Allen Superior Court officials hope a newly created position will help victims of abuse get the protection they need.
More than 3,500 requests are filed locally each year for protection orders by people trying to escape domestic violence, a sex offense or stalking, and the process is a lengthy and tricky one that can be delayed by incorrect or incomplete paperwork.
The court soon will hire a protection order specialist, a first-of-its-kind point person who will help guide applicants through the process and ensure everything is in order.
“Deciding to leave an abusive or violent situation is traumatic enough,” said Judge Craig Bobay, administrative judge of the court's civil division, where the requests are filed. “Many victims are abused again and again before they make that choice. We are working to fundamentally redesign the protection order system to make sure the system itself is not an obstacle to individuals trying to help themselves.”
Last year, 3,571 requests were filed, down from about 4,100 in 2017. Figures for 2019 so far are in line with previous years, Court Executive John McGauley said.
Judge Jennifer DeGroote reviewed thousands of protection order petitions when she was a magistrate. She said there often were mistakes on forms or information missing that court employees would then have to go searching for.
A common mistake, DeGroote said, involves a section of the request asking for earlier court case information related to the subject of the protection order. Those filing the requests typically listed police report numbers instead, she said.
Hearings on protection orders could be delayed by a week or more because of wrong or missing information.
“Every day, I would see paperwork that was incomplete,” DeGroote said. “I would have to ask more questions.”
The new position won't provide legal advice, and the goal for it is to streamline and make the process easier and understandable.
“This person is really there to assist the people navigating the system,” DeGroote said.
The court is accepting applications for the position, which will pay about $35,000 per year. A job description is available at www.allencountyjobs.us.