HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER NO. 2: “Restraining Orders” in Arkansas, the Ultimate Farce

Arkansas family courts have a problem. If you have ever filed for an order of protection while married you may know where this is headed. In Arkansas there is a disturbing trend in divorces involved domestic orders of protection and its time we speak up.

In Arkansas there are several types of “restraining orders” that you can get if you are in danger. All rely on a Judge to issue the order.

If you have been in a dating relationship with or are related to the person you fear, you may qualify for a domestic order of protection through your county’s Circuit Clerk’s office. If you are not related to the person but have been a victim of a crime by that person, you may be able to get a criminal no contact order issued. In some cases, you may end up with both.

A domestic order of protection is filed in the same court as a divorce or child custody. The Judges that hear cases involving orders of protection, custody, divorce, and child support are typically the same in Arkansas with some exceptions.

A criminal no-contact order is typically issued when there is a criminal case like battery or theft. A judge may issue a no-contact order as part of a person’s release conditions or bond conditions. Sometimes a criminal no-contact order is issued between co-defendants. Criminal no-contact orders are issued by a criminal judge that normally hears cases involving misdemeanor or felony crimes.

Both of these orders can result in criminal charges if willfully disobeyed. Typically if you are convicted of breaking these orders once, the next time will be a felony.

There are several loopholes when it comes to these orders in Arkansas that we have witnessed first hand and continue to witness every day.

The easiest way for an a domestic abuser to get rid of a domestic order of protection is to


Yes, seriously.

In Arkansas if you have a pending ex parte order of protection (The Ex Parte Order is the emergency order issued by the Judge when you initially file for a domestic order of protection) all your spouse has to do is file for divorce and the cases will be consolidated and the order of protection dismissed.

What does “consolidated for trial” mean? It means that in Arkansas in order to avoid a multiplicity of lawsuits involving the same parties, attorneys, judges, and possibly minor children, the Judge will combine the order of protection case with the divorce case and they will be heard together at the same time in a final trial.

This means that by simply filing for divorce and asking that your cases be combined, you can subvert justice and do away with the only thing protecting your victim.

When you initially file for an order of protection and that ex parte order is issued, the information is sent to ACIC so that law enforcement can access the order during any involvement with the parties. This is how law enforcement is able to charge someone with violating a protection order.

The process is the same for criminal no-contact orders. The information is entered into ACIC and law enforcement are able to charge folks with violating the order during involvement with the parties.

When a domestic order of protection is consolidated with a divorce, the order is pulled from ACIC. Sometimes the clerk may not do this immediately and the order of protection is still visible in ACIC BUT if you are charged with a violation after consolidation it will later be dismissed because you no longer have a valid order of protection.

This means that in cases involving parties who are married a victim of violence has almost no protection. The reason they are able to do this is because of the third type of “restraining order” in Arkansas. Most family court Judges issue a “Standing Order” in domestic cases like divorces and custody. Each county has a different version of the order but all will have some variation of don’t harass or harm each other.

This consolidation of cases is not done in ALL divorces. You are much more likely to have your cases merged when attorneys are involved. This gives the upper hand directly to the person with the most resources. This allows abusers to avoid being punished simply because they have filed for divorce and this is leading directly to the death of victims in Arkansas.

Another loophole exists when someone has multiple charges for violating the orders. If you fail to appear at court they cannot convict you and if you haven’t been convicted you cannot be charged with a felony for subsequent violations. This also interferes with other criminal statutes like domestic battery and stalking that increase in severity with the adjudication of each charge. These crimes have levels of severity that increase with each conviction and can be the difference between life and death for someone trying to escape an abusive relationship.

What can we do to fix these issues? We can elect domestic violence informed Judges, Prosecutors, and Congressmen but the bottom line is that until Arkansas law changes, victims of domestic abuse are NOT SAFE. Your best bet is to arm yourself legally and get security cameras and powerful locks or head to your nearest domestic violence shelter. If you need help with any of these issues please contact us so that we can help you!