Family Abuse Prevention Act ("FAPA") Restraining Orders are designed to do exactly what they sound like, provide protection from a family members who has abused the applicant. If the other party is not a family member, former spouse, or someone the applicant has shared an intimate (generally sexual) relationship with, then a FAPA restraining order is not appropriate. For example, I had a FAPA dismissed when my client was the husband to the deceased aunt of the applicant. There were other good arguments that this FAPA should be dismissed, but we never had to make them because the family relationship requirement had not been met. There may be other options for non-family members who have been abused such as protective stalking orders and elder abuse restraining orders, but each of these comes with their own separate requirements as well.
Proper Purpose (Preventing "Abuse")
Also, there needs to have been "abuse" within the past 180 days. "Abuse" means: (1) Physically hurting or attempting to hurt a person (this includes if they didn't mean to injure a person but did so recklessly); or (2) Making a person afraid that they will be physically hurt in the near future (again, if they don't do this on purpose, but do so recklessly, that is enough); or (3) Making a person have sexual relations against their wishes by using force or the threat of force.
Additional Requirement: "Imminent Danger of Further Abuse"
Another requirement for a FAPA Restraining Order is that there is "imminent danger of further abuse." The ideal way to show this is with recent threats of additional harm. However, the important thing is that there must be some sort of danger of further abuse for a valid FAPA Restraining Order to be upheld. Evidence of abuse that happened longer than 180 days ago can also be useful here to show a pattern and likelihood that it will happen again (even though it is not enough to justify the order itself if there wasn't recent abuse).
Alternatively, I have seen cases where there was a single instance of documented abuse, but there was no indication that it had ever happened before or (more importantly) that it was likely to happen again. Some of these cases have been dismissed.
Additional Requirement: "Credible Threat"
The final requirement is that the abuser must "represent a credible threat to the physical safety of the petitioner or the petitioner's child." Again, evidence of abuse that happened longer than 180 days ago can also be useful here to show a pattern and likelihood that it will happen again (even though it is not enough to justify the order itself if there wasn't recent abuse). Arguments similar to the lack of imminent danger of further abuse can be made here.
Attorney Fees: A Good Reason not to seek a FAPA Restraining Order for Improper Purposes
The FAPA statute provides for attorney fees. This means that if you have to litigate a successful restraining order, then there's the possibility that a judge will order the other party to reimburse you for your costs ad fees. HOWEVER, this also means that if someone gets a FAPA order for some improper reason (seeking advantage in a divorce, retaliation, to obtain sole possession of a residence, to obtain custody, etc.), and FAPA is dismissed at trial, then the applicant can end up ordered to pay the same costs and fees. If there's an underlying case (such as a divorce or custody case), then having an improperly-obtained FAPA dismissed can have negative ramifications in that case as well.
About two years ago, I had a case where a husband had used a FAPA to get possession of the house and temporary custody of the parties' children in a divorce. However, there had not been any "abuse" whatsoever. What he had done is change the locks and then call the cops on the wife when she tried to get back in. The FAPA was dismissed at trial and my client was awarded attorney fees in this case.
Another improper use of a FAPA is retaliation. About three years ago, I had a client that had gotten a FAPA order against his girlfriend for some well-documented physical abuse. The girlfriend then turned around and got a FAPA order against him claiming that he had abused her as well. However, she had just posted on facebook about how she was going make him sorry once he'd seen what she is capable of. It was pretty easy to get her restraining order dismissed after that (after seeing the post, her attorney agreed to dismiss it prior to the hearing).
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