When a domestic abuse case comes before the family court, the responding party has three choices:
1. Admit the allegations of abuse (resulting in issuance of the requested Order for Protection);
2. Deny the allegations and proceed with an evidentiary hearing (usually scheduled for a day one to two weeks later, but occasionally takes place later the same day of the admit/deny hearing);
3. Deny the allegations, but assent to the issuance of the Order for Protection. In this instance, the court enters the Order for Protection without a finding of abuse, and the Order pre-empts future contact and/or abusive actions without regard for what happened in the past.
If there is an evidentiary hearing, the court considers the testimony of both parties, and any other witnesses or evidence, and decides whether to issue the Order for Protection.
If there are pending marriage dissolution or child custody proceedings involving the same family, the district court judge in the domestic abuse action will usually give consideration to that, and narrowly tailor the provisions of any Order for Protection so that the dissolution or custody proceedings are not impacted greatly by the domestic abuse action.
The advantages of assenting to the Order include avoiding the airing of "dirty laundry" at an evidentiary hearing, as well as the risk of the court deciding in favor of the petitioning party. The disadvantages of assenting to the Order include the concern of violating the terms of the Order (even inadvertantly), and the chilling effect that such an Order has on communication if the parties have minor children and/or if the parties are negotiating the terms of their marriage dissolution.