What if My Spouse Violates a Restraining Order?
If you have experienced abuse or harassment at the hands of your current or former spouse or common-law spouse, Alabama law allows you to file for legal protection. This orders the other party to stay away from your home and place of employment as well as refrain from calling, texting, emailing, sending postal mail, or contacting you in any way through social media. He or she also cannot enlist other people to contact you indirectly.
The restraining order, also known as a protective order, also places several other restrictions on your spouse, including the following:
- Orders the defendant to leave the home the two of you shared, regardless of who legally owns it
- Prohibits him or her from selling, destroying, hiding, or disposing of joint personal property or mortgaging a jointly owned home or land
- Awards custody of minor children to the person seeking relief through a protective order
While it is good to have these protections in place, it doesn’t always mean the subject of a protective order will adhere to the restrictions. If you’re concerned that your spouse may violate the protective order or already has, it’s important to understand your rights as an abuse victim in Alabama. Keep in mind that Alabama will also enforce protection orders from other states. However, the out-of-state warrant must include the following:
- The full names of both parties
- Date of issue
- Name of the issuing out-of-state court and signature of a judicial officer
- Contains specific terms
- Defendant has received a notice of the order and has had the opportunity to respond to it
Whether your protective order is in-state or out-of-state, Alabama authorities won’t enforce it if it is expired.
Enforcement of a Protective Order
Any current order of protection issued by an Alabama court is enforceable under state law. If your spouse willingly violates the terms of the order, he or she has committed a Class A misdemeanor. You should contact your local police immediately if you see your spouse near your home or work or if he or she has tried to contact or harass you in some other way. Alabama law allows police officers to arrest the offending spouse without a warrant if you can demonstrate probable cause that he or she willfully disregarded any terms in the order.
Unfortunately, the responding officer may not arrive in enough time to catch your spouse in the act of trying to abuse or harass you. In this situation, you should provide the police office with as much information as possible so he or she can attempt to locate and arrest your spouse. This should include a physical description that includes clothing as well as a description of the vehicle if your spouse arrived by car. You should also request a criminal warrant for your spouse’s arrest from the local magistrate.
Consequences Your Spouse Could Face for Violating a Protective Order
If proven guilty of committing a Class A misdemeanor by violating a protective order, your spouse may have to spend up to one year in jail or pay a fine of up to $6,000. For a second offense, he or she would face an additional 48 hours imprisonment at a minimum. This increases to additional 30 days of jail time for a third offense.
If your spouse commits an act of abuse, which state law defines as assault, sexual abuse, stalking, harassment, trespassing, theft, or child abuse, he or she would face the same consequences for a first offense. A second offense would mean a minimum jail sentence of 30 days and a third offense would bring a 120-day jail sentence.
Work with an Experienced Family Law Attorney
You and your children have the right to a life free from abuse. If you’re considering filing for an order of protection and subsequently filing for divorce, we encourage you to contact Alsobrook & Jackson, Attorneys at Law at 334-737-3718 to obtain experienced legal counsel. We can also assist you with working with the local magistrate if your spouse violates a protective order. Your first consultation is at no charge.