What is the legal definition of domestic abuse in Arkansas?
This section defines domestic abuse for the purposes of getting a domestic violence order of protection.
Domestic abuse is when a family or household member commits any of the following acts against you:
- physical harm;
- bodily injury;
- the fear that physical harm, bodily injury, or assault is about to happen to you; or
- sexual conduct (of a criminal nature) whether the victim is a minor or an adult.*
* Ark. Code § 9-15-103(3)
What types of order of protection are there? How long do they last?
There are two types of orders:
Temporary Order of Protection
A temporary order of protection is an ex parte court order designed to provide you and your family members with immediate protection from the abuser. A judge may issue an ex parte order on the day you file your petition if s/he believes that you are in immediate danger, or if the abuser is scheduled to be released from prison within 30 days and you will be in danger when s/he is released.* "Ex parte" means that the order is issued without prior notice to the abuser and without the abuser being present. The temporary order will protect you from the time it is granted until your full court hearing takes place, usually within 30 days.**
Final Order of Protection
A final order of protection can be issued only after a court hearing takes place where you and the abuser both have the opportunity to appear in court and present evidence. A final order will last for at least 90 days and at most 10 years. The judge may renew the order after it expires if s/he finds that the threat of domestic abuse still exists.***
* Ark. Code § 9-15-206(a)
** Ark. Code § 9-15-204(a)(1)
*** Ark. Code § 9-15-205(b)
How can an order of protection help me?
In both a temporary order of protection and a final order of protection, a judge may order*:
- the abuser not to commit any criminal acts against you;
- the abuser to stay out of your home or the home you shared together;
- the abuser to stay away from your work, school, or other places you go;
- the abuser not to contact you directly or through someone else.
- temporary custody or temporary visitation rights for any minor children you have with the abuser;
- child support for any child you have in common with the abuse;
- temporary financial support for you (if you are married to the abuser);
- that the winning party compensate the other party for reasonable attorney fees;
- that one party have custody or care of a pet in the home;
- anything else that the judge thinks will help keep you or your family and other household members safe, which can include that the abuser not injure, mistreat, molest, or harass you or threaten to do any of those things.**
Note: In addition, if you share a cell phone with the abuser and the abuser is the account holder, you can ask the judge to transfer the account into your name. You can request this in the first court hearing or in any subsequent hearing. However, you have to prove to the judge that you and any minor children in your care are the primary users of the wireless telephone number(s).***
Whether a judge orders any or all of the above depends on the facts of your case.
* Ark. Code § 9-15-206(b)
** Ark. Code § 9-15-205(a)
*** Ark. Code § 9-15-218(a)
How much does it cost? Do I need a lawyer?
There is no filing fee for an order of protection.*
Although you do not need a lawyer to file for an order of protection, it may be to your advantage to find a lawyer. This is especially important if the abuser has a lawyer. Even if the abuser does not have a lawyer, it is recommended that you contact a lawyer to make sure that your legal rights are protected.
If you cannot afford a lawyer but want one to help you with your case, you can find information on legal assistance and domestic violence organizations on the Places that Help page. In addition, the domestic violence organizations in your area and/or court staff may be able to answer some of your questions or help you fill out the necessary court forms. You will find contact information for courthouses on the AR Courthouse Locations page.*
* Ark. Code § 9-15-202(a)(1)
In which county can I file for a domestic violence order of protection?
You can file for a domestic violence order of protection in the county where you live (which includes a temporary stay in a domestic violence shelter),* where the abuse occurred, or in any county where the abuser can be served with the court papers (i.e., where s/he lives or works).**
Note: If you are trying to keep your address confidential, consider that filing in the county where you are in shelter could alert the abuser to the fact that you are living in that county.
* Ark. Code § 9-15-103(1)
** Ark. Code § 9-15-201(b)