Domestic Abuse

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If you are the victim of domestic abuse, or believe yourself to be at risk, please read the following information.

Obtaining Protection
If you are not in immediate danger but believe yourself to be in need of protection and the offender is either a family or household member, someone with whom you live or have lived with, or someone who else who fits the statutory definition, you may qualify to file a Petition for an Order of Protection. Cases involving Domestic Violence are filed in Domestic Violence Court.

What You Will Need
You do not have to have an attorney in order to file a Order of Protection case, but you will need to file the necessary paperwork with the Circuit Clerk's office prior to coming to court.

When you come into the Domestic Violence Court for the purpose of filing a Petition for an Order of Protection, you will need to bring a good (valid) address for the person against whom you are filing the Petition. This is necessary because your Petition must be served on the person you will be naming as the Respondent at a later time.

You will also be asked to fill out papers that include a description of the incident or incidents which have led you to file the Petition. The incident(s) must involve an offender who is a family or household member, someone with whom you live or have lived with, or someone else who fits within the statutory definition and must be in the nature of actual physical abuse, threat of harm or harassment. You cannot file a Petition for an Order of Protection in a situation involving only destruction of, or threat of harm to, property alone.

Process to Requesting Protection
Once you have completed the necessary paperwork, you must decide whether to request an Emergency Order of Protection, or whether to set the case for hearing. In order to obtain an Emergency Order of Protection, you must appear before a Judge for a hearing to establish that abuse has occurred and that further abuse is likely to occur again if the abuser were given prior notice of the filing of your case.

If, after the hearing for an Emergency Order, the Judge finds an Emergency Order is necessary, it will be entered upon the conclusion of your hearing. It may be possible to obtain an Emergency Order of Protection within 24 hours. If your case is not an emergency, you will be given a court date for hearing. This date is generally from 5 to 21 days from the time you file your case, since it is necessary for the respondent to be served with the Summons and the Petition for Order of Protection.

Court Issued Orders of Protection
At the court hearing, an Order of Protection (sometimes referred to as a "restraining order, Peace Bond" or "OP") may be issued by the judge. Depending on your individual situation, the judge may also issue orders granting temporary maintenance, child support, child custody, and possession of your home. An Emergency Order of Protection may be in effect for up to 21 days, a Interim Order of Protection for up to 30 days and a Plenary (Final) Order of Protection for up to 2 years.

The purpose of the Interim Order is to give the petitioner time to initiate additional legal action, such as a divorce or separation, or time for the respondent and/or petitioner to seek counseling should they wish to pursue another course of action. Because each case is unique the exact outcome of any one case cannot be predicted.