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 Vermont 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.
I was not granted a relief from abuse order. Is there another order I can get?
If you were not granted an relief from abuse order because you are not considered a family or household member of the abuser, you may be able to get a stalking or sexual assault prevention order. You can only file for a stalking or sexual assault prevention order for yourself or your child if you are filing against someone who is NOT a family or household member and one of the following crimes has been committed against you.
- Stalking is when someone does two or more of the following acts:
- following you;
- lying in wait for you (hiding in order to attack or harm you); or
- threatening behavior directed at you or a member of your family.
Note: The acts must serve no legitimate purpose and cause you to reasonably fear for your safety or cause you substantial emotional distress.1
- Sexual assault is when someone commits one of the following crimes against you:
To file for a stalking or sexual assault relief from abuse order, you will need to go to the superior court in the county where you live. If you leave your home to escape abuse, you have the option to file in the county where you used to live or in the county that you moved to.3See our Sexual Assault or Stalking Protective Orders page for more information.
1 VT ST T. 12 § 5131(1),(3),(6)
2 VT ST T. 12 § 5131(5)
3 VT ST T. 12 § 5132
What should I do when I leave the courthouse?
Here are some things you may want to consider doing. However, you will have to evaluate each one to see if it works for your situation.
- Review the order before you leave the courthouse. If something is wrong or missing, ask the clerk to correct the order before you leave.
- Make several copies of the order as soon as possible.
- Keep a copy of the order with you at all times.
- You may want to leave copies of the order at your work place, 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.
- You may wish to consider changing your locks (if permitted by law) and your phone number.
What can I do if the abuser violates the order?
You can call the police even if you think it is a minor violation. Intentionally violating a relief from abuse order can be put in jail for up to one year, fined up to $5,000, or both. The penalties increase can increase to up to three years in prison and up to $25,000 in fines (or both) if s/he has a prior conviction for violating a sexual assault or stalking protective order, a relief from abuse order, or an order preventing contact with a child or if s/he a prior conviction for domestic assault or aggravated domestic assault.1
Make sure a police report is filled out, even if no arrest is made. If you have legal documentation of all violations of the order, it may help you have the order extended or modified in the future. It is a good idea to write down the name of the responding officer(s) and their badge numbers in case you want to follow up on your case.
You also have the option for filing for contempt in the court where your order was issued.
1 VT ST T. 13 § 1030(a),(b)
Can a relief from abuse order be modified (changed) or extended?
You can ask the court to modify or extend your relief from abuse order by filing a motion in the court where you received the order. You can find the form online at the Vermont Judiciary website here. You will have to attend a hearing to have an order extended or modified. A judge may extend your order even if there were no incidents of abuse while you were protected by the order. Only the judge, not your own actions or behavior, can change or cancel the relief from abuse order.
It is also be possible that the defendant (abuser) can file a motion to modify the parts of an ex parte relief from abuse order regarding child custody or possession of the home. If the judge thinks that the abuser has given “compelling” (convincing) reasons why the judge should change the order prior to the scheduled hearing date, the judge can schedule a hearing upon two days’ notice (or less) to you to consider the abuser’s request.1 At the hearing, you will have a chance to advocate to the judge why the order should not be changed.
1 V.R.F.P. Rule 9(g)(1),(2)
What happens if I move?
Your relief from abuse order is good everywhere in the state. If you move to a new county, you may want to contact the court clerk in that county to ask if you should file a copy of the order within your new county court. If you choose to do so, be sure to tell the clerk if you need your address to be kept confidential.
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. Different states have different rules for enforcing out-of-state protection orders. You can find out about your state’s policies by contacting a domestic violence program, the clerk of courts, or the prosecutor in your area.
To read more about how to get your relief from abuse order enforced in another state, or how to get an out of state order enforced in Vermont, please see our Moving to Another State with a Relief from Abuse Order page.
If you are moving out of state, you can call the domestic violence programs in the state where you are going to find out how that state treats out-of-state orders.
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, ext. 2) for information on enforcing your order there.
Note: If you are looking to enforce a civil protective order on a military installation, or a military protective order off the installation, please see our Military Protective Orders page for more information.