Intimate partner abuse is a common reason for people to decide to leave their marriage. However, leaving an abuser can put you in an incredibly vulnerable position where you may fear for your safety or the safety of any children you share with your spouse.

Arizona law makes intimate partner abuse a crime, but just because the state hasn’t prosecuted your spouse doesn’t mean you have no rights or options. You can still potentially seek an order of protection before you notify your spouse of your intent to file for divorce, potentially helping protect you from acts of violence or threats during this vulnerable time.

Get ready to prove that you require protection

Generally speaking, you have to have a qualifying relationship with the alleged abuser, which includes either marriage or cohabitation, as well as shared parenting of children. Beyond that, you need some kind of evidence to convince the courts to issue an order of protection. That evidence could include threatening messages from your ex or official records, such as medical or legal records, that confirm previous, significant altercations between you and your spouse.

The courts typically notify your spouse of your request

As with any sort of criminal or civil legal proceeding, the person accused of abuse has the right to defend themselves. That means that the courts will typically set a hearing if your spouse responds to the notification that you want to secure an order of protection.

However, you can generally expect to have immediate protection starting when you file your petition, thereby creating legal consequences if your ex attempts to threaten or harass you immediately after you file. They will have the right to defend themselves later, and the courts will rule on your petition for an order of protection based on the claims and evidence both parties provide.

An order of protection can limit contact and create consequences

Depending on the exact circumstances and the kind of abuse you experienced in your marriage, there would be many ways in which an order of protection can help you. Typically, an order of protection prevents someone with a history of abuse from going to the victim’s home, place of employment or other locations they frequently visit.

The order may also prevent any kind of telecommunications, letters or digital correspondence. In some cases, the order can extend to minor children who have either been victims of the abuse or witnesses to it. Even if the courts decide to allow visitation, an order of protection can help you convince them that supervised visitation facilitated by the state may be in the best interests of the children and their safety.