Making the decision to seek a protection order is a huge first step. What next?
Filing a Motion for a Protection Order
So you have made the decision to file a motion seeking a protection order.
First, you need to be prepared to appear in court on the day that you file your motion for a protection order. If you are representing yourself, you can fill out and file all of the documents at the courthouse. If you are represented by an attorney, most courts will want your attorney to electronically file the necessary documents on your behalf.
You need to make sure that you have allowed you and/or your attorney sufficient time to complete the documents and appear in court. These are often time-consuming forms to fill out, as you need to provide a complete list of incidences that have occurred, and exhaustive information about all of the people involved (i.e., you, the perpetrator of domestic violence, and your children, if applicable).
Courts treat motions for protection orders as emergencies, so they will have you appear before them that day. Be prepared to wait around, as courts have busy dockets and often need to wait for a break in the schedule for the day, before they can hear you. Some counties have courts that dedicate specific days/ times to hear protection order matters.
You can either seek a protection order through county court, if there is not an open domestic relations case.
On the day that you file a motion requesting a protection order, you will also appear in court. That initial hearing is called an ex parte hearing, meaning that the other side does not receive notice of this hearing.
If you are successful in convincing the judge or magistrate that a protection order may be necessary to keep you and/or your children safe, then the court will issue a TEMPORARY protection order. The court will then schedule a second hearing, within 14 days. The other side will (and must) receive notice of the next hearing.
Serving the Other Party
After you successfully obtain a temporary protection order, you will need to personally serve the other party with the complaint and order. This will notify that person of the substance of your complaint as well as the date for the next hearing.
The next hearing is called the Permanent Protection Order Hearing. The court will schedule this within 14 days following the date that your temporary protection order is issued.
At this hearing, your request is that the temporary protection order be made permanent. In order to successfully obtain a permanent protection order, you will need to convince the court that the restrained party is likely to continue to be have in a way that poses a risk or threat of harm to you and/or your children, if they are not restrained moving forward.
If you do not have evidence that supports your claims at this hearing, the judge's decision often comes down to who the judge believes.
Note that courts are hesitant to make protection orders permanent with respect to children. There are often less restrictive alternatives that enable parents to have restricted and limited parenting time with the children, without eliminating the possibility for a relationship completely.
I have a Mandatory Restraining Order. Why would I need a Civil Protection Order?
If there have been criminal charges filed, as the result of domestic violence, then you probably have a mandatory restraining order in place, as the result of the criminal case. Unlike civil protection orders that are made permanent, criminal restraining orders generally expire at some point (either at the resolution of the criminal matter or after a sentence has been "served.")
If a civil protection order is made permanent, it does not expire. Likewise, civil protection orders enable you to protect addresses, in addition to people. This means that the restrained person may be prohibited from coming within a certain distance of your home, your place or work, and your children's school.
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