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Legal Information: Tribal

Tribal Law

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March 12, 2010

What can I do when I leave the courthouse if I have been issued a protection order against my abuser?

  • 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 protective order as soon as possible.
  • Keep a copy of the order with you at all times.
  • 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.
  • 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 and your phone number.

What do I do if the abuser violates the order?

You can call the police. Violation of a protection order is contempt of court. The courts have the power to punish people for contempt when they disobey orders of the court or disrupt judiciary proceedings.

If the judge finds that your abuser violated the terms of your protection order, (s)he can find your abuser in contempt of court and fine or jail him, according to your own Tribal Code.

Note: Tribes do not have criminal jurisdiction over non-Indians. Tribal police do have authority to stop, detain and transport non-Indian offenders to state or federal authorities who have criminal jurisdiction over non-Indian crimes. In addition, some tribes use their civil laws to impose civil fines or orders of exclusion to escort non-Indian abusers off tribal lands.

Possible options for punishment of non-Indians are fines, excluding him from appearing in your court, and excluding him from your tribal lands (keeping in mind that with all these options the abuser would still be granted due process of law, such as notice, a hearing and opportunity to be heard.)*

* Family Violence and American Indians/Alaska Natives: A report to the Indian Health Service of Women's Health, Oct. 2002, available at

What if I leave town?

Under Federal Law, once you have a protection order from any state or tribe, you can petition to have that order enforced in every state in the United State according to the Violence Against Women Act.* However, before you go to another state or tribe you may want to call the local police in the area to alert them that you are moving to the area and that you have a protection order.**

When you get to the new area, you may want to call the courthouse to find out what the procedure is for registering your protection order. How and where you register your order can vary by location. According to federal laws, you do not have to register the protection order in order to have it enforced. Though registering your order can have some benefits, depending on your state's confidentiality laws, it is possible that registering your order could inform your abuser of your new address. Consult with a domestic violence women's advocate to determine whether registering your order will be in your best interest.

Note: Even though, by law, your tribal court protection order is valid off the reservation and throughout the country, what has been happening in some places is that women have been required by some state courts to also petition in their state courts for an order off the reservation.

You may want to consult an attorney or ask your court clerk about this -- under federal law, you should not have to file for more than one protection order at any given time. Make sure that the state courts know about your tribal court-issued order and have registered it so that it is enforceable off the reservation.

* 18 USC §2265
** http://www.vaw.umn.edu/documents/survivorbrochure/

How do I change the order?

If you want to change your protection order, you will probably have to go back to court. There may be forms to fill out, and you may need to have another hearing. Ask for help at a local women's resource center or shelter, or ask the court clerk in the court that issued your protection order.

What do I do when the order expires?

If your protection order expires, you might be able to petition the court for an extension of the original order, or you might not. It depends on the tribe or state court that issued your protection order in the first place.

If you would like to extend the protection order, ask the court clerk if it is possible to do so, and how to go about doing so. Finding out this information before your order expires can help protect your safety.

What If I ask for an extension and my request is denied?

If you are not granted an extension on your original protective order, there are still some things you can do to stay safe. See our Staying Safe page for some ideas.

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 devise a safety plan and help connect you with the resources you need. See the Places that Help tab for places in your state.  Also, if your abuser abuses you again, then go back to court and apply for the order again.