If you have an order of protection case against you in the New York Family Court, it may be very important that you resolve this case in order to avoid potential problems with your job or, if you are not a US citizen, to avoid immigration issues. Additionally, an order of protection issued against you after a hearing can affect any future cases involving people who are parents and have cases involving custody or visitation of their children.
The Domestic Violence Registry Who Can Access It?
New York State orders of protection are maintained in Albany in a computerized database called the domestic violence registry. Access to the registry is supposed to be limited to courts, including the Family Court, the police, other law enforcement, and departments of probation.
You notice I used the words “supposed to”. It is pretty obvious that law enforcement agencies, including local and state police, FBI, etc., will be able to access these records if you are applying for a job. If they are not able to get into the registry themselves,they will require you to sign releases as part of the employment application process.
It is likely that some people have accessed the registry even though they are not supposed to. I had a recent case where I represented a heart surgeon on an appeal of a case where the court issued a 5 year order of protection against him. He told me that due to the order of protection, he was being denied privileges at certain hospitals.
The New York legislature tried and failed at least twice to pass a bill making it a crime for anyone other than someone working for a court, law enforcement agency, or probation department to access the registry. This indicates that the registry has been breached on a number of occasions.
Immigrations Consequences Of Orders Of Protection
A court finding of domestic violence can have severe consequences for non-citizens. While immigration policies can vary radically between administrations, as we have seen in recent years, administrations can change and policies can change.
Under the Trump administration, enforcement was occasionally pushed to extremes. There were cases reported in the news when ICE went to hospitals to arrest minor children who were recovering from operations, and where people who had been living in the US for many years and had green cards ended up in deportation proceedings after they applied for citizenship because Immigration found something in their records from years ago.
ICE will generally have access to final orders of protection and has been known to screen them and go after people who have orders against them with findings of domestic violence. These orders remain on the registry indefinitely and can present a grave risk to non-citizens should the administration change.
Because of the serious potential immigration consequences for non-citizens and their children, it is essential if you are a non-citizen who has had a Family Court family offense petition filed against you, that you hire an experienced family law attorney to represent you.
Best Resolutions Of Family Court Order Of Protection Cases
If you are worried about the effect of an order of protection on your career or on your immigration status, or because of some other reason, you may wish to consider agreeing to the order of protection without admitting to any wrongdoing.
This would have to be done with the consent of the petitioner, as well as of the judge. However, the petitioner would still get an order of protection which protects him or her just as well as one issued after a full trial, and judges will seldom refuse to sign off on this type of settlement. Often, this type of settlement would limit the order of protection to one year instead of two.
Another option is that the parties agree that, instead of an order of protection, the Family Court could issue a ” civil order” that the respondent will stay away from the petitioner, the petitioner’s home and family, and will not commit acts which would constitute harassment, stalking, assault, etc. A violation of this order could be enforced by the Family Court as contempt of court with potential jail time of up to six months.
This arrangement is very favorable for the respondent, but much less favorable to someone who is a victim of domestic violence. The criminal courts have no jurisdiction to punish someone for violating this type of order, so the police will not be able to arrest the abuser, so the petitioner would have to file a violation petition in the Family Court.
In my experience of over 25 years trying cases in the Family Court, the Family Court almost never orders jail time in any case other than for failure to pay child support. Also, abusers and stalkers in general have much more respect for the criminal justice system than for the Family Court.
The Importance Of Representation
In general, Order of Protection cases can be emotionally laden, and if there are competent lawyers representing each party, it is more likely that there can be a settlement which does not have the potential of destroying the respondent’s life. Just having your own order of protecttion lawyer goes a long way to convincing the judge to approve different kinds of settlements.
For information about New York orders of protection in family court click here.