Filing a Protection from Abuse Petition in the State of Delaware
How to File a PFA In Delaware Family Court 1) Make Yourself Safe; 2) Either obtain forms online to fill out in advance of going to the Courthouse OR go to the Courthouse to obtain forms (see below); 3) Prepare for the hearings, such as bringing witnesses or documentation; 4) Attend ALL hearings.
Delaware PFA Filing RequirementsUnlike other states, DE only permits certain individuals to petition for a PFA. This includes spouses, former spouses, those with a child in common, those in substantive dating relationships, certain familial relationships, and related individuals residing in the same residence. It is common for the respondent (the person being taken to court) to object that the statute does not cover the individual. See 10 Del. Code S. 1041(2).
Assuming jurisdiction is proper, a petitioner (the person seeking the PFA), will need to make allegations that the respondent abused them. Abuse can be sexual, physical or emotional. It can also include taking or destroying tangible personal property, instilling fear of physical violence. See 10 Del. Code s. 1041.
Certain forms are absolutely required to file a PFA, these include Form Numbers 450 & 240. Most petitions involve other forms as well, especially where children are involved. See Del. Court website for forms.
1) Form number 450 Petition for Order of Protection from Abuse (and likely Form 540, Addendum to include as many facts/allegations as possible). Form 450 should be carefully filled out to ensure that you are checking the correct boxes. Include children on the form and ask for temporary custody if warranted. Ask that your addresses be kept confidential when an abuser does not know the survivor's location/address. For allegations of abuse, include all instances of abuse, even if "stale". While the Court will weigh heavily fresher incidents, older incidents can help bolster the case, especially if a pattern emerges. If the Petitioner does not include information on an event, then the Court may sustain an objection - - in other words, include a lot of facts because you may be prevented from testifying about an incident not contained in your petition.
2) Form 240 Information Sheet (required in all cases);
In most cases, an ex parte order will be needed to protect the petitioner until a final hearing can occur.
To obtain an immediate PFA a petitioner will need to request an ex parte hearing. An ex parte motion is a request that the Court issue an order without prior notice to the opposing party. In cases of domestic violence, this can be critical because the Court can take up to 30 days before having a final hearing and the survivor will need protection until the final hearing can occur.
If an immediate order is sought, fill out
3) Form 650 "Motion and Affidavit for Emergency Ex Parte Order" and include grounds for granting an emergency PFA without notice to the respondent.
4) Form 653. You will need to include Form No. 653 "Order on Motion for Emergency Ex Parte Order" so that the Court can fashion an order based on the ex parte hearing.
Where children are involved and the survivor wants to have the Court rule on temporary custody at the time of the PFA hearing OR if the petition is filing against the abuser on behalf of children, then the Court requires
5) Form 346 "Custody Separate Statement" and possibly
6) Form 154 "Affidavit of Parentage"
7) You may also have to fill out Form 241 "Affidavit that a Party's Address is Unknown" if you do not have an address for the abuser.
Special Notes When Children Are InvolvedYou can call Child, Inc. 302-762-6110 for assistance with domestic violence.
Form Numbers 346, 154 are usually required when petitions are filed in which the petitioner alleges that the respondent has abused a minor child.
On form 450, allegations will need to be made that the abuser/respondent abused the minor child. Some petitioners will incorrectly leave this section blank. "See above" or "See Addendum" can cover the petitioner from objections at trial where the abuse alleged is the same as described against the Petitioner in the immediately prior section.