Harassment laws are meant to protect you against strangers, acquaintances, and even distant relatives. However, they are not meant to protect you from someone you were once intimately involved with. So, while you can’t charge your ex with harassment, there are other options available.
These types of charges are meant to protect you from someone where the one harassing you has not been in a personal relationship with you. Most of the time, you’re not able to charge them with “domestic violence” because the operative term is “domestic” which indicates someone you’re currently living with or were once involved with somehow. The behavior of the person doing the harassing has to reach a point where you fear for your personal safety.
Restraining orders, also known as orders for protection, are much more serious than civil harassment charges. These typically deal with close relationships that can potentially become volatile. These are issued by the court and are meant to prevent your ex from harassing you or even contacting you at all. It will keep him/her from going to your house, your place of employment, or getting within a certain distance of you. If he/she breaks the terms of this it will result in criminal charges and possibly jail time. Getting one of these is typically a two-step process. The burden of proof is low- you only must demonstrate that you have a reason to be afraid of him/her. If your ex is not present, it will be conducted ex parte. The judge typically issues a temporary order and then assigns a date for a permanent order, which will be about two weeks later. Your ex can be present at this hearing to defend themselves. This time, the burden of proof is much more, because now you must prove that your ex did all the things that you’re alleging.
If your ex is working in specific professions, the restraining order could cost him/her their job. If you’re currently collecting alimony or child support, this could cause some difficulties. In this case, a civil injunction could be the better route. Civil restraints will prevent your ex from approaching or contacting you, but law enforcement cannot help you enforce the terms. Violation of civil injunctions is not a criminal offense. You’d end up having to take him/her back to court and ask for the judge to hold him/her in contempt.
Are You In Immediate Danger?
If your ex is calling you seventeen times a day, that can get annoying. However, if he/she is calling you seventeen times in one hour, they’re not thinking rationally and their behavior could be a threat to your well-being. If you feel threatened, call the police. Law enforcement in most states can issue an emergency protection order until you can get into court. You have the right to contact an attorney before court and explore your options.