Neighbor disputes are some of the most problematic types of cases courts regularly deal with. Unlike with a typical anti-harassment or stalking case, the remedies available to the court can only go so far because, ultimately, the parties will still be living next to each other after the hearing(s) are finished. A typical order would have distance and monitoring restrictions. When the parties live across the city from another, it is possible to order individuals to stay 1,000ft away from the other or to not surveil the individual. However, when parties live next to each other, a distance restriction can only go so far as the property boundary and it cannot be “surveillance” every time an individual looks out from their window which faces the neighbor.
Protection orders do not typically de-escalate disputes but rather (hopefully) prevent further escalation. Because of this, many Judges are reluctant to issue protection orders in neighbor disputes in the hope that some form of other resolution is possible to deescalate the situation to allow the parties to live next to one another in relative harmony. Some counties and court houses will have enough funding to suggest or instruct the parties to seek mediation. Sometimes, with fact patterns that would normally result in a protection order with parties who do not live next to each other for Judges to dismiss cases with a strong tongue lashing on the problematic neighbor warning him or her to change their behavior otherwise a protection order would be issued the next time a case is filed.
Ultimately, there are no winners in neighbor disputes. It is stressful to live next to someone who you have a strong dislike for. It is best to avoid conflict even at the cost of a little inconvenience. Unfortunately, this is not always possible… The reality is some people simply cannot be reasoned with. Some people have mental, emotional, behavioral, racist, xenophobic, and/or homophobic issues which cannot be avoided no matter how hard you try. If you find yourself in this unenviable situation, it is important to build the strongest case possible in case to convince even the most reluctant of Judges that there is no other reasonable option but to issue a protection order.
Building a strong case requires as much documentation as possible. Keep a diary of every incident and obtain proof, if possible, like video, pictures, or third-party witnesses. “Unlawful harassment” requires a pattern of behavior. One incident is typically not sufficient except under limited circumstances. It is also important you try not to engage with the neighbor. A court will be less inclined to intervene if the hostilities are going back and forth. A court will interpret that as you engaging and triggering the response. It may also open yourself to the risk of the other side requesting that the court “realign” which essentially means the opposing party is now asking for the court to issue a protection order against you.
If you find yourself in a neighbor dispute and are not sure how to proceed, consulting with an experienced attorney like those at Rhodes Legal Group is an important first step. We will help you understand all of your options, give you an honest assessment of your situation, and help you prepare for court if the dispute has escalated to that point.