You have filed for an Order of Protection*, in Family Court. (If you are unsure of while court you should go to please refer to my article, “How to file an Order of Protection” regarding Family vs. Criminal Court.) The judge granted a temporary order, with a return date, and now you aren’t sure what to do. The type of OP and the conditions of the order will be listed on the paperwork given to you by the file clerk. The person who have filed the order is the Petitioner. The person that the order is against is the Respondent.
It was the first time you had gone into court for your order. Upon leaving the courtroom you are told to wait for your paperwork. (Please note: My experience is in New York, so procedures can/will differ from state to state.) Eventually, your name will be called. The file clerk will give you two packets of papers. One packet is a thinner set of papers, which will have two copies of your OP. One is to remain on your person, (in your possession), at all times, and the other is to be kept in a safe place, probably a place the batterer doesn’t know about.
The thicker set of papers in the set is to be served to the batterer, as well as paperwork, the affidavit, that must be filled out by the person who serves the order. If that isn’t filled out your order is considered null and void.
Someone over the age of 18 must serve the OP and it shouldn’t be you. Often times if you serve the order yourself you might irritate the situation and possibly put yourself in danger. If you have no one in your life who can do the delivery, you may contact your local police department. A majority of police departments have a domestic violence unit with officers who work specifically with Orders of Protection. But, if you go to the station and the Domestic Violence Officers aren’t there, any police officer can deliver your OP
Another option is the local sheriff’s office, who can provide the service free of charge. That phone number can be attained while at the court house or thru your local phone directory. Your last option is to pay a service company to serve to order for you.
Let’s say for example, that your brother is going to serve the order to the Respondent. As he walks up the Respondent’s house, the Respondent is putting out the garbage. As your brother tries to serve the papers, the Respondent refuses to take the papers. Your brother can simply drop the papers at his feet, and tell him he has been served. He will be considered served.
The OP cannot be given to the Respondent’s mother, (or anyone else for that matter), for her to give to him. It will not count. The papers are officially served. Whoever served the papers for your must fill out the affidavit in order for the OP to be valid.
Now what? You wait until the date to arrive that you are to return to court. If you want to extend the “life” of the order, you must return to court, otherwise, it will be dropped. This second court appearance gives the Petitioner, and the Respondent the chance to stand before the judge and be heard. Both parties have a right to have a lawyer. If either party cannot afford a lawyer the judge can appoint an 18B, court appointed lawyer for you, if you meet the court’s financial requirements.
This means you will be seeing the person you have filed against, but there will be court officers at the court house. Keep in mind, you are allowed to bring someone for emotional support, outside your lawyer, i.e., a friend, religious leader, or family member. That person is allowed to come in the courtroom with you, and sit in the back.
You can wait in one area away from the Respondent, that way you are out of his eye range. You must inform the court officer, in case you are out of ear range, for when your name is called. That way the officer may notify you when your case is called.
When you are called into court, you both will have a chance to speak. The Respondent will have the chance to essentially approve the OP and submit to it. By doing so, the judge can set a length of time for the OP is good for. It then is on record that the Respondent hasn’t protested the order, and has allowed the reason for it being granted to go on record.
Some Respondents choose to go to trial. Many Petitioners get upset when hearing the case will go to trial. Do not be discouraged. Going to trial means the Respondent doesn’t want the actual reasons for the Order of Protection to be on permanent record.
For trail you must have a lawyer. If you don’t have one, you may ask the judge to recommend an agency. If you would like a lawyer you specializes in domestic violence, (if that is what your order is for), ask the judge. The judges are privy to useful resources, including lawyers.
In New York, the “life” of an Order varies. It varies from state to state. New Jersey courts, for example may grant you a life time Order of Protection. It literally means the Respondent may not come near you for the rest of your life. If you are given a “do not contact” OP the Respondent may not visit, call, email, mail via US Mail, nor may they leave you voice mails or text messages. If they even send you a text message that is violating the order.
If you have a child in common with the Respondent, a Law Guardian will be appointed. It’s their job to arrange visitation times and a neutral place to the exchange. If the parents cannot drop the children at the homes, or do not feel safe in doing so, a drop off may be arranged at a mutually agreed upon place or even at your local police department.
*The Order of Protection is commonly called an O.P in court. I will be referred to an Order of Protection either as an O.P. or simply an order.