Where to start when responding to an Emergency Protection Order (EPO)

An Emergency Protection Order (EPO) is an extraordinary legal remedy intended to protect individuals from family violence. EPOs are granted very ofen on an ex parte basis, which means that the EPO is granted based on the allegations made by the Claimant, the individual alleging to experience family violence, without waiting to hear any evidence from the Respondent, the individual accused of committing family violence. Once the EPO is granted and served on the Respondent, the Respondent will be restrained from the activities listed in the EPO, which may include the following: 

·         Going near the Claimant and family members;

·         Communicating directly or indirectly with the Claimant and family members; and

·         Entering or going near the Claimant’s home, place of employment, or places regularly attended by the Claimant and family members.

While the Respondent will eventually have an opportunity to provide evidence within the Court process, this can seem extremely overwhelming and often isolating with little information about how his process can unfold. While obtaining legal counsel is recommended, it may not be possible for a Respondent to retain a lawyer before their first appearance in court. Notwithstanding this, a Respondent should be aware in the early states of their EPO matter as to the below.

How is an EPO Granted?

A Claimant may obtain an EPO by attending a courthouse in person, or by contacting the Emergency Protection Order Program by phone. A Judge or Justice of the Peace will listen to the Claimant’s concerns and grant an EPO if the Claimant’s allegations satisfy the following three criteria:

1)      family violence has taken place;

2)      there is reason to believe that the violence will continue; and

3)      the situation is serious or urgent enough to warrant immediate protection from the Respondent.

If the criteria are met, the EPO will be granted, and the EPO document will be generated by the Court. A police officer will serve the Respondent with the EPO document. From this point forward, the Respondent must abide by the conditions of the EPO or face serious legal consequences. The police officer may accompany the Respondent back to the family home to collect a few of their personal belongings, which this service must be booked and confirmed in advance of this occurring.

An individual can be charged with a criminal domestic violence charge in addition to having an EPO granted against them. It is critical to understand that the criminal charge and the EPO are not part of the same legal action, and there will be two court appearance that the Respondent has to attend, one appearance for the criminal charge(s) in a criminal court and one appearance for the EPO in family (civil) court at the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta. Failing to appear for either of these appearances could result in serious legal consequences.

What happens at the first appearance for the EPO?

The first EPO appearance will take place in the Court of Queen’s Bench Court no later than 9 working days after the EPO is granted. This appearance is called an “EPO Review,” and the Justice in family (civil) chambers will examine the evidence provided by the Claimant and confirm whether the three criteria described earlier are satisfied. The Justice reviewing the EPO has wide discretion over the matter and may order that the EPO be revoked, confirmed, replace the EPO with a Queen’s Bench Protection Order, or a Mutual No Contact order, provide an adjournment of the matter to a specific returnable date, or order an oral hearing be held.

It is critical that a Respondent understands their legal options before the EPO Review as this appearance can set the trajectory of the legal proceedings, which is often difficult and costly to reverse. Consenting to an EPO could negatively impact a Respondent’s situation with regards to parenting or family property. Simultaneously, submitting sworn evidence to refute an EPO entails careful consideration for the impact this will have on the family (civil) case, and if there is a criminal law case against the Respondent.

If you are uncertain of your legal rights and options at the initial EPO Review, it may be prudent to request an adjournment so to obtain legal advice.

The lawyers at Family Central Law Office LLP have years of experience dealing with Emergency Protection Orders. We are well connected with the Calgary criminal defense bar and are able to work with you and your defense counsel to ensure that all of your options are considered and that your legal risks are mitigated. Please contact us today for a free consultation with our family lawyers by calling our office at 587-392-7970 or emailing info@familycentrallaw.com, or by clicking on our consultation page.

Calgary Family Central Law Firm

Trusted Counsel for Calgary Family Law Matters

Our firm believes in access to legal services for everyone, and serves the Calgary area, as well as regularly traveling for court appearances in Red Deer, Edmonton, Fort McMurray, Medicine Hat, and Lethbridge.

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