Domestic violence is a pattern of behavior in which one person in a household or relationship uses physical, emotional or sexual violence or threats to control another. If you are a victim of domestic violence or believe you are in danger of becoming one, the first thing you must do is get to a safe place, such as a domestic violence shelter. Domestic violence is a crime, but even though the state prosecutes the crime, you need an attorney to ensure that you are completely protected. Your attorney can help you with the following:
- Personal protection orders (PPO). It is not enough to have the perpetrator arrested for the crime. You need to have a protection order in place so that he or she cannot harm or threaten you ever again. Your attorney can help you get an order that directs the perpetrator to stay away from you, your family, your place of business, school and your home. He or she is directed not to contact, come close to, call, threaten or harm you or your children. The order can also require the surrender of firearms.
- Protecting your children. If your children have been the victims of abuse, you need an attorney to protect your parental rights (to ensure Children’s Protective Services does not remove them from your care) and to make sure the abuser has no further contact with them. This can include personal protection orders for you and your children, as well as an order of child custody.
- Possession of the home. Obtaining exclusive occupancy of the home you shared with the abuser is critical. Your attorney can ensure you retain all rights to stay in the home and keep the abuser out.
- Enforcing the PPO. Your attorney helps you make sure that should your abuser violate the PPO in any way, he or she is punished to the full extent of the law and you are provided with further protections. Violators face fines and jail time and your attorney will seek the highest penalty available.
- Divorce. If you need to file for divorce, you can do so immediately. Although Michigan is a no-fault divorce state, domestic violence can play an important role in your divorce, influencing custody, alimony, and property settlement. You can also obtain a PPO as part of your divorce.
- Damages. If you have been hurt, stalked, or suffered emotional harm due to the actions of your abuser, your attorney can sue him or her for civil damages and he or she can be ordered to pay you to make up for the harm.