If you are the victim of domestic violence, call 911 immediately. If necessary, run into the bathroom and lock the door and then call 911. Tell the police you have locked yourself in the bathroom and will not come out until they arrive. If there are children in the house, inform the police of that too. When they arrive, tell the police you want the person who victimized you arrested. If asked if you want him or her taken to Family Court or to Criminal Court, always answer Criminal Court. If the police try to dissuade you from criminal court in favor of family court because the person to be arrested is the children’s mother or father, tell them: “criminal court.”
Here’s why: In criminal court, you the complainant do not need to hire a lawyer and you do not have to miss work to show up at court until the date of trial. In Family Court you should hire a lawyer, miss work every time it is on the calendar and appear in court. If you only obtain an order of protection from family court, and the person who victimized you then files in family court for an order of protection against you, you may find yourself on equal footing. If you obtain an order of protection from criminal court and then that person obtains an order of protection against you from family court, you retain the upper hand and more importantly, family court will probably view his or her petition there less favorably.
If there is also a divorce action pending or about to be filed, the divorce court will probably look more negatively at the person who is restricted by a criminal court order than a family court order. Getting an order of protection from family court is often too easy, but to get on from criminal court is never as easy. Therein lies the difference in weight they may be given.