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Basic Steps in a Family Offense Petition Case

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Family Court domestic violence cases have the same basic steps if they go all the way to trial. But, many different things can happen, and you may not go through all the steps. It is best to speak to a domestic violence advocate before doing this yourself. Visit Domestic Violence Resources. The steps are different in a Domestic Violence Criminal Case.

  1. File a Family Offense Petition: A domestic violence Family Court case starts with you, the victim, filing a “Family Offense Petition.” You are the petitioner. Your abuser is called the respondent.
  2. See the Judge for a Temporary Order of Protection: After your petition is filed, you will wait to see a judge or referee. When you see the judge, you will tell your side of the story. The respondent won’t be there. The Judge will decide whether to issue a Temporary Order of Protection. You will get a date to return to court. If a Temporary Order of Protection is granted, you will get a Summons, Petition and Order of Protection.
  3. Serve the Order of Protection, Summons and Family Offense Petition on the Respondent: The Temporary Order of Protection is not in effect until it is handed to the respondent. This is called service. You are not allowed to deliver the Order of Protection. The papers can be served by a friend, a process server, a sheriff, or the police. You must bring proof of the service to your court date. The court will explain what needs to be done. If the sheriff’s office does the service, you can register to be notified it’s done. Visit Order of Protection Notification System.
  4. Go to the Court Hearing: When you return to court on your hearing date, the respondent will be there too. The respondent has a right to a hearing about your Petition. If you don’t go to court, your Temporary Order of Protection will no longer be in effect and your case will be dismissed. If the respondent doesn’t come to court, but got the Temporary Order of Protection, the court can listen to you and issue a final order of protection without the respondent. If you both come to the hearing, the respondent may agree to an order of protection and the court can issue a final order of protection and the case is over. If the respondent does not agree, you will get a date for a trial.
  5. Go to Trial: At a trial, both you and the respondent have a chance to tell the Judge your side of the story and present evidence in support of your case. If you have pictures of injuries or bruises, or witnesses, bring them to court. The Judge makes a decision based on the testimony and evidence. The Judge may decide to issue of final Order of Protection.

During the Case

During the case, either side can ask the court to:

  • Change Terms. You or the respondent may ask the Judge to change the terms of the Order or some of the conditions. For example, changes to visitation with the children, or allowing contact about a shared business or sale of a home, adding a person to the protective order, or changes to child support or custody.
  • Violation Petition. If the respondent does not follow the Order of Protection, you can file a violation Petition in court. Or you can call the police.
  • Withdraw Petition. You can also decide that you don’t want to continue the case and withdraw your Petition.
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