1 You've been on the job as Allen Superior Court's protection order specialist – the only such position in the state – since 2019. Tell us a little about your background and how you came to the position.
I originally started in the Allen County clerk's office processing protection orders for about nine years prior to coming over to this position. I have been with Allen County and the courts now for 15 years. I was interested in this position because I knew that the process of applying for protection orders can be intimidating for someone leaving an already-difficult situation. I felt like I could help.
2 What is a protection order and how are they filed?
A protection order is an individual-to-individual civil injunction used to protect you from someone who has allegedly abused, stalked or harassed you. Allegations covered by a protection order deal with domestic family violence, sex offense, stalking or harassment. The process has changed quite a few times, from the way entries are done, to case initiation, to processing and sending petitions to a magistrate for review. We originally processed them all by paper. Now we are able to provide the public with electronic filing, paper filing in person, the use of lobby computers to access filing from a terminal or having an advocate process the petition for them online through Indiana's Protection Order Registry.
3 More than 3,000 requests for protection orders are filed in the local court each year. What are some things people who might need one should know about the process?
To be prepared before coming in, make sure you have correct spelling of the name of the person to whom the order is directed, and a valid address. If the petitioner has neither of those, an order cannot be issued since the court needs those crucial pieces of information to serve the order. Many who request protection orders come in with just a police report number. This is helpful, but it does not always have the information needed in order to complete the filing process. The information is either not there because it was a call after the fact and the officer did not add to the report, or it can possibly have an outdated address, depending how old the police report is.
4 What is your role in that process, and how do you help? How do those seeking help find you?
I assess all the criteria to determine if they have enough information to file, and if they have all the crucial pieces needed in order to process their filing. I have access to resources that help locate the person the order is directed to and check for cases through other courts that might be needed in case of a transfer of venue. I can help a petitioner file online and give them assistance with any technical issues. As a court employee, I am not permitted to advocate on behalf of a petitioner or give legal advice. But we can connect people with one of the many local victim advocates. They can call 260-449-3683 for filing questions and go to the Allen Superior Court website – allensuperiorcourt.us – to educate themselves on how protection orders work, what is required and where to find the forms.
5 What else should people know about protection orders, the legal process for obtaining one and/or seeking help if you need it?
To make the process better, we are now scheduling appointments. That way, we can devote more attention to individual needs. Petitioners do need to allow 20-25 minutes prior to their appointment per petition to be completed, in order to be seen on time. They can also request a petition be mailed to them or print a petition online and complete it before coming in. You can make an appointment by calling 260-449-3444, or by email at email@example.com. People seeking protection orders should always consult with an attorney if they can, if the incidents are family related or if the severity of the incidents involve prosecution. People should also know that there is a difference between protective orders and no-contact orders. No-contact orders are issued as part of a criminal case at the discretion of the presiding judicial officer.