The state legislative session just ended six days early, but not before legislators passed L.B. 532 by overwhelming numbers. The governor then signed the bill on May 30. The new law will require state judges to hold hearings on ex parte petitions for domestic violence protection orders that are initially denied.

In a previous post, we talked about this bill in detail after its introduction in April.

As background, a spouse or partner may file an initial petition in state court without notice to the other party requesting a protection order to prevent contact with the other spouse or partner if he or she presents a risk of domestic abuse. If the judge finds an “immediate danger of abuse,” the judge can issue the order, but this ex parte (meaning without notice to or participation of the subject of the petition) order is temporary.

This is the point in the process that the new law will affect. If the judge denies the ex parte petition, the bill says that there must be a hearing within 14 days. While the previous language arguably already required this, it was not always happening. The bill clarifies that the hearing is a requirement for these initially denied petitions.

(As we explained in the related post, after the judge issues the temporary order, the respondent or subject may request a show-cause hearing to object to it. If he or she does not respond or cannot show that the judge should not have issued the order, it becomes a permanent domestic violence protection order.)

Nebraska law allows protection orders for not only domestic abuse, but also against harassment and sexual assault. In addition to the hearing requirement, the bill also provides that when an alleged victim files a petition for any one of the three kinds of protection orders, the judge may treat the petition as if it were for any of the three types, if the evidence supports a different one more favorably.

The changes in the bill will take effect on January 1, 2020.

A family lawyer can advise and represent a victim of domestic abuse in his or her petition for a protection order. On the other hand, an attorney can also defend a person who has been wrongly accused in a petition for a protection order.