Hearing for a Domestic Violence Protective Order
As the plaintiff, you must prove that the defendant abused or threatened to abuse you or the children and convince a judge that you need protection and each thing you asked for in the complaint (custody, support or possession of your home).
- Contact any witnesses who saw the abuse or your injuries. Anyone can be a witness - friend, stranger, even a child. Tell your witnesses as soon as possible when and where the hearing will be. Some witnesses may not come without a Subpoena which commands them to appear and testify. The clerk has Subpoena forms.
- Practice telling your story before you to go court. You may want to make notes about what happened - times, dates, places, whom was present (including your children, if they saw any of the abuse). Be specific. For example, rather than say "He hit me," say how he hit you, where and how many times.
- Practice with your witnesses. They need to be ready to answer questions from the defendant or his attorney.
What About the Children?
If you think the defendant may harm the children, be prepared to tell the judge why you think this. Be prepared to tell the judge what kind of custody and visitation arrangements you think would be best for the children. In most cases, the defendant will be allowed to spend time with his children. You can suggest to the judge where and when the defendant can visit the children safely.
The Usual Order of Events
- Everyone who testifies at the hearing must swear or affirm that they will tell the truth.
- Since you are the plaintiff, you will tell your side of the story first. Tell your story simply and truthfully. The judge, the defendant or the defendant's lawyer may ask you questions. If you are afraid to answer any question, tell the judge why. After you finish, your witnesses will have a chance to speak. The judge or the other side may also ask them questions.
- The defendant will tell his side of the story. His story may be very different from yours. The judge may ask the defendant and his witnesses some questions. Then you may ask them questions, but you do not have to. You may ask questions only about the facts in the case.
- The judge will make a decision after hearing both sides and looking at all the evidence. If the judge rules in your favor, the judge will sign a written Domestic Violence Protective Order. The order will say what protection or relief you are given.
If you cannot make it to your hearing, call the clerk's office ahead of time. The clerk may give you another court date or the judge may dismiss the case. (If you case is dismissed, this means that you do not get what you have asked from the judge.) If the defendant has been served and you do not call and do not show up, your case will be dismissed. In addition, the judge could let the defendant present his case and may give him what he asks for, such as custody of the children.