Not every close relationship is forever and sometimes the dynamics between two people deteriorate to the point where their interactions become strained and negative. But when things take a dangerous turn and the actions of one cause the other to fear for his or her safety, or actual threats or violent acts are carried out, Michigan law provides an option.
The Michigan PPO
In such situations, Michigan makes available a "personal protection order" or PPO, traditionally called a "restraining order" in many states. Specifically, a person may petition the court for a PPO against another person with any of these relationships to the petitioner:
- Spouse or former spouse
- The other parent of a child of the petitioner
- A person with whom the petitioner has or formerly had a dating relationship, defined as "frequent, intimate associations primarily characterized by the expectation of affectional involvement"
- Anyone with whom the petitioner lives or has lived before
The judge will issue the PPO if he or she has "reasonable cause" to conclude that the person named in the petition might engage in any behavior specifically listed by statute. To find reasonable cause, the court must look at evidence submitted by the petitioner, including testimony and documents. The judge must also consider if the named person has either threatened to commit or actually committed any of the enumerated acts.
The following is a nonexhaustive list of acts that may be restrained by a Michigan PPO:
- Entering specific premises
- Assaulting a specific person
- Threatening to kill or injure a specific person
- Taking children from the person with legal custody without legal authority to do so
- Buying or having a gun
- Preventing the petitioner from taking his or her kids or things from property owned or rented solely by the named person
- Harassing the petitioner at work or school
- Accessing records containing the home or work address or phone number of the petitioner or petitioner's minor child
- Stalking or aggravated stalking
Interfering with "personal liberty" or causing fear of violence
Ex Parte PPO
An individual may petition the court for PPO "ex parte," meaning without notice to the person (or his or her lawyer) against whom the order is sought, if the petitioner can show that "immediate and irreparable injury, loss or damage" would occur if the time were taken to give notice, or that the notice would cause the named person to take "adverse action" before a PPO can be issued. An ex parte PPO is valid for not less than 182 days.
The target of the ex parte PPO has the right within 14 days after receiving notice (or later for good cause) to move the court to amend or cancel it.
This article only scratches the surface of the very detailed Michigan PPO law. Many more provisions cover notice, service, named parties who have firearms for work or by permit, named parties who are juveniles, enforcement and other topics.
Although an ex parte PPO can be sought without an attorney, if there is time to consult with a Michigan family lawyer, legal advice and representation can be extremely helpful to a petitioner.
On the other side of the coin, if you are named in a PPO petition or are restrained by one, talk to an experienced PPO attorney right away about your options and rights. If the petitioner has provided false information to the court in support of the petition, he or she could be found in contempt of court.