The person requesting the protective order is called the petitioner. The person alleged to have committed the abuse is called the respondent. While a domestic violence victim is usually the petitioner, there are instances in which the abuser files for a protective order, listing himself as the petitioner and the victim as the respondent. This is a strategy an abuser may use to try and frame himself as a victim before his violence is exposed.
Even if your abuser has filed for a protective order, you still have the right to petition for one too. Depending on the timing of the petitions and the individual laws of the state, multiple petitions may be heard on the same day, if one of the parties makes the request to the judge either in writing in advance of the hearing or orally before the hearing begins.
To obtain a protective order, you must ask the court to grant the order through a petition- a form that asks for information about:
- your children
- your abuser
- the incident causing you to seek the court’s protection
- your domestic violence history
- your needs, concerning further contact with the abuser, financial support, visitation, custody, child support, etc.
Tips for filling out the petition:
- write clearly and concisely
- accurately describe the facts
- list all of your injuries and any medical treatment you received
- inform the court if your abuser has weapons and/or firearms and ask that he turn them in to law enforcement
- inform the court if you have had prior protective orders
- if you can not fill out the form due to language barriers or for another reason, inform the court clerk where you obtain the form and ask for assistance
To view what a protective order petition and a protective order looks like in your state, visit WomensLaw.org, scroll down to your state and click on download court forms.
Some courthouses provide trained domestic violence professionals who can explain the process for obtaining a protective order. There may be domestic violence legal programs that may represent you in obtaining a protective order if you can not afford an attorney.
To learn more about the resources at your local court house, visit WomensLaw.org, scroll down to your state, and click on courthouse locations.
When possible, you should be accompanied to court by someone you trust, especially if you do not have an attorney representing you. Court companions are also offered by many state domestic violence coalitions.
Visit JWI's Resource Directory to find resources in your state to assist you in the protective order process.
When filling out the petition for a protective order and/or testifying at a protective order hearing, you may be asked to give your address. Remember, court hearings are recorded. If your abuser does not know where you are currently located and you are concerned for your safety, you may not want to disclose your address when filling out the petition and while testifying in court. If you do, it can be entered into the court’s computer and become a public record, which means anyone, including the abuser, could find it. Instead, write the word “confidential” in the address column. Tell the clerk who receives the petition that you are concerned for your safety, and that during the hearing you will explain this request for confidentiality to the judge.
During the hearing the judge may ask you to provide an address other than your own, so you can receive important correspondence from the court regarding your case.
- If you are represented by an attorney who agrees to pass along any court mailings or documentation, you can list your attorney’s address.
- You may also reach a similar agreement with a domestic violence agency providing you with counseling, legal and/or other services.
- You could also list a friend’s or relative’s address, if they give permission.
- You could also set up a P.O. Box to receive your mail.
Be sure to write down your case number, the clerk’s name and contact information: you should call the clerk, at least weekly, to check on the status of your case. You do not want to miss an important hearing because you didn’t receive notice by mail; many courts will dismiss the petition if you don’t show up at a scheduled hearing.
Information contained on this website should not be construed as legal advice. Read full disclaimer.