Cases involving domestic violence allegations are some of the most emotionally challenging cases in family law, and it’s vitally important to get them right. The facts can be challenging to pin down, and in far too many cases, domestic violence impacts both the welfare of children and the unity of families.
When a person decides to report on domestic violence against herself or her children (or himself or his children), the first step is to call 911, and assuming police respond and take the assailant away, the victim may only have a limited time of peace, depending on what, if any charges are filed and whether the perpetrator is permitted out of jail. If the assault happens at night, the victim should then seek what’s called a MEPO (a Magistrate’s Emergency Protective Order), which protects him or her from the assailant for a period of one to three months.
While it’s helpful to have that Order, it’s not a cure-all for the situation. There might be a lapse between when a MEPO expires and when the case actually goes to court. Also, it’s a piece of paper, and while there are potential punishments for violating it, it’s not a safeguard against someone who is intent on getting near and possibly harming the person who filed the MEPO.
The next step would be to seek a Temporary Protective Order, an extendable protective order which is a precursor to a Final Protective Order. The Final Protective Order requires a hearing, but when granted, can be in effect for as long as two years.
I’ve heard of police giving stark advice to victims of domestic violence: buy a gun, buy a dog, or move. Some people will opt for building a panic room within the house as a safe place to retreat, but of course, not everyone has the means to do so.
In San Antonio, the Bexar County Family Justice Center can be a helpful resource for people dealing with domestic violence. If there’s a lapse between when a MEPO expires and when the District Attorney’s office starts work on a case, the Family Justice Center can assist in helping someone secure a Temporary Protective Order (though it can be a very lengthy process).
Also, our office is able to provide consultation and assistance should the hoops be too challenging to jump through. We know that it can be difficult to deal with the fallout of domestic violence and then try to navigate a sometimes-confusing system that isn’t always as helpful as it should be. If you do need help getting through it, know that we’re a call away.