your property or pets; or
- ridiculing or demeaning conduct, derogatory remarks, verbal harassment, or threats to cause physical or emotional and psychological abuse;
- financial exploitation, which means wrongfully taking or controlling your property with the intent to defraud you;
- neglect, which is when a caretaker causes harm to your health or welfare without a reasonable medical excuse, including the failure to provide you with sufficient food, clothing, shelter, or medical care;
- physical abuse, which is physical harm, bodily injury, the attempt to cause physical harm or injury, or fear of immediate physical harm or bodily injury.1
1 SDCL §§ 21-65-1(4), (13); 22-46-1(4) – (7)
Who is considered to be a "vulnerable adult" and who can file a petition for an order?
The following people can file for a vulnerable adult protection order:
- a “vulnerable adult,” which the law defines as:
- someone who is sixty-five or older who is unable to protect himself/herself from abuse as a result of age or a mental or physical condition; or
- an adult of any age with a disability; or
- a vulnerable adult’s spouse, relative, household member, caregiver, or fiduciary who is filing on behalf of the vulnerable adult. Note: A “fiduciary” is someone who has the legal power to act on another’s behalf.1
1 SDCL § 21-65-1(10), (14), (15)
What types of orders are there and how long do they last?
There are two types of orders, ex parte and permanent.
An ex parte temporary order can be issued without the abuser being notified beforehand if the petition alleges that the vulnerable adult is in present danger of vulnerable adult abuse. An ex parte temporary protection order generally lasts for 30 days. 1
A permanent protection order can be issued after a hearing where both parties have the right to appear. A permanent protection order can last up to five years.2
1 SDCL §§ 21-65-8; 21-65-3
2 SDCL § 21-65-11
What protections can I get in a vulnerable adult protection order?
In an ex parte temporary order, the judge can grant any protections that the judge believes are proper, including:
- ordering the abuser to not commit vulnerable adult abuse; and
- removing (excluding) any person from the home of the vulnerable adult.1
In a permanent order, the judge can grant any protections that the judge believes are proper, including:
- ordering the abuser to not commit vulnerable adult abuse;
- if the respondent and the vulnerable adult are both owners, tenants, living in the same home, or are married to each other, ordering the respondent to move out of the home;
- ordering the respondent to provide suitable alternative housing for the vulnerable adult;
- allowing either party who is leaving the home to get their personal property along with a police escort;
- prohibiting the respondent from entering or attempting to enter any location that the judge believes is necessary to prevent further abuse;
- prohibiting the respondent from exercising any legal powers on behalf of the vulnerable adult;
- prohibiting the respondent from exercising control over the funds, benefits, property, resources, belongings, or assets of the vulnerable adult and requiring them to be turned back over to the vulnerable adult;
- requiring the respondent to follow the instructions of the guardian, conservator, or attorney-in-fact of the vulnerable adult; and
- anything else that the judge believes is necessary to provide for the safety and welfare of the vulnerable adult. 2
1 SDCL § 21-65-3
2 SDCL §§ 21-65-11; 21-65-12
In which county do I file a petition?
A petition for a vulnerable adult protection order can be filed in the circuit court or in a magistrate court in the county where the vulnerable adult lives or in the county where the abuser lives.1
1 SDCL § 21-65-2