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Legal Information: Tribal

Tribal Law

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March 12, 2010

Am I eligible to get a protection order?

It depends. Each Indian tribe and Alaska Native village has different laws which describe who is eligible to file for a protection order and who is not.

Generally, if you have been the victim of domestic violence by a family or household member (as defined by your tribal laws) or you have a fear of serious injury or harm by a family or household member, then you are eligible to file for a protection order.

In order to find out what the laws are in your community, you can go to the local courthouse and ask the court clerk what the eligibility requirements are for filing for protection orders.

How much does it cost to get a protection order?

It depends. The cost of filing for protection orders are different in each state and tribe. Often, there is no fee, or if there is a fee you can file to have it waived if you cannot afford to pay.

To find out how much it costs on your reservation, you can ask the court clerk or someone at a women's resource center.

Do I need a lawyer? What does pro se mean?

Pro se means that you can go to court without a lawyer. You can represent yourself throughout the process of seeking a protection order. Many people have been successful in getting protection orders when they have gone pro se, yet in many situations it would be to your advantage to have an attorney to help you through this process. (This is especially true of your abuser has an attorney or child custody issues are involved.)

If you do not want to or cannot hire an attorney, there are many people who can help you go through this process. Some tribal courts allow non-attorneys who have gone through special training to practice in tribal court. Having another person give you support through this process can be a tremendous help and could make it more likely for a judge to grant your order. You will find someone who can help and who knows the system by contacting a local domestic violence organization in your area.

Is there anything I can do to protect myself if I am not eligible for a protection order?

Yes. Whether or not you are eligible for a protection order, you should consider making a safety plan to help keep you and your family safe. If you are not safe at home, you might try staying with a friend or at a shelter for victims of domestic violence. Shelters are often good places to go to for help, support, and advice. Please see our Staying Safe page for ideas.

Check the "States and Local Programs" page under the Places that Help tab at the top of this page for the state your reservation is located in for a list of resources that may be able to help you and your family.