Q: Can a judge order an abuser to pay a petitioner's legal fees, as well as pay rent, as part of a civil protection order?
My friend T.L. (anonymous) was physically and verbally assaulted by her boyfriend. She had the cops remove him from her apartment (he was not on the lease in the first place) after she called to say that she felt unsafe around him. She is interested in filing a protective order, but wants to know whether it can go beyond just preventing him from further contact with her.
A: Great question! So, when you file in DC for a protective order, you ask what relief you are seeking. When you go to Court, the judge will complete (or you will settle with the opposing side) an order regarding your motion for a protective order. A section on that "order" includes payment of home expenses, attorney fees, etc. Note, however, generally, a person cannot be forced to pay rent unless they are on the lease and have been paying already.
When going to Court, it is important to provide evidence of the abuse, and why it would be fair to have the "abuser" pay anything. There is a difference between an order to "stay away" and making the individual pay on going rent payments. That will require a compelling reason. Generally, the Court won't cover your attorney fees unless the abuse was particularly bad.
The ticket to success in protective custody hearings (held on the first floor of the Courthouse on 500 Indiana Avenue) is settlement. Most folks don't want a protective order on their record. To avoid that, they will consent to a settlement that could well include rent payments. However, make sure you chat with an attorney before agreeing to anything. We would be glad to help!
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