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Know the Laws: Hawaii

UPDATED October 5, 2016

Orders for Protection due to Domestic Abuse (Family Court)

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An order for protection is a civil order that is issued to stop abuse by a family or household member.

Basic information

back to topWhat is the legal definition of domestic abuse in Hawaii?

This section defines domestic abuse for the purposes of getting an order for protection from family court.

Hawaii law defines "domestic abuse" as the occurrence of one or more of the following things between family or household members:

  • physical harm/ bodily injury/ assault;
  • the threat of imminent physical harm/ bodily injury/ assault;
  • extreme psychological abuse (ongoing behavior/actions towards you that seriously disturbs or continually bothers you and has no purpose, causing you extreme emotional distress);
  • malicious property damage (purposely causing damage to your property to try and cause you emotional distress); and/or
  • sexual offenses committed by an adult against a child which include:

Note: Please click on the links to read the definition of each crime.

* HRS § 586-1

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back to topWhat types of orders for protection are there? How long do they last?

There are two types of orders for protection that can be issued by the family court in cases of domestic abuse.

Temporary restraining orders (TRO).  A temporary restraining order can be granted at the time you apply for your order for protection without prior notice to the abuser and without him/her being present in court.*  It is valid for up to 180 days or until an order for protection becomes effective, whichever happens first.  Generally, a hearing on the TRO will take place within 15 days.  At the hearing, the abuser can try to “show cause” (prove) why the TRO should be discontinued.**  For information on the protections you can get in a TRO, see How can an order for protection help me? 

Note: Although Hawaii does not have an emergency order that can be filed when courts are closed, the law does empower the police to issue a similar "order."  A police officer who is investigating an allegation of abuse of a family/household member can order the abuser to leave the home for a "period of separation."  During this time, it is illegal for the abuser to initiate any contact with you, either by telephone or in person. The "period of separation" lasts until 6:00 p.m. on the second business day following the day the order was issued (the day the order is issued is not counted when calculating the two business days).***  For more information, you can read the whole law on our Statutes page here.

Final order for protection.  At the hearing that takes place approximately 15 days after getting your TRO, the judge can give you an order for protection for a longer amount of time if the judge believes that:

  • the abuser did not “show cause” (prove) why the order should be discontinued; and
  • the order for protection is necessary to prevent domestic abuse from happening or from re-occurring.**** 

You can be granted whatever protections were included in your TRO and others if the judge believes they are necessary.*** See How can an order for protection help me? for more information on the protections you can get in an order for protection.

If your situation does not fit the requirements for a family court order, you may request an injunction against harassment from the district court.  For more information, please see our Injunctions Against Harassment (District Court) page.

* HRS § 586-4(a)
** HRS § 586-5(a),(b)
*** HRS § 709-906(4)(b)
**** HRS § 586-5.5(a)


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back to topWhere can I file for an order for protection?

You can file for an order for protection in any family court in the circuit where you live.*  Go to our HI Courthouse Locations page for addresses and phone numbers of the courthouses.  If you want help, you may want to contact an attorney.  Please see our HI Finding a Lawyer page for more information.

* HRS § 586-2

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Who can get an order of protection

back to topWho is eligible for an order of protection?

You can file an order for protection against a family or household member who has committed acts of domestic abuse against you or your minor child.  A family or household member includes:

  • your current or former spouse;
  • your current or former reciprocal beneficiary,* which is someone who you have significant personal, emotional, and economic relationships with, but are prohibited from legally marrying.**  (To see the requirements of becoming reciprocal beneficiaries, go to our HI Statutes page);
  • someone with whom you have a child in common;
  • your parent;
  • your child;
  • someone related to you by blood or marriage;
  • someone with whom you live/lived (Note: This does not include adults who lived together as roommates or who were cohabitants only for economic reasons or due to a contract (e.g., a lease)); and/or
  • someone who you are dating or used to date.*

* HRS § 586-1
** HRS § 572C-2

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back to topCan I get an order for protection against a same-sex partner?

In Hawaii, you may apply for an order of protection against a current or former same-sex partner as long as the relationship meets the requirements listed in Who is eligible for an order of protection?  You must also be the victim of an act of domestic abuse, which is explained here What is the legal definition of domestic abuse in Hawaii?

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back to topCan I get an order for protection if I'm a minor?

If you are a minor (under 18),* any family, household member, or state agency may file for an order for protection on your behalf.**

* HRS § 577-1
** HRS § 586-3(b)

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back to topHow can a TRO and an order for protection help me?

In a temporary restraining order (TRO), which can be issued when you file for an order for protection, a judge can order the abuser to:

  • stop threatening, contacting, hurting, and psychologically abusing you or any person living with you;
  • not enter or visit your home (or immediately vacate [leave] your residence if you live together);
  • not take, hide, get rid of, threaten, or physically abuse any animal belonging to the household; (Note: You can be ordered to follow these restrictions regarding the animal as well);
  • not contact, threaten, or physically abuse you at your place of work
  • not contact, threaten, or physically abuse your children at school; and/or
  • not intentionally damage your property or the property of family or household members.*

Order for protection
In an order for protection a judge can:

  • order all of the protections listed in the TRO section, above, as well as the following:
  • establish temporary visitation and custody for your minor children (which may include supervised visitation or no visitation);
  • take part in domestic violence intervention services; (Note: You may be ordered to participate as well); and/or
  • grant other reasonable requests that the judge believes are necessary in order for you to be free from the violence.**

In addition, the judge can also order your wireless phone service provider to:

  • transfer a shared cell phone account (that you share with the abuser) into your name alone; or 
  • remove/release you from a shared wireless plan and assign a substitute telephone number or numbers.  Either must be done without charge, penalty, or fee.***  You can read more about this law on our HI Statutes page.  (Note: A victim of domestic violence can also request this directly from the wireless service provider even without having an order of protection.****  You can read the requirements in the law on our HI Statutes page.) 

* HRS § 586-4(a),(c); see Petition for Order for Protection, available on the HI Courts website
** HRS § 586-5.5(a); see Petition for Order for Protection, available on the HI Courts website
*** HRS § 586-5.8(a) 
**** HRS § 269-16.93

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back to topHow much does an order for protection cost? Do I need a lawyer?

Nothing. There is no fee to file for, get, or serve an order for protection.*

Although you do not need a lawyer to file for an order for protection, it may be helpful to have a lawyer.  Having legal representation is especially important if the abuser has a lawyer.  Even if the abuser does not have a lawyer, it is recommended that you contact a lawyer to make sure that your legal rights are protected.

If you cannot afford a lawyer but want one to help you with your case, you can find information on legal assistance and domestic violence organizations on the Where to Find Help page.  In addition, the domestic violence organizations in your area and/or court staff may be able to answer some of your questions or help you fill out the necessary court forms.**  You will find contact information for courthouses on the HI Courthouse Locations page.

* HRS § 607-2.5
** HRS § 586-3(d)

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What are the steps for getting an order for protection?

back to topStep1: Call the appropriate office for assistance in filling out your petition/getting a TRO.

As soon as possible after the abuse occurs, you may want to call the local office or branch of the family court.  They will schedule an appointment with you where they can help you to fill out your petition for an order for protection and get a temporary restraining order (TRO).  Be prepared to provide details about the abuse, including physical and psychological abuse, verbal threats and property damage.

The following branches are open Monday - Friday, 7:45am - 3pm HST (except holidays).  You can reach them at the following numbers:
• O`ahu - Family court temporary restraining order office - (808) 538-5959
• Hawai`i - Alternatives to violence branch of child and family services - (808) 969-7798
• Kaua`i - Family court office - (808) 482-2330
• Maui - Law library/Service center/Jury pool office - (808) 244-2706

Some of these steps listed in this section may vary depending on what circuit you are in.  You may want to contact the appropriate office listed above to make sure that you are taking the right steps.

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back to topStep 2: Go to your appointment and fill out your petition with an advocate.

At your appointment, an advocate will help you fill out the paperwork to file for an order for protection and to request a TRO.  A petition for a family court order of protection must be in writing and state that either:

  • a past act or acts of abuse have happened; or
  • threats of abuse or property damage with the intent of causing emotional distress are so strong that it is likely that abuse will happen.*
On the petition, you will be the "petitioner" and the abuser will be called the "respondent."  Write about the most recent incidents of violence, using descriptive language - words like "slapping," "hitting," "grabbing," "threatening," "choking," etc. - that fits your specific situation.  Include details and dates, if possible.  Describe any property damage, hospital visits because of the abuse, and whether the abuser owns or has threatened you with a weapon.  Be specific.  It may also be important to write any previous court action you have taken against the abuser.

Be sure to write your name and a safe mailing address and phone number.  If you are staying at a shelter, give a post office (P.O.) box, not a street address.  When you have completed the paperwork, the advocate will instruct you to bring the paperwork to the family court in your county.

Note: It may also be useful to bring identifying information about the abuser such as a photo (which may be used in serving the order to respondent); addresses of residence and employment; a description and plate number of the abuser's car; and information about his/her gun ownership.

If you prefer not to get help with filling out the petition and other paperwork, you can fill it out on your own.  The paperwork is available at your local courthouse and online at the Hawaii Judiciary website. You will find links to the forms you will need at our HI Download Court Forms page.  For information on the courthouse in your area, please see our HI Courthouse Locations page.  However, you may want to consider going to the appropriate support office in your circuit as they can help you through the process and give you advice on safety planning.

* HRS § 586-3(c)

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back to topStep 3: Bring your petition to family court.

When you bring your petition to court, a judge will look over your request and decide whether to grant you a temporary restraining order (TRO).  The judge may ask you questions about your request or s/he may make a decision based on your application only.  The abuser does not need to be present for you to get a TRO.

Note: You may not know right away if the judge will grant you the TRO.  The clerk may instruct you to call back later in the day to find out the status of your petition.  If you file early in the morning, you will usually hear back later that afternoon.  If you file later in the day, you will likely hear back the next day.

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back to topStep 4: Pick up your copies of the TRO.

If the judge grants a TRO, the court clerk will give you two copies of the order.  One copy will be for you, which will include the date of your order to show cause hearing.  The other copy is certified, sealed, and stamped which can be used to serve the abuser.

Review the order before you leave the courthouse to make sure that the information is correct.  If something is wrong or missing, you may want to ask the clerk how you can correct the order before you leave.  Be sure to keep it with you at all times.  You may want to keep copies in your car, workplace, or your child's daycare.

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back to topStep 5: Police will serve the abuser.

The abuser must be "served," or given a copy of the petition along with papers that tell him/her about the temporary restraining order (TRO) and the order to show cause (OSC) hearing date.

After the judge signs your TRO, you will receive a copy.  It is your responsibility to make sure that service is completed.  You will need to provide an address where the abuser can be found.   In some circuits, you may have to take two copies of the TRO to the police station in the district where the abuser can most likely be located.   In others, the court will ensure that the abuser is served.  You may want to talk to the clerk before you leave the courthouse to make sure you know what the rule is in your circuit.   Do not try to serve the abuser yourself.

Your TRO is not enforceable until the defendant is served.*  You can call Hawaii Police Records and Services Department to ensure that the abuser has been served and your TRO is in effect.

* See Hawaii Judiciary website

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back to topStep 6: The order to show cause (OSC) hearing

Within 15 days of being granted your TRO, an order to show cause (OSC) hearing date will be scheduled.  The date and time of your OSC hearing appears on your TRO.  A judge will hear all of the evidence and decide whether to extend your TRO beyond 180 days. If the judge believes that a final order of protection should be issued, s/he will grant you an order that can last for as long as s/he determines is necessary (usually up to 3 years).*

You must go to the hearing.  If you do not appear, your petition will be dismissed.  If the abuser has received notice of the hearing, but does not show up, the judge will generally continue with the hearing.  If the abuser has not received notice of the hearing, the judge may order a new hearing date and extend your temporary restraining order.

Advocates may be available to assist you at your OSC hearing.  You have the right to bring a lawyer to represent you at the hearing.  If you need more time to get a lawyer (especially if, for example, you show up to court and the abuser has a lawyer and you do not), you may ask the judge for a "continuance" to set a later court date so you can have time to find a lawyer for yourself.

See the Preparing Your Case section under the Preparing for Court tab at the top of this page for ways you can show the judge that you were abused.

* HRS § 586-5.5(a)

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After the hearing

back to topWhat should I do when I leave the courthouse?

These are some things you may want to consider after you have been granted an order for protection.  Depending on what you think is safest in your situation, you may do any or all of the following:

  • Review the order before you leave the courthouse.  If something is wrong or missing, ask the clerk how to correct the order before you leave.
  • Make several copies of the order of protection as soon as possible.
  • Keep a copy of the order with you at all times.
  • Leave copies of the order at your workplace, at your home, at the children's school or daycare, in your car, with a sympathetic neighbor, and so on.
  • Give a copy to the security guard or person at the front desk where you live and/or work along with a photo of the abuser.
  • Give a copy of the order to anyone who is named in and protected by the order.
  • You may wish to consider changing your locks (if permitted by law) and your phone number.
  • If you are concerned about your safety when leaving the courthouse, you may want to notify a court officer to see if s/he may walk you to your car.
You may also wish to make a safety plan. People can do a number of things to increase their safety during violent incidents, when preparing to leave an abusive relationship, and when they are at home, work, and school.  Many batterers obey orders for protection, but some do not and it is important to build on the things you have already been doing to keep yourself safe.  For tips on staying safe, go to our Staying Safe page.

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back to topI was not granted an order for protection. What are my options?

Orders for protection and TROs are generally not granted for two reasons: 1) either your case does not meet the legal requirements; or 2) your petition was not detailed enough.  If your petition is not detailed enough, there may not be enough evidence for the judge to grant you the TRO.*  An advocate or lawyer can help you fill out the petition to prevent this from happening.

If you were not granted an order for protection because your relationship with the abuser does not qualify as a “family or household member,” you may be able to seek protection through an injunction against harassment from the district court.  Please see our Injunctions Against Harassment (District Court) page for more information.  You may also be able to reapply for an order for protection if a new incident of domestic abuse occurs after you are denied the order.

If you are not granted an order for protection, there are still some things you can do to try to stay safe.  It might be a good idea to contact one of the domestic violence resource centers in your area to get help, support, and advice on how to stay safe.  They can help you develop a safety plan and help connect you with the resources you need.  For safety planning help, ideas, and information, go to our Staying Safe page. You will find a list of Hawaii resources on our Where to Find Help page.

If you believe the judge made an error of law, you can talk to a lawyer about the possibility of an appeal.  Generally, appeals are complicated and you may need the help of a lawyer.  See our Filing Appeals page for general information on appeals.

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back to topWhat can I do if the abuser violates the order?

To enforce a temporary restraining order or order for protection, you are the one who would have to report the violations to the police or the court.   Be sure to write down the date, time, location, and what happens when your order is violated.

Remember, even if you think it is a minor violation, you can call the police.  It can be a misdemeanor crime and contempt of court if the abuser knowingly violates the order in any way.  A judge can punish someone for being in contempt of court.  In addition, the police can arrest him/her for the crime of violating the order.*  A judge may order the abuser to undergo domestic violence intervention services, (s)he may be jailed and/or fined.

When you call the police, they will generally send an officer out to make a report.  Show the police your TRO or order for protection.  If the police witnessed the violation or if the abuser is still in the area, the police will most likely make an arrest.  If the abuser violated the order by injuring you, damaging property, etc., you can show the police any physical injuries or property damage (and you can photograph it for use later on).  If the abuser called you in violation of the order, you may want to keep a log of the date and time of the call, what s/he said, save any voicemails or text messages, and write down anything else that you think is important.

The police will make a report, whether or not the abuser is arrested.  It is a good idea to write down the name of the responding officer(s) and their badge number in case you want to follow up on your case.

If no arrest was made, and/or you are uncertain of an arrest, or you have questions about what to expect after an arrest was made, you can call the Victim/Witness Assistance Division of the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office at one of the following numbers:

  • O`ahu (the city and county of Honolulu)- (808) 768-7400 (this is the general prosecutor's office number)
  • Maui - (808) 270-7695 **
  • Hawai`i - Kona: (808) 322-2552; Hilo: (808) 934-3306
  • Kaua`i - (808) 241-1888 ***
* HRS §§ 586-4(e); 586-11(a)
** County of Maui website
*** County of Kaua'i website

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back to topHow do I change or extend my order for protection?

Changing your order
You can ask the court to modify (change) the terms of an existing family court order for protection by filing a petition in court.  The abuser must be notified and a hearing may be held to determine if the modification(s) you requested should be made.  At the hearing (and even in your petition), you must show that substantial changes have taken place since the order was issued or since the last modification was made in order for the judge to grant a new modification.*

Extending your order
You may apply to the court to have your order for protection extended, up through the day that it expires.  You will have to go back to the family court clerk and fill out a petition similar to the one you completed for the original order.  The judge will hold a hearing to determine whether the protective order should be extended.  In making this decision, the judge will consider evidence of abuse and threats of abuse that happened before you got your temporary restraining order (TRO) and whether there is “good cause” (a good reason) to extend the order for protection.  The judge will decide whether to extend the order, and for how long.**

Extended orders for protection can include all of the protections in your original order and can add additional protections that the judge believes is necessary to prevent domestic abuse.   For example, the extended order can set up temporary custody and visitation rights, and/or order either or both parties to participate in domestic violence intervention services.**

* HRS § 586-9
** HRS § 586-5.5(b)

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back to topWill my order still be valid if I move?

If you move within Hawaii, your order will still be valid.  It may be a good idea to contact your local law enforcement to let them know about the order for protection and that you have moved to a new area.  You may also want to call the court where you originally received the order to tell them your new address so that they can contact you if necessary.  However, if you want your new address to be kept confidential, be sure to ask the clerk how to ensure that the abuser cannot access it from the court file.

Additionally, the federal law provides what is called "full faith and credit," which means that once you have a criminal or civil protection order, it follows you wherever you go, including U.S. Territories and tribal lands.*  Different states may have different regulations when enforcing out-of-state protection orders.  You may find out about your new state’s policies by contacting a domestic violence program, the clerk of courts, or the prosecutor in your area or an attorney.  For information on lawyers or domestic violence programs in the area, please see our Where to Find Help page and select the new state to which you will be moving.

If you are moving to a new state, you may also call the National Center on Protection Orders and Full Faith & Credit (1-800-903-0111 x 2) for information on enforcing your order between states.

Note: For information on enforcing a military protective order (MPO) off the military installation, or enforcing a civil protection order (CPO) on a military installation, please see our Military Protective Orders page.

* 18 USC § 2265(a)

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