Many abuse victims struggle with the thought of going to court and facing their abuser. It can be scary, and the legal system itself can be intimidating. This leads to lesser cases of domestic violence getting notified legally.
Is a hearing necessary to get legal protection?
For the most part, states try to make it easy for domestic abuse victims to get temporary restraining orders when they are warranted. On the other hand, courts want to give alleged abusers the opportunity to defend themselves. So a process has developed where most states allow a person to go to a local courthouse, fill out a form for a judge, and be immediately granted a temporary protective order “ex parte.” That means that the judge awards the protective order after hearing only one side of the story. This will almost always require the person seeking the protective order to appear in front of a judge, but typically there are few other people in the room and the other side would not be present. The judge will usually ask some basic questions to ensure that the protective order is necessary, and will explain the process moving forward before signing the order. In many situations, this uncontested, ex parte hearing will be the final word on a temporary protective order.
When is a contested hearing required?
In almost every situation, the alleged abuser is entitled to his day in court at a hearing. States vary on how this will be handled, though. For example, in Nebraska, a judge can immediately grant a protective order having only heard from one side. The order is then served on the alleged abuser with a “show cause” notice. That basically tells the alleged abuser that a temporary restraining order has been issued against him or her, and if they want to get it overruled, they have to request a hearing to show the court a good cause for why it should be struck down. If the alleged abuser requests a hearing, it will take place within 30 days. If the abuser does not respond, the temporary restraining order can be made permanent. In Florida, by contrast, if the court grants an ex parte temporary restraining order, it can only last for 15 days and a hearing must be scheduled before that time for a judge to decide if the order is to remain in force.
In any event, just because a hearing is scheduled does not mean the alleged abuser will show up. This is especially true if there are no children and no shared property involved. Many times, for example, when a girlfriend files for a restraining order against her boyfriend, he will simply move away and avoid contact rather than get caught up in a legal battle where his behavior will be scrutinized. The same is less true for married parents, for another example. If a husband files for a temporary restraining order barring his wife from living in their home or visiting their child, then the wife is likely to show up to court and defend herself.
The more evidence the better
Whether a hearing is contested or not, it is important that the person seeking a temporary restraining order has an evidence to show why it is needed. Sometimes all a victim has is his own testimony. That can be enough, but it helps to try and recall specific details. Victims can review phone records or social media posts to help get dates right. Messages from the abuser can also be very helpful, and any photos showing the abuse will greatly increase the likelihood of getting a restraining order as well.