WomensLaw Vlogs: Learn More about Divorce, Protection Orders, & U Visas
April 29, 2019
Navigating the legal system can be overwhelming even during the best of times. For survivors in crisis, finding trustworthy information can seem incredibly daunting. Through WomensLaw.org, the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) provides plain-language, state-specific legal information for survivors in English and Spanish. (Though this project had its beginnings serving women, we support all survivors, and are inclusive of all gender identities.)
NNEDV is committed to helping empower survivors learn their legal rights via WomensLaw.org as well as through the confidential Email Hotline (where attorneys provide legal information in English and Spanish). Stay tuned for more video series (up next is a Preparing for Court series, which guides survivors who are representing themselves in court)!
This series of videos includes information on the requirements for a divorce, what the divorce process might look like, and considerations for domestic violence survivors.
Every state and U.S. territory has a different set of laws in place for divorce; therefore, it is important to find the specific requirements that apply to you. Most commonly, states and U.S. territories will have a residency requirement and certain grounds must be met.
Next, there are documents that must be filed to begin the divorce process such as a summons, divorce complaint, notice of hearing, and other legal and personal documents. Along with the filing of papers, the spouse must be notified of the divorce.
There are a few possible ways that the divorce process will play out. The divorce may be contested, uncontested, or the spouses may file a joint divorce petition. Through it all, there are other issues to consider as a survivor, such as your safety, representation in court by a lawyer who understands domestic violence, and a safe custody arrangement for your children, if you have any.
This series of videos includes information on what protection orders are, who qualifies for an order, what to expect during the court process, the evidence that could be useful in court, and how protection orders can help survivors of abuse.
A protection order, also called a restraining order, injunction, or other similar name, is a legal order issued by a state court that requires one person to stop harming another person. A judge may order the abuser to stay away from you, your home, your workplace, your school, and to have no contact with you, among other protections. Protection orders can be a very important safety tool for survivors who are ready to leave an abusive relationship or who have recently left.
The required relationship that is necessary for obtaining a protection order varies by state. However, under certain circumstances, you can usually get a protection order against a family or household member (i.e., spouse, sibling, parent, or in-law), an intimate partner, and someone with whom you have a child in common. In some states, you can get a protection order against anyone who stalked, harassed, or sexually assaulted you, regardless of your relationship to that person.
Some acts are generally accepted as grounds for a protection order, such as stalking and physical or sexual violence. Emotional or financial abuse usually would not qualify you for a protection order.
When filing a petition, the survivor will write an explanation of the abusive acts that have been committed as well as the type of help requested. The judge then generally asks questions of the survivor during an “ex parte hearing.” The judge may also look at any evidence that the survivor has, including police reports or photos of injuries, before deciding whether to issue a temporary ex parte protection order that day.
At the final hearing, the judge will hear testimony from both parties and their witnesses and will examine evidence submitted by each party. The judge will then decide whether or not to grant the long-term protection order. It is important to have a lawyer represent you at this hearing if possible. Once the protection order is granted, survivors should keep a copy with them at all times in case they need to report violations of the order.
This series includes information on the U visa, its requirements, the crimes that qualify someone for a U visa, who can be included in a U visa, and what happens after one is granted.
Created by Congress in 2000, the U visa was designed to encourage victims of certain crimes who have no legal status to help law enforcement agencies to investigate or prosecute crimes without fear of being deported.
Requirements for obtaining a U visa include proving that you suffered “substantial physical or mental abuse” as a result of being the victim of one (or more) of the qualifying crimes, and demonstrating that you are admissible to enter the United States or that you qualify for a waiver of inadmissibility.
Applicants for U visas must be the victim of a designated crime, including rape, torture, trafficking, incest, domestic violence, sexual assault, sexual exploitation, stalking, among others. The crime must have happened in the United States (or violated a U.S. law) although it is not necessary to be physically in the United States at the time you petition for a U visa.
Applicants for U visas also need a certification from the police or other law enforcement authority verifying that they have helped, are helping, or are willing to help with the investigation or prosecution of a crime. The certification must be filled out by one of the agencies or authorities responsible for the investigation or prosecution, which could include Child Protective Services, the district attorney’s office, the police, judges, and others.
Applicants can include certain family members, known as derivatives, who can also receive legal status based on the principal applicant’s U visa petition. Depending on whether you are older or younger than 21 when you apply, you may be able to include the following family members as derivatives: your spouse, unmarried children under 21, parents, or unmarried siblings under 18.
The waiting list is long, but once a U visa is obtained, a survivor can obtain a temporary work permit, apply for legal permanent residency, and possibly obtain citizenship.