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Personal Protection Orders Can Be Vital Tools for Stopping or Deterring Intimidation, Harassment or Violence – But Can Also Be Used Unfairly and Improperly


By Stewart C.W. Weiner

Personal Protection Orders Can Be Vital Tools for Stopping or Deterring Intimidation, Harassment or Violence – But Can Also Be Used Unfairly and Improperly 

Often, laws designed to act as shields can also serve as weapons. Such is the case with Personal Protection Orders (PPOs) in Michigan. These court orders, which place significant limits on the rights and activities of the individuals subject to them, can be powerful and much-needed tools to stop or deter acts of domestic violence, stalking, intimidation, harassment and sexual assault. These are indeed serious and endemic societal problems that unquestionably warrant proactive involvement by courts and law enforcement when someone experiences or is seriously threatened with severe physical, emotional, or psychological abuse.

But orders entered to prevent such abuse can sometimes be abused by the people who request them. Whether out of spite, revenge, or a desire to get the upper hand in a divorce or custody battle, it is not unheard of for a PPO petitioner to ask for a protective order based on false or exaggerated allegations about the respondent’s behavior or statements. While those on the receiving end of an unwarranted PPO are allowed to challenge the order and vacate it, the mere entry of a PPO – which inherently paints the receiving party as violent, threatening, or creepy – can be a frustrating and traumatic experience.

Whether you are justifiably seeking a Michigan PPO to protect yourself and your family or feel that such an order has been unfairly entered against you, here are some basic facts and considerations you should be aware of about these important and impactful orders.

Domestic Relationship PPOs

Three types of Michigan PPOs address different relationships between the petitioner and respondent and the kinds of actions and threats at issue: domestic relationship PPOs, non-domestic stalking PPOs, and non-domestic sexual assault PPOs.

As the name implies, a domestic relationship PPO involves disputes between current or former romantic or domestic partners. To seek and obtain a domestic relationship PPO, the respondent must be one of the following:

  • The petitioner’s current or former spouse.
  • A co-parent with the petitioner.
  • Someone who lives with or used to live with the petitioner.
  • Someone with whom the petitioner is or was in a dating relationship.

A domestic relationship PPO may be entered if the petitioner convinces a judge that the respondent is likely to assault, threaten, harass, or stalk them. Depending on the specific actions or statements alleged, a domestic relationship PPO can prohibit the respondent from engaging in a wide range of activities, including:

  • Entering or visiting the petitioner’s home.
  • Assaulting, attacking, beating, molesting, or wounding the petitioner or another person.
  • Threatening to kill or physically injure the petitioner or another person.
  • Removing the petitioner’s children if they have legal custody of them.
  • Purchasing or possessing a handgun.
  • Interfering with the petitioner’s efforts to remove the petitioner’s children or personal property from premises solely owned or leased by the respondent.  
  • Interfering with the petitioner at their job or school or acting in a way that harms their job or school relationships or environment.
  • Having access to the petitioner’s home or work address or telephone number in records that concern their child.
  • Stalking the petitioner.
  • Intentionally causing the petitioner’s mental distress or controlling them by harming, threatening to harm, or taking an animal owned by the petitioner. 

Non-Domestic Stalking PPOs 

This PPO is designed to protect individuals being stalked or harassed by someone with whom they do not have a domestic relationship. To obtain a non-domestic stalking PPO, the petitioner must show multiple prior incidents of harassment by the respondent. Harassment means contact a person does not want, has no valid purpose, and reasonably causes the petitioner emotional harm or fear.

These orders can prohibit the respondent from a range of common stalking and harassment behaviors, including: 

  • Posting messages about the petitioner on the internet.
  • Following, approaching, or confronting the petitioner.
  • Going to property owned, rented, or occupied by the petitioner.
  • Placing an object or delivering an object to the petitioner’s home or property.
  • Calling or sending mail, emails, or texts to the petitioner.
  • Threatening the petitioner.
  • Cyberstalking the petitioner.

Non-Domestic Sexual Assault PPO

A Non-Domestic Sexual Assault PPO is intended to protect a person from someone who has sexually assaulted or threatened to sexually assault them and with whom they are not or were not in a domestic relationship. This PPO’s protections mirror those available for the two other kinds of PPO.  

Obtaining and Challenging a PPO

Given the seriousness with which the law takes domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking and harassment, judges are often inclined to err on the side of caution and grant a petitioner’s request for a PPO if they present sufficient evidence to justify their request, and the respondent has either failed to respond to or effectively counter the allegations. 

In dire or emergency situations where a petitioner claims they are in immediate danger, a judge may grant an ex parte PPO, which will be entered immediately, without notice to the respondent and without allowing the respondent to contest the request before doing so.

While a PPO takes effect immediately, it is only enforceable once it is served upon the respondent, who then has 14 days to contest the entry of the order and seek to have it vacated or modified. To successfully fight the PPO, the respondent must present evidence and testimony that calls into question or refutes the truthfulness of the petitioner’s allegations. 

Both Sides Need To Tread Carefully With PPOs

While no one should hesitate to seek a PPO if they genuinely and reasonably believe they are in danger or are being harassed, taking such courageous action comes with risks, especially in domestic violence situations. Attempting to stand up for oneself or break free from an abusive relationship can trigger even more dangerous behavior than what led to the PPO in the first place. 

Conversely, a person who believes false, exaggerated, or malicious accusations led to the entry of a PPO against them should not succumb to their understandable anger or resentment and respond in ways that could reinforce the petitioner’s claims. Instead, a respondent should work with counsel to challenge the order in court through demonstrated and persuasive evidence and testimony. 

If you have any questions or concerns regarding Michigan personal protection orders, please contact Stewart Weiner at Maddin Hauser.