Shelter-in-place orders and other COVID-19-related measures—while essential to slowing the spread of this disease—have put thousands of New Yorkers at greater risk of harm from domestic violence. Many survivors are currently trapped at home with their abusers, feeling isolated and fearful of reaching out for help. Others are worried about the status of their current Orders of Protection or are unsure as to how to secure one in the midst of this crisis, especially now that the courts have gone wholly virtual.
In light of these challenging circumstances, Sanctuary has been actively working with government officials, the courts, and law enforcement to guarantee survivors’ ability to seek relief through the Justice System. When the Courts announced the shift to virtual hearings for emergency matters, Sanctuary attorneys moved quickly—working with the Office of Court Administration to clarify the standards for securing Orders of Protection—and connecting with District Attorneys’ offices and law enforcement to ensure that orders are served and enforced accordingly. Beginning Monday, April 13, Sanctuary Attorneys and pro bono partners will also be providing assistance to survivors seeking Orders of Protection through our new Virtual Courtroom Advocates Project (CAP).
OBTAINING AN ORDER OF PROTECTION IN VIRTUAL COURT
As per administrative orders from March 19th and 22nd, ALL Orders of Protection in effect before the COVID-19 outbreak will continue to be active. This applies to both criminal and family court orders.
However, if a family member or current or former intimate partner is abusing, harassing, threatening, and/or intimidating you, or has committed a crime against you, you can still petition for an Order of Protection (OOP) in Virtual Family Court by doing the following:
1. Petitioning for an Order
Contact Sanctuary for Families or your borough’s Family Justice Center and indicate you are seeking an Order of Protection (click here to see our contact information). We will connect you with an attorney who will help you draft and file a petition for an OOP in Virtual Court. If you are asked to leave a message, someone will respond to your call shortly.
Upon reaching us, you’ll be given the option to connect with our attorneys via phone, Skype, Zoom, or any other platform of your preference. Together, you will draft the petition and the attorney will then file it through Remote Filing E-Share or instruct you on how to file it independently. Petitions can be filed until 4 pm.
When drafting the petition, our attorneys will make sure to indicate your language of preference. LanguageLine interpreters will be available to assist during this drafting process if needed.
As a reminder, all of our services are confidential and free of charge.
2. After Filing the Petition
On the same day that the attorney files your petition, the Court will contact you with details on when your case will be heard. This usually happens within a few hours of filing. Make sure to stay by your phone all day to avoid missing the call.
During this phone call, you will be given a specific time for your hearing, the phone number you’ll be dialing in on that day, and the PIN code needed to enter the virtual courtroom. Make sure you write down this information and save it somewhere safe.
3. Your Hearing
Appearing in virtual court will take approximately 15 minutes, and the process will feel similar to participating in a regular conference call.
After you dial in and enter your PIN code, you will virtually enter the courtroom with a virtual judge, virtual clerk, and virtual court reporter. Depending on the arrangements you’ve made, the attorney and a language interpreter may or may not be participating remotely in this call.
If the attorney is present, the Court will ask them to state their appearance. After this, the Court will ask you, the petitioner, to state your appearance and swear you in. The judge will then review your petition and may or may not ask you and/or the attorney some questions before issuing the Temporary Order of Protection (TOP). The judge will inform you of your next court date, which will also be in virtual court, or, in your borough’s Family Court, if courts are back in operation. Your Temporary Order of Protection will remain active until the next court date. Please make sure to discuss the process of receiving a Final Order of Protection with the attorney.
4. Serving the Order
Once the judge issues the TOP, you will receive a copy of the order via email the same day. PLEASE REMEMBER: The TOP must be served on your abuser for it to be valid. If your abuser does not have notice of the fact that you received a temporary order of protection against them, they can’t be arrested for violating it!
The attorney can help you serve the TOP on your abuser and provide you with a signed affidavit after doing so. You can also have a friend, family member, or other individual serve the order on your abuser, as long as they are over the age of 18. Whoever serves the order will have to fill out and provide you with a signed affidavit of service for your records.
You may register to be notified when your Order of Protection is served at https://oopalert.ny.gov/oopalert/
Sanctuary’s Legal Helpline: 1.212.349.6009 x246, available M-F, from 9 am-5 pm.
NYC Family Justice Centers, available M-F, from 9 am-5 pm.
- Manhattan FJC: 212-602-2800
- Brooklyn FJC: 718-250-5111
- Bronx FJC: 718-508-1220
- Queens FJC: 718-575-4545
- Staten Island FJC: 718-697-4300
REMEMBER: YOU ARE NOT IN THIS ALONE
Our services remain available! If you are in need of support, please call 212-349-6009 between 9 am and 5 pm, Monday through Friday, or visit http://sanctuaryforfamilies.org/get-help/