What to expect in the courtroom

If you've never been to a court hearing before, it can be helpful to know some of the basics about what happens in a courtroom.

Don't be late 

You could miss your turn if you’re late. If the court thinks you aren’t coming, the judge may decide on your case without you or cancel your request. 

  • Make plans to arrive early.

  • Think about traffic, where to park, or how to get there on public transportation.

  • Write down the phone number of the courtroom clerk. In case of an emergency, you can call and tell the clerk that you may be late.

Your court’s website may have information about where to park and whether you’ll need money to park. 

If you’re going to be late or will miss your court date: 

  • Call the court. Talk to the clerk who works in the department that you've been ordered to go to (see form DV-109 for this information) . If you can't reach the clerk, leave them a message.

  • If the other side has an attorney, call the attorney to let them know your situation.

When you get to the courtroom

The judge will probably have multiple cases scheduled for the same time as your case. You can wait for your turn in the public seating area at the back of the courtroom.

If you're worried about your safety in the courtroom, let the bailiff know. The bailiff is the person in charge of keeping the courtroom safe. 



Illustration identifying the features of a courtroom

Follow courtroom rules

Rules are usually posted outside the courtroom, but here are some common rules:

  • Do not bring food or drinks 

  • Turn off or silence your cell phone 

  • Do not wear a hat or sunglasses on your head 

When speaking to the judge:

  • Refer to the judge as “your honor” or Judge 

  • Don’t interrupt anyone who is speaking

  • Wait until it's your turn to speak and let the judge know you want a chance to speak

When your case is called 

You will take a seat at a table in the front

When the judge calls your case, you will sit at a table at the front of the courtroom. 

Someone, usually the bailiff or a clerk, will tell you which table to sit at. If you are the one asking for a restraining order, you can bring a support person with you to the table. A support person cannot speak for you but can sit next to you during your hearing. 

The judge will ask who you are 

The judge will ask you and the other side to say your names. Then, you may be asked to swear to tell the truth. 

The judge will hear from both sides

You and the other side will have a chance to present your case. This is when evidence will be shared and witnesses will testify.

There are many reasons why the judge may have rescheduled your court date. This is called a continuance. A common reason is that you did not serve the other side in time (by the deadline) which means you have to serve them before the new court date (usually at least five days before your new court date). Sometimes the judge needs to give you another court date because they need to set aside more time to hear your case. And, if the restrained person asks for more time to prepare for the case, the judge must grant their request if they ask for one at your first court date. If the judge does give you another court date, the judge will usually extend your temporary restraining order, if you were granted one. 

The judge will make a decision

Once all evidence has been presented, the judge will decide whether to grant a long-term restraining order. A long-term restraining order can last up to 5 years, and vary in length depending on the facts of each case.

  • If the restraining order is denied, the restraining order case is finished. Any temporary restraining order that was granted should automatically expire right after your court date. 

  • If the restraining order is granted, you should go over the restraining order to make sure you understand all the orders. Also, there may be additional steps for both sides. See below for "What's Next."

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