The sad truth is that most people who are abused suffer at the hands of someone with whom they have a close personal relationship, not a stranger. But some abuse by acquaintances or strangers does occur. To protect victims in both of these circumstances, Kansas law has two types of restraining orders. One is termed a protection from abuse order, the other a protection from stalking or sexual assault order. Each applies to different circumstances and has different requirements.
Protection From Abuse in Kansas
A protection from abuse order (PFA order) in Kansas is a court order that provides protection from abusive or violent behavior by an intimate partner or a household member. It is also known as a restraining order or a domestic violence restraining order. If a court determines that you qualify for a PFA order, this legal document tells the abuser that he must stop the abuse. It also tells him that if he doesn't, he faces serious legal consequences.
Who can you get a PFA against under the law in Kansas? You can get this type of restraining order against your spouse or ex-spouse, or someone you are dating or have been dating. You can also get this order against someone you live with or have lived with or against someone you have had a child with. You cannot get a PFA against someone with whom you are not in any type of close relationship, like a co-worker or stranger.
The kinds of behavior that can result in a PFA being issued are spelled out in the Kansas codes as well. Anything that qualifies as bodily injury can be a subject of a protective order, as can any attempt to cause bodily injury. So can threatening someone with immediate bodily injury. Having any sexual contact with someone incapable of giving legal consent can result in an order, as can sexual contact with a minor under 16 years old who is not the spouse of the offender.
Getting a PFA in Kansas
You'll be glad to hear that there is no charge or fee for filing or getting a PFA in Kansas. Nor is it necessary to get an attorney. However, if your abuser has an attorney, you may feel safer if you have one, too. Some domestic violence organizations in Kansas have free referral services to attorneys in the area, while others will assist you to move through the process without getting a lawyer.
To file for this type of restraining order, you will need the appropriate forms. Get them before you go from a website offering court forms online to make things faster when you go in. Or, obtain them from the district court clerk at the courthouse. If you need help, find an advocate from a domestic violence or sexual assault program to assist you. Many shelters for abuse victims or other sexual assault organizations provide support to victims seeking PFAs.
As you fill in the petition, resist the urge to speak in general terms. Identify yourself and your abuser, then describe in detail the incidents that harmed you or made you feel afraid. Describe how you were treated, using specific language (punched, kicked, hit, grabbed) rather than vague terms. As much as possible, include the dates and all details. Don't sign it until you are in front of the court clerk, or else get it signed before a notary. That makes it a verified application.
If you need immediate protection, advise the court by checking off the box to obtain a temporary, ex parte order. A judge will give you a temporary order if you or your minor kids are in immediate harm. The judge can give you a temporary order even before the abuser is notified of the case. However, in time, you will have to have the abuser served with the order, and he will learn about it.
You will have to provide contact information for the court. That means it is important to find a safe mailing address and phone number that you do not mind if the abuser learns. Use a post office box if you have to in order to protect yourself.
After you file the forms, your petition goes to a judge. You may have to speak to the judge yourself if you are seeking a temporary order, but the abuser won't be present during this conversation. If you get a temporary order, it is valid and offers protection until your full hearing. You are given a court date within 21 days of the date of your application. The notice of this hearing plus a copy of the petition are served on the abuser by the sheriff. Both of you can show up and present your side of the story.
If you don't show up at the hearing, your application will be dropped. If the abuser doesn't show up, you will likely get a protective order. This type of order giving you protection from abuse in Kansas can last for one year, but you can extend it if necessary.
If you get an order and the abuser violates it, you can call the police emergency number immediately. Sometimes they arrest the abuser on the spot for a class A person misdemeanor. Repeated violations can bump up the charge to a level 6 person felony.
Order of Protection From Stalking or Sexual Assault
If you have been the victim of stalking or sexual assault, regardless of whether the abuser is someone close to you, you have the option in Kansas of filing a petition for a "protection from stalking or sexual assault" order. You can file this with any district court.
What exactly does "stalking" mean in this context? Under Kansas law, stalking means intentional harassment that makes you reasonably afraid for your personal safety. Harassment means any course of repeated behavior that terrifies you or annoys you, as long as it is the type of behavior that would cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress. The person harassing you must not have any legitimate reasons for taking these actions. The course of behavior must include at least two separate acts over a period of time that demonstrate a continuing purpose by the offender.
To get this type of order, you need to fill out the forms and file them with the court. You need to identify yourself and the abuser and provide a detailed list of the stalking or harassing behavior he has done to you. If you feel in immediate danger, the judge will discuss the matter with you and can grant you an immediate ex parte order of protection. This stays in effect until the full hearing that takes place within 21 days. You have to have the temporary order and the notice of the full hearing's time and place served on the other person. Ask the clerk of court for assistance in arranging this.
The initial filing of an application for a protection from stalking or sexual assault order doesn't cost you anything. And if you win, the abuser may have to pay your attorney fees, if you have any. If you lose, however, and the court rules that your claims are not valid, you may be ordered to pay the other party's attorney fees. If you win, you are granted the order and it remains in place for up to a year. If the offender violates any section of the order, you should call the emergency police number and report the violation.
Teo Spengler earned a J.D. from U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an M.A. and an M.F.A in creative writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.