Do you want a protection order? Has someone brought a protection order against you? Read more to find out about Wyoming protection orders.
What is a protection order?
A protection order is a temporary Court order prohibiting a person (called the respondent) from contacting another person (called the petitioner). There are two kinds of Wyoming protection orders. There is a domestic violence protection order, and a stalking protection order.
Domestic Violence Protection Order.
A domestic violence protection order is brought under Wyoming Statute 35-21-101 et seq. A domestic violence protection order requires two elements:
First, the petitioner (the person asking for the order) be in a qualifying relationship with the respondent (the person against whom the order is brought). The most common qualifying relationships include:
- People married to each other.
- People dating each other.
- People living together (even roommates).
- Parents and children.
An Act of Domestic Abuse
Second, the petition for a protection order must assert that an act of domestic abuse occurred.
“Domestic abuse” means the occurrence of one (1) or more of the following acts by a household member but does not include acts of self defense:
- Physically abusing, threatening to physically abuse, attempting to cause or causing physical harm or acts which unreasonably restrain the personal liberty of any household member;
- Placing a household member in reasonable fear of imminent physical harm; or
- Causing a household member to engage involuntarily in sexual activity by force, threat of force or duress.
If you’re in a qualifying relationship, and domestic abuse occurred, then you can get a protection order.
Overview of the Process for Obtaining A Domestic Violence Protection Order
The petitioner fills out a form called a petition for a protection order. Often, the petitioner receives help filling out the form from an advocate. The petition must have a sworn statement alleging that the parties are in a qualifying relationship and describing the domestic abuse. The petitioner then files the form in the Circuit Court.
Once the Court reviews the petition, the Court must issue a temporary protection order if it finds that there exists a danger of future acts of domestic abuse. Additionally, the Court shall have the Sheriff serve the respondent with the temporary protection order. The temporary order will include a time and date for a court hearing. The Court is required to set the hearing within 72 hours after the filing of the petition.
Consider this hypothetical example. On Monday morning, the petitioner files for a protection order and alleges that she is in a qualifying relationship with the respondent and that he abused her. On Monday afternoon, the Judge reviews the petition, and issues a temporary order, setting a hearing on Thursday. On Tuesday, the Sheriff receives a copy of the order and serves the respondent. He then has two days to get ready for a Court hearing.
What Happens at the Court Hearing
At the Court hearing, the Judge determines whether an act of domestic abuse a occurred. First, the petitioner has a chance to make an opening statement and tell the Court about the evidence. Then, the respondent has the chance to respond with an opening statement. Because an opening statement is an argument, not sworn testimony, or evidence, the petitioner then has to present evidence. This can mean calling a witness to the domestic abuse, or introducing photographs, medical records and other evidence. The respondent has a chance to cross-examine the evidence. The respondent can also present his own defense and call his own witnesses and offer his own evidence. The entire court hearing can last several hours; sometimes complicated issues can take even longer.
At the end of the hearing, the Court will issue a ruling on the petition. If the Court finds an act of domestic violence has occurred, the Court will enter a protection order.
Effect of a Domestic Violence Protection Order
A domestic violence protection order lasts one year. The judge has broad powers to protect the petitioner. For example, the Court can order:
- That the respondent leave the home.
- That the respondent not initiate any contact with the petitioner.
- That the respondent pay child support.
- That a temporary custody order is required, and give the petitioner custody of the children.
- That the respondent complete alcohol, drug, anger management, or other counseling.
- Other relief.
Any violation of the terms of a protection order is a crime. If the respondent fails to obey the order, he can be jailed while criminal charges are brought.
Stalking Protection Order
A stalking protection order is different from a domestic violence protection order because it does not require that the parties have any relationship. Instead, the petitioner alleges that the respondent was stalking the petitioner. A stalking protection order is filed under Wyoming Statute 7-3-507, and may be filed by either the alleged victim or the district attorney. To issue a stalking protection order, the Court must find that an act of stalking has occurred.
Under Wyoming Statute 6-2-506 stalking is defined as follows:
A person commits the crime of stalking if, with intent to harass another person, the person engages in a course of conduct reasonably likely to harass that person, including but not limited to any combination of the following:
(i) Communicating, anonymously or otherwise, or causing a communication with another person by verbal, electronic, mechanical, telegraphic, telephonic or written means in a manner that harasses;
(ii) Following a person, other than within the residence of the defendant;
(iii) Placing a person under surveillance by remaining present outside his or her school, place of employment, vehicle, other place occupied by the person, or residence other than the residence of the defendant; or
(iv) Otherwise engaging in a course of conduct that harasses another person.
A stalking order is obtained following a similar process to the domestic violence protection order process. The Court issues a different order following the hearing. Unlike the domestic violence order, there is no findings or requirements related to child custody or child support or anything like that. Instead, the order prohibits the respondent from going near the petitioner.
Other Issues with a Stalking Protection Order
A stalking protection order can raise other legal issues. First, there are free speech concerns related to stalking. Protesting against someone is not the same as stalking them. Additionally, because stalking is also a crime, it’s possible that the Court can issue the protection order in a civil or criminal case, and the filing of a civil stalking order can alert the prosecutor to criminal conduct, which may result in separate criminal charges.
Where do lawyers fit in?
It’s common for lawyers to participate in protection order hearings, both in domestic violence protection orders and in stalking protection orders. A lawyer may prepare the petition and represent the petitioner at the hearing. That means the lawyer will cross examine the respondent, and offer evidence on the petitioner’s behalf. Or the lawyer can represent the respondent and defend against the petition, and the situation is reversed with the lawyer cross examining the petitioner. I’ve done both. Sometimes, both parties have a lawyer. Sometimes neither party has a lawyer.
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