Local Voice: All about PPOs

By Marie E. Matyjaszek
Law Office of Robert Matyjaszek

Personal Protection Orders, or PPOs, that are issued between people who have some sort of domestic relationship -- whether they are dating, married, have a child in common, live together, or have had a relationship in the past -- are under the exclusive jurisdiction of the family courts.

Non-domestic PPOs are granted as well, but those are not the focus of this article.

Some PPOs are a "he said-she said" situation that may be based on fabrications created by an angry spouse; others are absolutely necessary to protect an individual's life.

The problem lies in the fact that it's often very difficult for a judge to gamble on whether a denial of a PPO won't lead to a person being seriously injured or even worse.

Because so much domestic violence goes unreported, there often aren't police reports to corroborate the verified statement that accompanies the PPO paperwork, and judges may err on the side of caution and issue the PPO.

PPOs can contain various prohibitions, some of which are contact with the petitioner (whether mail, phone or other types of communication), entering onto property, threatening to kill or injure the petitioner, and purchasing or possessing a firearm (which really irritates people during hunting season, but more importantly can jeopardize employment if they are required to carry a gun).

PPOs can also affect one's rights to see his minor children, in that a PPO can prohibit the offender from taking the children unless another court order expressly allows for parenting time and that order does not violate the terms of the PPO.

The respondent may also be denied access to legal records for the child if those records reveal the whereabouts of the petitioner.

Michigan Court Rule 3.706 requires that the court issuing the PPO consider the custody and parenting time rights of the person against whom the PPO is issued, and whether or not restricting those rights is necessary to keep the petitioner and minor children safe.

The PPO trumps any "existing custody or parenting time order until the personal protection order has expired, or the court having jurisdiction over the custody or parenting time order modifies the custody or parenting time order to accommodate the conditions of the personal protection order."

While it is not always the case, most of the PPOs that I have seen are against the husband, with the wife as the person asking for the protection.

If a divorce client comes to me with a PPO already in place, the immediate problems are obvious -- he can't go home if the other spouse resides there, so he has no access to his personal belongings and property, not to mention the fact that he has to find a place to live, and he can't communicate with his spouse, so unless the kids are with him, he may have no ability to communicate with or see the kids either.

Unfortunately, parenting time exchanges can be an opportunity for the respondent to intimidate or threaten the petitioner, which can lead to the threatened spouse refusing to cooperate with parenting time orders if a PPO is in place.

In my opinion, PPOs can be one of the most complicated issues in a divorce or custody case -- they immediately paint a dark picture of the person against whom the PPO is issued. This negative image spills over, directly impacting his or her perceived ability to parent and take care of the kids.

I normally try to set up a date and time for my client to come to the marital home and retrieve some of his items, with a friend or peace officer present to avoid any conflict or further he said-she said incidents.

If there is a legitimate basis for the PPO to have been issued, my best option is to ask that the PPO be set aside and a civil restraining order enter in its place, which can also place restraints on the parties' behavior.

It also helps remove the negative association connected with a PPO, and it would not be a criminal violation if the civil restraining order were violated (although you can bet that my client might wish he was in jail after I got off the phone with him). Often times a civil restraining order will automatically allow the victim to ask for the original PPO to go back into effect if the civil order is violated.

If the PPO is truly unnecessary, a motion should be filed to terminate the PPO, which must be done within 14 days after service or actual notice of the PPO if it was issued "ex parte," meaning it was issued without a hearing/notice to the person against whom the PPO was granted.

If the court terminates the PPO after the hearing, it can help show that the petitioner may have been trying to provide the court with a negative image of the other party.

Separation and divorce lead to emotional roller coasters, with people acting in a manner that is unexpected and unexplained.

Like any other type of legal action, PPOs may or may not be necessary, and it's critical for the judge and the person requesting the PPO to thoroughly examine the reasons behind wanting one issued.

By doing this, it helps ensure the legitimacy of PPOs granted, which is perhaps the most important outcome for those in need of protection.

Marie E. Matyjaszek is an associate attorney at the Law Office of Robert Matyjaszek PLLC in Jackson. Her blogsite is www.re-ciprocity. blogspot.com. She can be reached at (517) 787-0351 or by emailing her at matyjasz@hotmail.com.

Published: Thu, Jan 6, 2011

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