Domestic violence, or what is now more appropriately referred to as “intimate partner violence,” is a crime taken seriously under Illinois law. Illinois Law gives victims of domestic violence an avenue of safety through “orders of protection.” Orders of protection, which are often referred to as restraining orders, are orders signed by a judge that either order someone to stop certain behavior or to stay away from someone else.
To obtain an order of protection, a person must first ask the court for one by filing a petition. In the petition, the person being abused is required to explain to a judge why an order of protection against their “family or household member” is necessary. This explanation is provided by way of an “affidavit,” wherein the victim of such abuse gives a detailed description of the events that took place. The Illinois Domestic Violence statute relates specifically to “family or household members,” which are defined under the statute as:
- Spouses or former spouses;
- Parents, children, and stepchildren;
- People who share or formerly shared the same home;
- People who dated or were engaged, including same sex couples;
- People who allegedly have a child in common; and,
- People with disabilities and their personal assistants.
Further, the person who the order of protection is being sought against must have abused the petitioner in some way. Abuse is defined as:
- Physical abuse;
- Harassment (for example creating a disturbance at someone’s job, repeatedly telephoning, following or watching someone, preventing someone from seeing their child, or threatening to hurt someone);
- Making a child or other person watch abuse;
- Forcing someone to do something they don’t want to do; and
- Denying a disabled person access to needed care.
When a judge issues an order of protection, the delegated conditions of the order must be adhered to for the mandated time period. In the areas of divorce and family law, orders of protection often require the respondent to either stop abusive behaviors, attend counseling, pay child support, move out of a shared residence, or stay away from certain locations such as the victim’s home, school, or work.
Emergency orders of protection are commonly sought in the family law context and must be obeyed immediately by the person whom it is entered against without the judge hearing the accused’s side of the story. Typically this involves being escorted by the police to the shared residence in order to remove essential living items. Then the respondent must leave the residence for the specified time period and participate in no contact (or the terms of the order) with the petitioner until their subsequent hearing date, at which point the accused will have the opportunity to tell the judge what happened.
But do orders of protection actually work?
Or are they “just a piece of paper” that abusers can easily disregard? Well, Illinois is one of the few states that has enacted legislation overcoming the “just a piece of paper” theory. Judges in Illinois now have the ability to order violators to wear a GPS monitoring device, in hopes of better protecting victims from harm.