What is a FAPA order?
In Oregon, Family Abuse Prevention Act (FAPA) order is a legal document, signed by a judge. In general terms, it prohibits the person who is the subject of the order (the “respondent") from engaging in certain behavior towards the person asking for the order (the “petitioner"). For example, the respondent might be ordered not to go to the petitioner’s residence, or to come within 150 feet of the petitioner.
How do I get a FAPA order?
In general, to obtain an order, you and the respondent must be intimate partners, have been intimate partners, or be family. For example, a man could obtain a FAPA order against his brother. However, the man could not obtain a FAPA order against a neighbor, unless the man and the neighbor had been intimate partners or were family members.
In addition, the petitioner must demonstrate that the respondent has abused the petitioner (abuse is defined by a legal statute) within the past 180 days. The petitioner must also show that the respondent presents a credible physical threat to the petitioner, and that the petitioner is in imminent danger of further abuse.
In most counties, you can pick up the FAPA paperwork at the county seat (courthouse). You must fill out some paperwork. This is called the “petition." The petition has space for you to fill in details about the incident(s) with the respondent. Once you have filled this paperwork out, you will appear in front of a judge. This will often be an “ex parte" hearing, meaning that the respondent will usually not be present. The judge will talk read your petition and talk to you about the incident(s). Based on the law that applies, the judge then may or may not sign your FAPA order. However this is not the end of the FAPA process.
What is a 21-day hearing?
If a judge grants the petitioner’s request for a FAPA order at the ex parte hearing, the respondent is allowed to contest the order. The hearing for this is not set up automatically. The respondent must request a 21-day hearing. This request must almost always be made within 21 days of the judge’s initial FAPA order.
At this hearing, both the petitioner and the respondent are expected to attend. If the petitioner does not attend, the order is often dropped. If the respondent does not attend, the order is often continued. Absent unusual circumstances, there is no way for a respondent to get another chance at the 21-day hearing if they do not attend.
If both parties are present, then both sides will argue their case to the court. The court will then decide if the initial FAPA order should be upheld in full, dismissed in full, or modified.
How can a lawyer assist me with FAPA proceedings?
Whether you are a petitioner or a respondent, a lawyer can be of great assistance with these stressful legal issues.
If you are a petitioner, a lawyer will guide you through the process, including the paperwork. A lawyerl be an advocate on your behalf to the court, both at the initial hearing and at the 21-day hearing. A lawyer will fight to keep the order in place for you and get you the protection you feel you need.
If you are a respondent, a lawyer will assist you at the 21-day hearing, as you are not entitled to appear at the initial hearing. A lawyer can cross-examine the petitioner and any other witnesses, and argue on your behalf to the court. The lawyer can represent you and try to dismiss the order to make sure it does not burden your day-to-day life and that your record remains clear.
Whatever side you are on, having a lawyer who understands the system and has experience in examining witnesses and arguing to the court is essential.
What happens if the respondent is alleged to have violated the FAPA order?
If a judge grants the FAPA order at the initial hearing, it goes into effect as soon as it is served on the respondent. Even if the respondent thinks it is unfair, they are not permitted to violate the order unless and until it is modified. The respondent has a chance to contest the order at a 21-day hearing, discussed above.
If the police are called and they believe the respondent has violated the FAPA order, the respondent will often be arrested and charged with Violation of a Restraining Order (VRO) charge. At this point, the charge is essentially a criminal one.
It is important to remember that a VRO charge and the FAPA hearings are completely separate. For example, if a judge grants a FAPA order at the initial ex parte hearing, and the respondent violates it before the 21-day hearing, the VRO charge is still valid even if the respondent prevails at the 21-day hearing and the FAPA order is dismissed.
If this sounds complicated, that’s because it is. This is one of the trickier areas of law, because civil law and criminal law converge. No matter if you are a petitioner or respondent, having a lawyer who understands the nuances of this field can make the whole process much simpler.