In Kansas, victims of domestic violence can go to civil court and petition (ask) the judge for a Protection From Abuse (PFA) order. A PFA order directs the alleged abuser not to harm or have any contact with the victim. Even though it's a civil order, violating the order can result in criminal penalties.
Under the Kansas Protection From Abuse Act, a victim of domestic violence or an adult on behalf of a child victim may ask for a PFA order against an abuser who is an intimate partner or household member.
Domestic abuse includes any of the following acts between intimate partners or household members:
Intimate partners and household members include current or former dating or romantic partners, current or former co-residents, and parents of the same child.
A victim (called the plaintiff) must fill out paperwork (provided by the court) asking for protection from their alleged abuser (the defendant). The plaintiff needs to describe incidents of violence committed by the defendant (an intimate partner or household member). If the petition doesn't contain sufficient information, such as identifying specific acts of abuse or the required relationship, the court can dismiss the petition. The petition must be served on (delivered to) the defendant, who can then file an answer, attend the hearing set on the matter, or do neither or both.
A petition for a PFA order can be filed in any district court in the state. Kansas law does not require plaintiffs to pay court costs or filing fees to petition for a PFA order.
Victims who believe they're in immediate danger can request an emergency or temporary ex parte PFA order. (Ex parte—pronounced ex par-tee—means the court is only hearing the victim's side of the story at this point.)
The victim asks for an emergency order from a local law enforcement officer when the court is closed, which an on-call judge will then sign if they believe an immediate and present danger of abuse exists. If or once the court is open, a victim can request a temporary ex parte order. The judge can order this temporary relief if they believe immediate danger of domestic abuse exists for the victim prior to holding a full hearing. In the full hearing, the defendant has an opportunity to tell their side of the story.
A law enforcement officer or process server will typically deliver the papers to the respondent. Once the defendant receives and knows of the emergency or temporary order, a violation can mean criminal charges. Normally, the full hearing will be held within 21 days.
The court will hold a hearing on the petition unless the plaintiff requests dismissal of the case. Although the defendant isn't required to answer the petition, a defendant's failure to appear likely will result in the judge granting the final PFA order. At the hearing, the plaintiff must prove the allegations by a preponderance of the evidence (a standard of more likely than not). The defendant also will have a chance to give evidence and testimony as to why the judge should deny the petition for the full PFA order.
The type of order—emergency, temporary, or final—will determine the terms or conditions available and the duration of the order. Defendants should not take emergency or temporary orders lightly. Just as with the final order, a violation can result in arrest and jail time.
An emergency PFA order restricts the abuser from having contact with the victim. A judge can also grant the plaintiff possession of the residence (thereby excluding the defendant from the residence) and award temporary custody of the minor children to the plaintiff. This order expires at 5:00 p.m. on the first day the court is open after the on-call judge grants the request.
In a temporary order, the judge can make orders to prevent or protect the victim from future acts of harm. Oftentimes, temporary orders prohibit the defendant from harming or contacting the plaintiff and list the places the defendant must avoid. The order might also give the plaintiff sole possession of the residence or temporary custody of the kids. The order remains in effect until the court dismisses the case or holds a full hearing—usually within 21 days.
The final PFA order generally remains in effect for one year. But, the judge can extend the order for one year, two years, or even for the defendant's lifetime if the defendant has previously violated a PFA order or harmed the plaintiff.
A final order can do more than emergency and temporary orders. The terms of a final order can include:
Federal law also prohibits the defendant in a PFA order case from possessing a firearm if the order meets certain requirements.
Even though a PFA order is a civil court order, violating the order can result in both civil and criminal penalties and an extension of the order. Law enforcement officers can arrest an offender, without a warrant, right away in some cases where the abuser has violated a term or condition of the order. If the violation involved additional acts of violence, such as domestic battery or stalking, the offender could face separate criminal charges for those acts.
Violating a PFA order, such as by harming or contacting the victim, constitutes a class A person misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a $2,500 fine. An offender who violates the order of exclusion from the victim's home commits criminal trespass, a class B nonperson misdemeanor punishable by 48 hours to six months in jails and a $1,000 fine.
A defendant faces a level 6, person felony charge if they violate an extended PFA order—those lasting at least two years. This felony-level offense carries 17 to 19 months in prison and a $100,000 fine for a first-time offender. Depending on the offender's criminal record, they can be facing up to 46 months in prison for this violation.
An offender who possesses a firearm after a PFA order issued against them states they present a credible threat to an intimate partner is guilty of a level 8, nonperson felony, which subjects the violator to seven to 23 months of incarceration, as well as a $100,000 fine, depending on previous crimes.
The court may hold an offender in contempt for violating the PFA order, which can mean jail time and fines. Contempt applies to violations of the order that don't involve the victim's safety, such as child support orders or counseling requirements.
(Kan. Stat. §§ 21-5808, -5924, -6301, -6602, -6611, -6804, 60-3102 to -3107, -3110; 18 U.S.C. § 922 (2021).)
If you received notice of a PFA order issued against you, contact an attorney who works in family law or criminal defense. For criminal charges stemming from a violation, talk to a local criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. An experienced attorney can review the unique circumstances of your case and discuss your options.
If you're a victim seeking assistance in filing for a PFA order, contact a victim's advocate or a lawyer who specializes in family law. In many cases, a petition can be filed without the assistance of an attorney.
The Kansas Judicial Council provides free forms and instructions online for protection from abuse orders.