By Chyanne Sharma, BC Legal Coach
Family violence is a serious issue that affects thousands of people in British Columbia. If you are experiencing abuse or harassment from a family member or intimate partner, you may be able to obtain a protection order through the court system. A protection order is a court order made by a judge and it requires the person who is abusing or harassing you to stop the behaviour and stay away from you. Here’s what you need to know about obtaining a protection order in BC.
What is Family Violence?
Family violence is defined as any form of abuse, mistreatment or neglect that occurs within a family or intimate relationship. This can include physical, emotional, sexual, or financial abuse. Family violence can happen in any type of relationship, including between spouses, common-law partners, former partners, parents and children, and other family members. It can happen in any cultural, ethnic, or socioeconomic group, and can affect people of all ages, genders, and sexual orientations.
Examples of family violence include:
- Physical abuse: This can include hitting, punching, slapping, kicking, or any other type of physical assault.
- Emotional abuse: This can include verbal or emotional manipulation, humiliation, or intimidation, as well as controlling behaviour or limiting access to resources.
- Sexual abuse: This can include any unwanted sexual contact, coercion, or pressure to engage in sexual activity, or sexual contact with someone who is unable to give consent.
- Financial abuse: This can include controlling or limiting access to financial resources, stealing money, or exploiting someone financially.
- Neglect is also considered to be a form of family violence: This can include failing to provide the basic needs, such as food, shelter, or medical care, or failing to protect someone from harm.
It's important to note that family violence is a serious issue, and there are legal and community resources available to help those who are experiencing it. If you or someone you know is experiencing family violence, it's important to seek help and support. You can contact a local shelter, the police, or a community organization for assistance.
What Does a Protection Order do?
A protection order outlines specific conditions that the abuser must follow, such as staying away from the victim, refraining from contacting them, and/or surrendering any firearms they possess. The goal of the protection order is to prevent further abuse and ensure the safety of the victim.
A protection order can provide several important protections for the victim of abuse, including:
- Stopping the abuse: it can order the abuser to stop the abusive behavior, such as physical violence or harassment, and to stay away from the victim.
- Providing a safe living environment: it can require the abuser to vacate the shared residence or to stay away from the victim's residence or workplace, providing the victim with a safe living environment.
- Prohibiting contact: it can prohibit the abuser from contacting the victim in any way, including in person, by phone, text message, email, or social media.
- Surrendering weapons: it can require the abuser to surrender any firearms they possess, which can help prevent future violent incidents.
- Setting boundaries: it can outline specific conditions that the abuser must follow, such as refraining from alcohol or drug use, attending counseling or anger management programs, or attending court-ordered mediation.
If you are experiencing abuse or harassment from a family member or intimate partner, a protection order can provide a legal means of protection and help you feel safer. It's important to ensure that you have all the necessary information and documents to successfully obtain a protection order.
What are the steps to get a protection order?
The first step in obtaining a protection order is to fill out an Application to Obtain a Protection Order. You can find the forms on the British Columbia Provincial Court website or in person at a courthouse. You’ll also need to collect as much information as you can to complete the form such as:
- Birth dates, names, and any other information about the other party and your children.
- Any agreements or court orders you already have about a protection order or family law matter.
- Information about the dates that you started living together with your partner, got married, separated and were divorced, if applicable.
- Dates and details of any family violence incidents. Schedule 1 of the application acts as your affidavit.
This is where you tell your side of the story, this includes why you need a protection order, the incidents of family violence including outlining any history of violence, etc. You can also include any evidence that you may have to support your claims such as pictures, emails, or text messages.
The second step is to determine whether you should apply to the courts without notice. This means the other party will not be notified that you are trying to obtain a protection order and will be provided a copy of the order after a judge has granted it. Typically, when parties are applying for a court order, you are to provide the other side with the applications and affidavits in advance of the hearing so that they can reply with their position. However, in circumstances where a party is seeking to obtain a protection order, it may be appropriate to not provide notice to the other party if (1) you or your children are in imminent danger of harm or (2) providing notice in advance would have serious consequences. If you wish to seek a protection order without providing notice, then you will have to satisfy the court that there is a real risk of danger or serious consequence if you had to provide notice to the other party before your order is made. A judge will then decide if the order can be made without notice or if notice must be given.
The third step is to file your application which must be done at the Provincial Court registry:
- where your existing Provincial Court case with the same parties is filed,
- nearest to where you or the other person who needs protection lives, or
- nearest to where the child(ren) ordinarily live, in the case where you fear for the safety of your children or there are children named in an existing protection order.
The registry clerk will review your package to make sure it is complete before filing it. You will be given a copy for your records, and they will also provide you with a date for your appearance. If your application is done without notice on an urgent basis, the registry will likely have your application heard on the same day as they try and make sure urgent applications are heard right away.
Unless you are appearing on a without notice basis, the fourth step is to personally serve the other party with a copy of your application and supporting materials after you’ve filed it. When serving the other party, you must do so with at least seven days’ notice of the court appearance. This means that there must be seven days between the date the application was personally handed to the other party and the date of the appearance. Personal service is when an adult over the age of 19, who is not a party to the family law matter, personally hand delivers the application to the other party. The court will then need proof that this individual was personally served, which can be done by having the person who personally served complete a Certificate of Service Form 7.
The fifth step is to attend your hearing after the other party has been served. At the hearing, you will have the opportunity to present evidence and argue your case for a protection order. The other party will also have the opportunity to respond and present their own evidence (unless you are appearing without notice).
It's important to bring all relevant documents and evidence to the hearing, including any police reports or medical records.After considering all the evidence, the judge will make a decision on whether or not to grant the protection order. If the order is granted, it will outline the conditions that the other party must follow, such as staying away from you or refraining from contacting you. The order will also specify the duration of the protection order, which can vary depending on the circumstances.
What Happens After a Protection Order is Made?
The protection order will take effect as soon as the judge grants you the order. That means the other party must follow the conditions of the order from the moment the judge makes the order in court. Usually, the Registry will draft the protection order and have it signed by the judge. They will then provide parties with a copy of the order and a copy will go to the Registry as well. The protection order Registry keeps a record of all protection orders and police officers can contact them to check if a protection order is in place and obtain a copy of the order. If the protection order was obtained without notice, then you must have the order personally served to the other side so that they can comply with the terms right away or apply to have the order set aside. The Registry also provides a free service to help facilitate personal service of the protection order on the other party if they reside in British Columbia. If they live outside of British Columbia, then you will have to arrange for the personal service.
If a protection order is not being followed, the police can enforce it under the Criminal Code. If the other party continues to harass, intimidate, or inflict harm on you or your children, call 911 for help. A protection order will expire on the date a judge orders for it to end. If the judge doesn’t order a specific end date, it expires one year after the date it is made.
How Can Coach My Case Help?
Obtaining a protection order in Provincial Court in British Columbia can be a complex and emotional process. Speaking to a legal coach can help ensure that you have all the necessary information and documents to successfully obtain a protection order. If you are experiencing abuse or harassment from a family member or intimate partner, don't hesitate to seek help and take action to protect yourself. Contact us today to book a free strategy session to get started.