Protection from Harassment in Maine

Protection from Harassment Family Lawyers in Maine

In Maine, protection orders are designed to provide relief and protection for victims or potential victims of violence or harassment.

These orders take two main forms: protection from abuse orders, which are issued in domestic violence cases, and protection from harassment orders. The need for such orders may arise in divorce cases and other family disputes or in disputes involving individuals who are not close.

Let us take a closer look at protection from harassment orders so you know what to expect.

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What is a protection from harassment order?

If someone is harassing you and will not stop, it is possible to apply to the Maine courts for a protection from harassment (PFH) order.

The protection from harassment law applies in three distinct situations:

  1. You, your family or your business has been intimidated, confronted or threatened with physical force three or more times by the same person—and you were afraid, intimidated or suffered damage to your property as a result.
  2. Your harasser has committed a serious criminal act against you, such as criminal assault, terrorizing, gross sexual assault, criminal restraint, arson, stalking or violation of privacy (as defined by the Maine criminal code).
  3. The free exercise of your Constitutional rights has been threatened.

Note that if the harassment constitutes a criminal offence, there is no requirement for three occurrences before making a complaint. It should be reported to the police immediately.

The above conditions relate to any individual who is harassing you. If the person abusing or threatening you is a member of your household or a person with whom you are (or have been) in a relationship, you would seek a protection from abuse order instead.

How do I file for a protection from harassment order in Maine?

The first step if you are being harassed by another individual is to report the matter to law enforcement. A written report or statement will be generated, which can be submitted if you need to escalate the matter with the court.

To file an order, you would need to approach the Maine District Court where you live or where the person harassing you lives. If you have relocated to avoid harassment, you can file in that location. Obtain a Protection from Harassment complaint form from the County Clerk’s Office (or online) and complete it with as much factual detail as you can.

There is an associated filing fee to pay for your complaint to deter frivolous complaints—but this can be waived if you cannot afford to pay it by completing an Application to Proceed Without Payment of Fees.

What if I am fearful of my harasser finding out where I am staying?

You can maintain a confidential location by completing only your name on the name and address sections of the complaint form. Then ask the clerk for an Affidavit for Confidential Address form and complete it, stating why you think your address information must be kept private. Usually, applicants state that they fear for their safety and/or the safety of their children.

This form should be submitted with the other paperwork to the clerk, who will seal the information. If your address changes before the case is completed, inform the clerk.

Note too that if the defendant objects to your location being kept secret and submits this in writing, a hearing will be scheduled, and a judge will decide.

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What happens after I file a protection from harassment complaint?

After you file your paperwork with the clerk, a hearing cannot be scheduled until the Complaint papers and a Summons have been served on the defendant. To serve papers, ask the clerk to send the original and a copy of the Complaint and a copy of the Summons to the Sheriff’s Department. Unless the fee has been waived, you will need to pay a fee for this service (typically $15 to $30).

Proof is required that the defendant has been served, i.e., the “Return of Service” section on the back of the Summons must be filled out and filed with the court

What if I need an emergency PFH in Maine?

The process for obtaining a hearing date to issue a protection from harassment order can take time. Sometimes, circumstances mean that an individual needs an emergency PFH.

For this, it is advisable to ask the court to issue a temporary order on the day you file the Complaint. Simply complete the section on the back of the Complaint called “Motion for Temporary Order.”

You will need to demonstrate one of two things:

  1. That you (or your family or employees) are “in immediate and present danger of physical abuse” or “extreme emotional distress” because of the defendant’s actions, or
  2. That your business property is in “immediate and present danger of suffering substantial damage.”

There is no need to serve a temporary order on the defendant, but it may be advisable to do so, and the judge will advise accordingly based on how serious the danger is and other factors.

What happens at the final PFH hearing?

Before the final PFH hearing, mediation may be ordered by the judge. If that is not the case or mediation fails, a final hearing will be ordered at which a judge will decide whether to issue the protection from harassment order.

Two main scenarios are then possible:

  1. If the complainant and the defendant ask for a “consent agreement”, the judge will usually approve the agreement and make it into a court order.
  2. If they cannot agree to an order, the court will hold a formal hearing where each side explains to the judge, under oath and with witness testimony, if necessary, their version of events. The judge will determine whether the order can be issued.

If the defendant proves “harassment” as defined by the statute, the order will be issued stating how long it will be in effect. If the request for a PFH order fails, the case will be dismissed with instructions on who pays the court costs. The only grounds for appeal in such cases are for an “error of law or abuse of discretion”, which makes successful appeals unlikely.

If issued, the order can prohibit harassment, threats, assault, molestation, attacks or other abuses of the plaintiff, their employees or their property. It can even prevent entry to their property or residence.

Other restrictions for the defendant, such as following you or direct contact restrictions may be ordered according to what the judge deems necessary. Compensation for legal fees incurred may also be ordered in some cases. Orders are made according to the specific circumstances of the case and requests made to the judge by the complainant.

If the defendant does not attend the hearing, he/she must still be served the order by a law enforcement officer before it takes effect.

What if the defendant violates the Maine PFH order?

If the defendant harasses the complainant even after the order has taken effect, he or she may be guilty of a criminal offense, so the victim should call the police.

Violation of an order is a Class D crime in Maine, potentially resulting in a jail sentence of up to one year and a fine of up to $2000.

If the subject of a PFH order continues to harass you, talk to a qualified family lawyer to understand your legal rights and how you can further protect yourself and your family/business.

If you need legal assistance with a protection from harassment order in Maine, speak to an experienced family law attorney at The Maine Divorce Group during an initial consultation.

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Call 207-230-6884 or contact us online to schedule a consult with one of our highly skilled family law attorneys today.

We serve many clients, just like you, across Maine in Cumberland, York, Sagadahoc, & Lincoln Counties.


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