Note: You can find definitions for words followed by * in the Glossary
- Getting Help
- Getting Help from the Maine Courts
- Protections for Noncitizen Survivors of Domestic Abuse
- Protections for Vicitims of Human Trafficking
Domestic violence is when anyone in your household:
- hurts you physically or sexually
- frightens you by threatening you or a child
- keeps you a prisoner.
Domestic violence is sometimes called "abuse." The person who is violent is called the "abuser." Domestic violence is against the law in Maine and in the United States. Hitting, slapping, punching, kicking, and threatening violence are crimes. You have the right to be safe. In Maine, the law also covers dating partners and any person who stalks you. This can be a current or former relationship.
Human Trafficking can include:
- Being smuggled into the U.S. illegally (without a visa) by someone in order to do work in the U.S. Work can include:
- Working in restaurants, factories, "sweat shops"
- Work in the "sex trades" including work in so-called massage parlors
- Being brought to the U.S. legally, for example with a temporary working visa, and being forced to work under conditions that are illegal in the U.S., such as:
- Working more than 40 hours a week without getting paid overtime
- Being housed in dangerous or unhealthy housing
- Being paid less than the wage promised when you were recruited for the visa
- Being made to do different work, or in a different location, than what you were told when you were recruited for the visa
- Having your passport or other identification taken from you and held by your employer so that you do not feel free to leave a situation that is abusive or unsafe or unhealthy.
Human trafficking is against the law in Maine and in the United States. You have the right to be safe and not to be abused by a smuggler or even by a legitimate employer.
If you or a child is in immediate danger, call the Police (dial 9-1-1). The police are trained to deal with domestic violence. In some cases, they will arrest* the abuser. This is considered the best way to immediately halt the violence. Even if they do not arrest the abuser, they will keep a record of the event. This record can be used later in a legal action.
Unfortunately, in Maine, some police will ask you for your immigration status and will call Immigration. If you do not have legal immigration status, it may be safer to call a shelter. They can help you with a safety plan and can then help you contact an immigration lawyer. The lawyer can advise you on whether you might be able to qualify for legal immigration status based on the abuse that you have experienced from your spouse or your employer. See the information below on "hotlines" and shelters.
You can also call a "hotline." A "hotline" is a telephone number for people to call who are being abused. The call is usually free. You can call anytime, day or night. The people who answer the telephone are trained to help you. They will not tell the abuser you have called. They will give you information about how to deal with a violent situation. They will also give you information about your rights. (See Resources)
You do not have to stay in a home where you are being abused. You can go to a shelter. Shelters are places where you and your children can stay temporarily. Shelters will not tell the abuser you are there. Shelters have counselors who can help you decide what to do about the abuse. They can give you information about programs that will help you if you decided to leave your abuser. (See Resources)
You can get protection in Maine Courts. You can get an Order from the Maine Court to protect you from being abused by a family member, a household member, a sexual partner, dating partner, or someone who stalks you. If you are responsible for a minor child, you can ask for an Order on behalf of the child. If you are both being abused, you can ask the Court to give an order that will protect both of you.
Go to the District Court (See Government):
- where you live, or
- where the person who abused you lives, or
- where you have gone to escape the abuse
If you are not sure about doing this by yourself, or you have questions, you can contact a domestic violence project in your county. (See Resources below.)
Go to the clerk's office and ask for a Protection from Abuse Complaint* form. You can fill out the form at the courthouse or take it with you to fill out somewhere else.
If you do not feel completely comfortable with English, you have the right to a free interpreter to help you communicate with the court clerk, and in Court. Tell the clerk that you want an interpreter. The Clerk can call a telephone interpreter service to help you understand the process of filing the Protection from Abuse Complaint. The clerk can also arrange for an interpreter to be available the next time you have to go back to Court.
How long it takes to get a Court Order. If you need protection right away, check the box asking for a Temporary Order*. If the judge who reads your complaint agrees that you are in immediate and present danger*, she will give an order right away. The order will take effect as soon as it is served* on the defendant*. If the judge does not give a temporary order, you will still have the chance to get an order later, after a court hearing.
After you file your complaint. If the judge gave a Temporary Order, the clerk will ask a police officer or deputy sheriff to serve the Complaint and Temporary Order and Notice of Hearing* on the Defendant. The clerk should also give you copies of these papers. The Court must schedule a hearing within 21 days. The Notice of Hearing will tell you the date and time.
If the judge denies the Temporary Order after talking to you, the clerk will fill out a Summons and tell you how to get the other party served with the court papers. This costs money. If you cannot afford the service fee, tell the clerk. She will give you an Application to Proceed Without Payment of Fees* and an Affidavit* form. This form asks for financial information. If the judge agrees that you cannot afford the cost of service, the fee will be waived*.
The Court Hearing. You must go to the Court hearing. If you do not go, the Court will dismiss your case and your Temporary Order will end.
What will happen in Court. At the hearing, you will be asking the judge to continue the Temporary Order for up to two years. To get this, you must prove that the Defendant has abused you (or your child) in at least one of these ways:
- trying to hurt you or touch you in a hurtful way
- making you afraid by threatening, harassing or tormenting you
- forcing you or scaring you into:
---doing something you have the right not to do (such as staying up late at night to entertain or wait on the Defendant when you need to sleep), or
---not doing something you have the right to do (like leaving the house or going to the store)
- kidnapping you or treating you like a prisoner
- frightening you by threatening to do serious violence to you or to someone else
- repeatedly following you or hanging around near your home, school, or work place to keep an eye on you
When you are thinking about how to tell the judge your story, be aware of these legal categories of abuse.
After the hearing, the judge will decide whether to extend your Order. If she does, then there will be questions about what to include in the Order. The Order will usually:
- order the Defendant not to have any contact with you
- order the Defendant not to hurt you or threaten you or any children in your home
- order the Defendant to stay away from your home, school, business or workplace
- order the Defendant not to follow you
- order the Defendant not to interfere with your property
- order the Defendant not to possess a gun or any other dangerous weapon
- grant possession of the home to you or the Defendant
- order temporary division of personal property
- state how long the Order will be in effect (up to two years)
If you have mutual children, the Order may also:
- grant temporary parental rights (primary residence and visitation)
- order payment of child support (or order filing of child support affidavits so child support can be determined and ordered later)
- order an immediate payroll withholding to collect support
You can also ask the judge to order other forms of protection and support that you need. How Protection from Abuse Orders affect immigration status. You do not have to have any immigration papers to get Protection from Abuse. Getting an Order against your partner will not hurt his immigration status. But if you partner disobeys an Order, he may get arrested, which could affect his immigration status.
Immigration is not allowed to deport a person based on information provided to them by an abuser or a member of the abuser’s family. So remember this if you are undocumented or have only temporary immigration status and your abuser is threatening to call Immigration and “have you deported.”
Often the abuser will make these threats just to try to make you afraid and control you, and to keep you from leaving. But if you are really afraid that the abuser has called Immigration, contact an experienced Immigration lawyer as soon as possible. The lawyer can take steps to try to stop Immigration from taking any action against you.
The most important thing is to take whatever steps you need to be safe. Shelter workers can help you reach an immigration lawyer and the immigration lawyer can help you with Immigration. Worry about your safety first, and the immigration issues can be handled as soon as possible after you are in a safe situation.
If you are undocumented or have only temporary immigration status, but your (or your child's) abuser is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident (has his "green card"), you may be able to file paperwork with the Immigration Service to get permanent residency. You must be married to the abuser, or the marriage must have ended less than two years ago. Both physical and psychological/emotional abuse may make you eligible. Your abuser is not part of the process--you can file the paperwork without the abuser's help or knowledge.
If your abuser is not a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, or if you were never married to the abuser, you still may be able to get legal status on your own in certain cases. This may even be true if you somehow are put in deportation proceedings (for example, if Immigration does a workplace inspection and finds you there), as long as you have already lived in the U.S. for at least three years. Even if you have not lived in the U.S. for three years, many forms of abuse are crimes; you may be able to get legal status to stay in the U.S. if you help in the investigation or prosecution of the crime. Your first priority should always be your safety, but if you are undocumented, contact an immigration advocate experienced in domestic violence situations as soon as possible. See Resources.
In these cases, you may have to prove the "good faith" of your relationship with the abuser. This means that if the abuser was a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, you were not with the abuser just so that you could get your "green card" through the relationship. Photographs of you and the abuser together, letters that you may have written to each other before you began living together, bills in both of your names, joint insurance policies etc., can be used to prove the good faith of the relationship. If you leave the abuser, whenever possible, try to take photos and other documents that might help prove the good faith of your relationship with the abuser.
These cases are very complicated. Always get an immigration advocate experienced in representing noncitizen domestic violence survivors to help you. Even if you are working with a family law attorney or with a domestic violence shelter or intervention program, you should have an immigration advocate work on the immigration issues. Your immigration advocate will work closely with your other advocates.
Human trafficking is a crime. If you do not have legal immigration status, or if you have a temporary work visa but your employer has created abusive working conditions, you may be able to get legal immigration status here in the U.S., plus monetary damages. These cases are extremely complicated and you will need an immigration lawyer to advise you and assist you. You may also need a labor law lawyer to help. Contact an immigration advocate to find out if you have any immigration options. The immigration lawyer can help you find other resources that may be needed to help you. If you do not feel safe, you can contact the organizations listed below that help in domestic violence cases before contacting an immigration lawyer. Safety should always be your first concern.
For immediate help, support, or advice, call the nearest Domestic Violence prevention program Hotline toll-free day or night:
Statewide toll-free: 1-866-834-HELP (4357)
Or get local phone #’s here: www.mcedv.org/services/maine-domestic-violence-programs
“Information Guide for Abused Women in Maine”
Ask for copy at a Domestic Violence Project: www.mcedv.org/services/maine-domestic-violence-programs
Protection from Abuse: How the Law Works in Maine
Sample Protection from Abuse court documents in seven languages
Domestic Violence Safety Plan
Immigration Legal Aid in Maine
Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project
309 Cumberland Avenue, Suite 201
PO Box 17917
Portland, Maine 04112
207-780-1593 or 1-800-497-8505
Services are free or low-fee depending on income
Private Immigration Lawyers: See the "Immigration Law" listing under "Lawyers" in the Yellow Pages of the phone book.