Violence is never acceptable under any circumstances, especially within families. The law takes the position that family offense proceedings in the Family Court are quasi-criminal in nature. In fact, a complainant is often times told by the police that they can choose, depending on the circumstances, to file a criminal complaint with the District Attorney’s office, or file a petition in the Family Court for a temporary and/or permanent Order of Protection.
The law mandates that a petitioner or complaining witness must see a Judge on the day on which the petition or complaint is filed. The party will see a Judicial Hearing Officer or Judge and almost invariably, a temporary Order of Protection will be issued. The terms of the temporary Order of Protection vary from case to case, on a factual basis, but they are not handed out lightly. The Jurist very carefully considers the words of the complaining witness and evaluates the demeanor of the complainant. The case is then set down for an appearance of the respondent/defendant within a matter of days, depending on the court’s calendar and the assigned Judge’s availability.
When Family Offense Proceedings were first initiated, there were many instances of individuals who took advantage of the law, and made statements which led to the respondent or defendant suffering very severe consequences. Now, a Jurist who reviews the case can tell when a complaining witness or petitioner is making false or exaggerated claims. However, the Sheriffs are the officials empowered to carry out warrants or the service of these Orders of Protection and are mandated to act on these legal papers immediately. In extreme circumstances, the respondent/defendant will be removed from the household without any concern as to where that person is going to live, or how they are going to manage without their personal effects. Some cases require such removal, but many do not. It is important to have experienced counsel to navigate these proceedings successfully.