Family Offense

Family Court has the ability to punish specific criminal behavior if it occurs within a family. Family is defined by the statute as persons who are related by blood or marriage, have a child in common, or have an intimate relationship. Family Court Act §812. Not all criminal acts are within the jurisdiction of Family Court, so the acts complained of must be specifically outlined in the Statute.

After filing a family offense petition, the duty judge will hear from the petitioner and, if appropriate, will issue a temporary Order of Protection. There are two types of Orders, a full stay away order, which includes a direction to stay away from petitioner, his/her home, place of employment, if there are children from their schools and daycare centers, or a limited Order, which directs the respondent to refrain from committing any additional criminal acts against the petitioner.

If there are children involved the Court can determine what contact, if any, the respondent may have with the children until the case returns to Court. This may include an order suspending all contact, directing supervised contact, or putting specific times and days for contact.

Phone contact can also be limited. This provision is not limited to just actual phone calls, but also includes, texts, voicemails, emails, and other digital media, or asking someone else to do any of the above on his/her behalf.

Once an Order of Protection is in place, it can only be changed by a Judge, and until the Order is changed or dismissed, the respondent should be exceedingly careful to obey all of its terms. Any violation of an existing Order of Protection may result in an additional criminal charge of Contempt, which if proven at trial can include up to six months in jail for each violation.

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