Bring evidence or witnesses
If you have evidence like pictures, text messages, or emails, you will need to print them out and make three copies of each piece of evidence. One copy is for you, one is for the judge, and one is for the other side.
If you have witnesses who can help support your case, bring them with you to your court date.
Plan what you want to say to the judge
It can help to plan out and make notes about what you want to say to the judge. You can read from your notes in court, if you need to. Read over the court papers in your case and write out anything else you want the judge to know. Focus on the facts and details that support your side of the story.
Go over any documents you got from the other side
If the other side served you with papers, make sure to read them. If you don't understand what the other side is asking for, contact your local Self-Help Center. The judge will give you an opportunity to agree or disagree with the other side's arguments. If you don't agree, make notes about how you want to defend against the other side's arguments.
Make arrangements beforehand
Find childcare because court may take all morning or afternoon, even all day. Some courts have a Children’s Waiting Room, a safe place for children to wait while parents are in court. Check with your court in advance to see if this is available.
Bring things you will need, like:
Pen and paper
Your court papers
Papers the other side filed (if any)
Three copies of anything you want the judge to review. One for you, one for the judge, and one for the other side.
Notes with what you plan to say or ask
Bring a support person, if you want one. If the other side has been violent or threatened you with violence, your support person can sit next to you when you present your case. But, your support person cannot speak for you.
Dress nicely, like you're going to a job interview or place of worship. No shorts, baseball hats, or flip flops.
What to expect at your court date
The judge will give both sides a chance to speak
Usually, the judge asks the person who wants the civil harassment restraining order to talk first. No matter who talks first, you will both get a chance to speak. Going to court can be difficult and stressful but it is important not to talk over anyone. If you have something to say and it is not your turn, let the person finish talking and then ask the judge for permission to speak.
Present your case to the judge
When it is your turn to speak, that means it is your turn to present your case. Presenting your case means explaining to the judge the facts that support your case. This can feel scary and overwhelming. It is okay for you to bring notes and read from them. You can also bring in evidence or witnesses to support the facts of your case.
If you have evidence for the judge to review, let the judge know. This can include witnesses that you brought with you to court and documents, like proof of text messages, emails, and pictures of injuries. You should bring three copies of any document you want the judge to see. One copy is yours, one is for the other side, and one is for your court file. If you have recordings (video or audio), you should check in with your local Self-Help Center before your court date. Sometimes judges may require a transcript for a recording. A transcript is a written version of the recording that shows exactly what was said.
The judge makes a decision
Usually, the judge decides whether to grant or deny a restraining order on the day of your hearing. If the judge feels like more information or time is needed, the judge may ask you to come back another day.
- If the judge denies (does not grant) the request for restraining order, the restraining order case is done.
- If the judge grants a restraining order, the person protected by the restraining order will have some additional steps to take, like completing a form for the judge to sign. If you are the restrained person, you must obey all the orders that the judge made. If you do not, you could go to jail, pay a fine, or face other consequences.