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Court Orders Can Protect You From Domestic Violence

This article was produced by LARCC in cooperation with CLS, GHLA, NHLAA, and SLS.

Court Orders Can Protect You From Domestic Violence

If you are in danger of being hurt by a family member, the different courts can make orders to protect you. 

  • If a member of your family or household has been arrested for hurting you, the criminal court may give you a criminal protective order.

    But a protective order only lasts until the criminal case ends, and it may not protect other people in the family.  
     
  • Even if you have a criminal protective order, you can ask a Family Court for a civil restraining order. A restraining order can last longer and it can also protect other family members.

This booklet is about civil restraining orders. But there are other ways to protect yourself from domestic violence. To learn more about other things you can do, talk to a domestic violence agency or a lawyer.

Restraining Orders

A restraining order can protect you from a family or household member who has hurt you or threatened to hurt you.

The order can protect you against:

  • Your spouse or former spouse
  • Someone you are dating or used to dated
  • Your child/ren’s other parent
  • Your child, parent, or other relative
  • Someone you live with or used to live with

A restraining order can order that person to not hurt you. That means the person must not hit, push, kick, bite, scratch or threaten to do anything else that hurts you. You do not have to pay to ask for a restraining order.

To ask for a restraining order, follow these steps:

1.Fill out these forms. (You can get the forms at any courthouse or at www.jud.ct.gov/webforms/)

If you have children under 18 and, you are asking the court to order that your children live with you, also fill out: 

2. If you need help filling out the forms, contact:

You must tell the truth on your forms! Also, be aware that the other person will get a copy of your forms (except your contact information).

3.File your completed formsat the Family Court Clerk’s Office at the courthouse that serves the towns where you or the other person live.

4.The clerk will give your forms to a judge. The judge will decide if you will get a temporaryrestraining order (TRO) right away. A TRO protects you for a maximum of14 days, until your court hearing. If you do not get a TRO or if you want an order to last more than 14 days, you must go to the hearing and tell the judge what you need.

5.The clerk will give you:

  • The time and date of your hearing, and
  • Copies of the TRO or other court papers to serve the other person.

6.Ask a marshal to serve a copy of your court papers to the other person. The marshal will serve the papers for free. The clerk can give you a list of marshals. Or see the list at: www.jud.ct.gov/faq/marshals.htm.

Deadline: You must have the other person served at least 5 days before the hearing.

Get ready for your hearing

  • Collect any evidence you need, such as medical records, photos, or police reports.
  • If you want a witness to speak at your hearing, such as a neighbor or police officer, but are worried the witness may not go to the hearing, ask the clerk for a subpoena. (A subpoena is a court order that says the witness must go to your hearing.) A marshal will serve the subpoena. You must go to the Clerk’s Office at least one day before your hearing to do this.
  • If you have questions or need help, call a domestic violence agency or a lawyer.

On the day of your hearing

  • Get there early! It may take 20-30 minutes to go through security and find your courtroom.
  • Ask the Clerk’s Office which courtroom you should go to. Go inside the courtroom. Tell the clerk you are ready, and show her copies of your TRO and other papers for this case, including any papers the marshal gave you.
  • Turn your cell phone off.
  • Wear nice clothes, and be polite to everyone.
  • Do not take your children into the courtroom. If you do not have a babysitter, bring someone who can watch them in the hallway while you are in the courtroom.
  • If you do not speak English, ask the clerk for an interpreter or bring someone – not a child – who can interpret for you.  
  • If you have questions or need help, call domestic violence agency or a lawyer.

Important! The other person has the right to go to the hearing.

What happens at the hearing?

If the other person is there…

The court may ask you and the other person to meet with a Family Relations/Services officer first. You can speak to the officer alone, if you prefer. The officer will suggest a way to make an agreement about your case instead of having a hearing.  But you do not have to accept the officer’s suggestion.

If you and the other person make an agreement, the officer will put it in writing and give it to the judge. Then the judge will ask you and the other person these questions:

  • Is this your agreement?
  • Do you think the agreement is fair?
  • Do you want me to make your agreement a court order?
  • Did anyone force you to agree to this?

If the other person is not there…

Or if you cannot make an agreement, wait in the courtroom until the judge calls your name.
You will have a hearing, and the judge will decide your case.

When the judge calls your name…

  • Stand up and say, “Ready.”
  • Go to the front of the courtroom and stand behind one of the tables.
  • When you speak, stand up and call the judge “Your Honor.”
  • Be calm and polite. Do not interrupt the judge or anyone else.
  • Tell the judge why you need a restraining order and for how long. Show the judge any evidence you brought. Also tell the judge if the other person disobeyed the temporary restraining order.
  • You can ask for an order that lasts up to 1 year, but you must prove that you need it. If you need an order that lasts longer, you can renew it before it expires. Or you can ask for an order that lasts “until further order of the Court” (indefinitely).
  • The other person will also have a chance to tell the judge about what happened.
  • The judge will decide.

If the judge decides to give you a restraining order…

  • The clerk will give you a certified copy of your order. Make several copies. Keep a copy of the order with you, at all times. It may also be helpful to keep a copy at work, at home, and at your children’s school or daycare.
  • The court will fax the order to the police departments where you live and work.
  • The court will also fax the order to the police departments where the other person lives.
  • Read and follow all court orders about custody and visitation for your children.
  • Contact the marshal to get the restraining order served on the other person.

If the judge decides not to give you a restraining order…

Try to find out why by asking the judge. If there was a mistake with service, you may be able to fix it. If they tell you that you have to start over from the beginning, talk to a lawyer or a domestic violence agency.

If you and the other person have children (under 18) together who are also in danger…

The court may give you temporary custody of the children until the order expires. If you want permanent orders of custody, you will need to start a separate custody case in Family Court.  Ask the clerks or a lawyer how to do this.

If the court does not give you temporary custody in the Restraining Order, but you want it, start a separate custody case. Ask a lawyer how to do this.

What if the other person does not obey the restraining order?

  • If you are in danger now, you can call 911.
  • If the other person disobeys a “no contact” or “no violence” order, you can call the police and show them your order.
  • If the other person disobeys any part of your restraining order, you can ask the court to punish him/her. You must fill out a Motion for Contempt(JD-FM-173). If you need help with the form, ask the Court Service Center or the clerk’s office.

If you need to make your order last longer…

Follow these steps:

1. At least 1 month before your order expires, fill out a Motion to Extend a Restraining Order.
If you need help with this form, look at this sample motion. Leave the “Order” section and the dates in the “Certification” section blank for now.

2. Make a copy of your Motion and mail it to the other person. Send it first-class mail using the other person’s most recent address (as far as you know). Mail another copy to his lawyer, if he has one.

The Certification section on the second page of the form tells the court to whom and when you mailed copies of the motion. When you are ready to mail the form, fill in the dates and the Certification section.

3. Take the original Motion and a copy to the Clerk’s Office at the courthouse where you got your previous restraining order. The clerk will file the original, stamp the copy, and give you the copy to keep for your records.

4. The clerk will mail you a notice that says when you must go back to court to ask the judge to extend your order. Follow the directions in the top left-hand corner of the notice.

5. Go to the court hearing on the date listed on the notice. If the court extends your order, ask the clerk how to get a certified copy of the new order. If the defendant disobeys the order, you will need a certified copy to show the police.

If you need more help…

Contact a domestic violence program in Connecticut. Call the 24-Hour Statewide Hotline 888-774-2900. They can help you 24/7 with emergency shelter, crisis intervention, information, and referrals.

This booklet was produced by the Legal Assistance Resource Center of Connecticut in cooperation with Connecticut Legal Services, Greater Hartford Legal Aid, New Haven Legal Assistance Association, and Statewide Legal Services.

The information in this booklet is based on laws in Connecticut as of 2/2013. We hope that the information is helpful. It is not intended as legal advice. For advice on your situation, call Statewide Legal Services or contact a lawyer.

For more information, contact:

Statewide Legal Services: 860-344-0380 (Central CT & Middletown) or 1-800-453-3320 (all other regions).

Not from Connecticut?

Most of the information on this web site is for Connecticut residents only. Visit LawHelp.org to find a legal services program and/or a legal information web site in your area.