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Know the Laws: Indiana

UPDATED April 4, 2014

Orders for Protection

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An order for protection is a civil order that protects you from abuse by a family or household member.

Basic information

back to topWhat is the legal definition of domestic violence in Indiana?

This section defines domestic violence for the purposes of getting a civil order for protection.

"Domestic violence" (also known as "family violence") is when a "family or household member" commits one or more of the following acts (except if the act is committed in self-defense) against you:

  • Attempting to cause, threatening to cause, or causing you physical harm;
  • Placing you in fear of physical harm;
  • Stalking you;
  • Causing you to involuntarily engage in sexual activity by force, threat of force, or duress;
  • Beating, torturing, mutilating or killing an animal with the intent to threaten, intimidate, coerce, harass, or terrorize you.*
For the legal definition of a "family or household member," see Who can get an order for protection?

In addition, for the purposes of getting an order for protection, Indiana law also includes stalking and sex offenses that were committed by someone who is NOT a family or household member (e.g., a stranger, neighbor, acquaintance) as part of the definition of “domestic violence.”  Therefore, if you were stalked or sexually assaulted by someone who is NOT a family or household member, you can still apply for a civil order for protection.*  For the definition of stalking andsex offenses, see What is the definition of stalking and "sex offenses"?

* IC § 31-9-2-42

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back to topWhat are the definitions of stalking and "sex offenses"?

Indiana law allows you to get an order for protection against anyone who has stalked you or committed a sex offense against you (whether or not this person is a family or household member).*

Stalking is a pattern of behavior.  It includes two or more incidents of intentional and repeated harassment that reasonably cause you to feel frightened, intimidated or threatened.**

A “sex offense” is when someone forces you to have sexual intercourse*** or “deviate sexual conduct” (i.e., oral or anal sex; or penetration with an object):****

  • by force or an immediate threat of force;
  • when you are unaware that the sexual intercourse is occurring; or
  • when you are so mentally disabled or deficient that you cannot consent to sexual intercourse (including if you are drugged without your knowledge).
There are additional sex offenses which could qualify you or your child for an order for protection including child molestation (of a child under 14), sexual misconduct with a minor (which involves sexual contact with a child between the ages of 14 and 16, child seduction (which involves sexual contact with a child between the ages of 16 and 18), vicarious sexual gratification; fondling in the presence of a minor, child solicitation, sexual battery, and communication with a child concerning sexual activity.  You can click on each link to read the definitions of these crimes on our IN Statutes page.

* IC § 31-9-2-42
** IC § 35-45-10-1
*** IC § 35-42-4-1
**** IC §§ 35-42-4-2 and 35-31.5-2-94

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back to topWhat is an order for protection? What types are there?

An order for protection is a civil court order intended to provide protection from domestic / family violence, stalking, or a sex offense. There are two types of orders:

Ex parte orders for protection: You can get an ex parte order if, based on your petition, the judge believes that domestic violence has occurred.  To get an ex parte order, generally you must prove to the court that you and/or your family or household member is in immediate danger from the abuser.  Ex parte orders are generally issued as an emergency response as soon as you file your petition, without the abuser being present.  For the order to be effective, the abuser has to be served with the order.  Either party (you or the abuser) then has 30 days from the date the abuser is served with the order to request a hearing on the ex parte order for protection.  In some cases, the judge will order a hearing even if neither party requests it. The hearing, in most circumstances, must be held within 30 days after the request for a hearing is filed or ordered by the judge.  The court will notify both parties by first class mail of the date and time of the hearing.*  If no hearing is requested, the ex parte order for protection can last for 2 years after the date it was given unless another date is ordered by the court.**

Final Orders for Protection: A final order for protection is one that is issued after a court hearing in which you and the abuser both have the right to be present and present evidence (i.e., testimony, witnesses, etc.) in court.  You must attend that hearing even if the abuser does not.  You can still get a final order even if the abuser does not attend, as long as s/he was served with notice of the hearing.   If you do not go to the hearing, your ex parte order may expire and you may have to start the process over again.  If you are given a final order after a hearing, it will generally last for two years, unless otherwise stated.**  Orders may also be extended beyond the two years.  See How do I change or extend the order?

Please refer to the Indiana Courts website to download the necessary forms and get more information about orders for protection. You may also find the court forms you need on our IN Court Forms page.

* IC § 34-26-5-10
** IC § 34-26-5-9(e)

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back to topHow can an order for protection help me?

An ex parte order for protection (without notice to the abuser and without a hearing) can:

1. Prohibit the abuser from committing, or threatening to commit, acts of domestic or family violence, stalking, or sex offenses against you and your family or household members.  Note: Although you may be able to add your children onto your order as “protected parties,” this only means that the respondent cannot threaten violence or commit any acts of violence against them. It generally does not interfere with the an existing parenting time or custody order although you may have to exchange the children through a third party.  If there is no existing custody order, the court may deny parenting time until such an order is established.

2. Prohibit the abuser from harassing or annoying you through:
    a) Telephone, email, text message, etc.
    b) direct contact (face to face)
    c) indirect contact (sending messages to you through another person).

3. Order the abuser to stay away from:
    a) your residence
    b) your school
    c) your work and
    d) other places where you and your family or household members usually go.

4. Remove the abuser from your residence, regardless of who owns the residence.

5. Order possession and use of the home, an automobile, and other important personal items (such as critical medications or household items that you need), regardless of who actually owns these items.  Note: the court can order a law enforcement officer to accompany you to the home to ensure that you are safely put back into the home (if you had left) and that you can get your automobile, and important personal items.  The officer can also supervise your or the abuser’s removal of personal belongings.

6. Order other relief necessary to provide for your safety and the safety of your family or household members on the petition.* 

Note: If you request and/ or the judge orders numbers 4, 5, and/or 6 in the list above, the judge must then hold a hearing within 30 days to give the abuser the right to object to those parts of the order.  The judge must also order a hearing within 30 days if you request that any of the relief listed below in numbers 2, 3, 4 and/or 5 be included in your final order for protection.**

A final order for protection (issued after a hearing) can:

1. Give you everything mentioned in the list above.

2. Order the abuser to pay you money for various expenses, including:
     a. Court costs
     b. Attorney fees
     c. Rent/mortgage payments on your residence
     d. Child support and maintenance
     e. Medical expenses
      f. Counseling and/or shelter
     g. Repair or replacement of damaged property.

3. Make a parenting time arrangement, which can include the following to ensure your safety or your child’s safety:
     a. Requiring supervised parenting time between the abuser and your child or
     b. Denying parenting time altogether to the abuser.

4. Prohibit the abuser from possessing firearms, ammunition, or deadly weapons.

5. If the abuser owns a firearm, ammunition, or a deadly weapon, the judge may order him to surrender those items to a local law enforcement agency for the time that you have your order for protection or until such date that is ordered by the court.

6. Pay the costs and expenses that come with the use of a GPS tracking device (if appropriate).***

* IC § 34-26-5-9(b)
** IC § 34-26-5-10(b)
*** IC § 34-26-5-9(c)

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back to topIn which county can I file an order for protection?

You can file for an order for protection in the county where you live or are staying temporarily, where the abuser lives, or where the abuse happened.*

However, if you have left the home and want to keep the address where you are staying confidential, filing in that county would likely not be a good idea since it would alert the abuser to the fact that you are living in that county.

* IC § 34-26-5-4(b)

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Who eligible for an order for protection

back to topWho can get an order for protection?

In Indiana, you can seek legal protection from acts of abuse done to you or your minor child by a "family or household member."   The abuser can qualify as your family or household member if:

  • s/he is, or used to be, your spouse;
  • you and the abuser lived together in an intimate relationship;
  • you and the abuser have a child in common;
  • you and the abuser are dating, or have dated, each other or have had a sexual relationship;
  • you and the abuser are related by blood or adoption;
  • you and the abuser are related by marriage;
  • the abuser is, or used to be, your guardian, ward, custodian, foster parent or someone in a similar capacity;
  • you are the minor child of a person in one of the types of relationships described above; or
  • you adopted the child of the abuser.*

You can also file for an order for protection against someone who is NOT a family or household member if that person committed stalking or a sex offense against you or your minor child.**  See What is the definition of stalking and sex offenses? for more information.

Note: If an abuser has been violent towards you, stalked you, or threatened you with violence that might be carried out at your workplace, your employer has the right to file for a restraining order on your behalf.*** See Workplace Violence Restraining Orders for more information.  If the abuser was arrested for family violence, you may also receive a “no contact order” from the criminal court, which offers some of the same protections as a civil order for protection. 

* IC § 34-6-2-44.8; see also the petition for an order of protection on the Indiana Judicial Branch website
** IC § 34-6-2-34.5
*** IC §§ 34-26-6-6 and 34-26-6-7

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

Yes. You can file an order for protection against a same-sex partner.   In Indiana, a person is eligible to file an order for protection against a family or household member, which includes a current or former dating partner, someone you had or currently have a sexual relationship with, someone whose child you adopted, as well as other categories.* 

There may also be other legal options for you as well. To find help in your state, please click on the IN Where to Find Help tab at the top of this page.

* IC § 34-6-2-44.8

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

If you are a minor, your parent, legal guardian, or another representative may file the petition for an order for protection for you on your behalf.  Just as with an adult who seeks an order for protection, a minor has to prove that she is eligible.  To see what you would have to prove to qualify for an order for protection, go to What is the legal definition of domestic violence in Indiana?

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back to topCan I get an order for protection against a minor?

As long as you meet the other requirements for filing for an order for protection, it does not matter if the abuser is a minor. You can still file an order for protection against a minor and the judge can still issue an ex parte order if necessary.  However, if the case is set down for a hearing, the matter may be transferred to a court that handles cases against juveniles.*

* IC § 34-26-5-2(d)

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back to topHow much does it cost to get an order for protection?

Nothing.  There is no filing fee to get an order for protection.*

Although you do not need a lawyer to file for an order for protection, it may be to your advantage to seek legal counsel.  This is especially important if the abuser has obtained a lawyer.  Even if the abuser does not have a lawyer, it is recommended that you contact a lawyer or domestic violence program or 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 IN Where to Find Help page.  In addition, 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 IN Courthouse Locations page.

* IC § 34-26-5-16

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Steps for getting an order for protection

back to topStep 1: Go to court to get and file the petition.

Go to the county courthouse in the county:

  • where you live, or
  • where the abuser lives, or
  • where the abuse took place.
In most counties in Indiana, you can go to any court to ask for a protective order.  However, some counties may require that you go to a particular type of court or a particular division in a courthouse.  To find the courthouse nearest you, go to IN Courthouse Locations.

At the courthouse, tell the civil court clerk that you want to file a petition for an order for protection.  You can obtain a petition during normal business hours, Monday through Friday.  The clerk will give you the forms.  You will fill out a non-confidential petition, as well as a confidential form which is standardized across the state.  In addition, you can find links to the petitions online, any time day or night, by going to IN Court Forms.

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back to topStep 2: Fill out the necessary forms.

The clerk will provide you with the forms that you need to file and the clerk may help you fill out the forms if you request help.  On the petition, you are the "Petitioner" and the abuser is the "Respondent."  You will fill out two forms:

  • Petition for an order for protection – This is what you use to ask the judge to issue an order for protection and also to ask for a hearing, if a hearing is required.  This form is used to tell the judge why you need protection, to describe what happened, and to list every kind of relief you are asking for.  It is not confidential – the abuser will see it.  This requires you to put an address where you can be reached so the court can send you papers, if needed.  When you are asked to put your address on the form, only put a safe mailing address – it doesn’t have to be your actual home address.   If you prefer, you can enroll in the Attorney General’s Address Confidentiality Program and use that address instead.  If you are staying at a shelter, give a post office box, not a street address. 
  • Confidential form - This is the form used by you and the clerk to record important information about the people involved in the case. The information on this form is confidential according to state law. The only people who will have access to it are law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and court and clerk staff. This form must be submitted with the petition at the time the case is filed.
Carefully fill out the forms. On the petition for an order for protection, write about the incidents of violence, including the use or threatened use of any weapons.  Use descriptive language - words like "slapping," "hitting," "grabbing," "threatening," "choking," etc. - that fits your situation.  Include details and dates, if possible. Be specific. If you are including a threat that the abuser said, try to use the exact words that he used instead of summarizing the threat. 

Take all of your completed forms to the clerk's office.  Review these documents carefully with the assistance of a clerk or an advocate if possible.  Remember, you are signing this legal petition under oath, and therefore swearing that all of the information is accurate.  Don't sign and date the petition until you are in front of the clerk (who may require photo ID to notarize your signature.) The clerk will bring your petition to a judge.

The forms you need and other valuable information can also be found on our IN Court Forms page.

Note: The court clerk is required by law to provide you with an explanation of the processes for obtaining an order, information about when the order becomes effective, and information about procedures to follow if the order is violated.  However, a clerk cannot offer any legal advice about your case.

If you need assistance filling out the form, a domestic violence organization or lawyer may be able to provide you with help.  See our IN Where to Find Help page for the location of an organization near you.

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back to topStep 3: The ex parte hearing

The judge will review your forms and may wish to ask you questions.  If the judge grants you an ex parte order for protection, take the signed order to the clerk.  The clerk will assign a case number and stamp the copies with the date of filing.  The clerk will keep the confidential form and copies of your signed ex parte order for protection.  Make sure the clerk gives you several copies of the ex parte order for protection.

Review the order before you leave the courthouse to make sure that the information is correct, that the ex parte order for protection is file-stamped, and that it has the judge's signature.  If something is wrong or missing, ask the clerk to 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 daycare.

If the court must hold a hearing on your petition, make sure you know the correct date and time of the hearing before you leave the clerk's office.  Make sure you have the court's telephone number; you may want call ahead a few days before the hearing and confirm the court date and time.

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back to topStep 4: Service of process

Your ex parte order for protection is not valid until the abuser has been served, meaning that he was given the legal papers that tell him about the hearing date (if the court gave you one), your order for protection, and the non-confidential petition.

The court will send copies of the order and notice of the hearing (if there is one) to the police or sheriff.  A law enforcement agency will serve the abuser. Do not try to serve the papers on the abuser yourself.  The clerk may ask you to provide the following information about the abuser to help with service of the petition and registry of the order into the Protection Order Registry: 1) an accurate address for him/her; 2) his/her date of birth; 3) his/her Social Security number.*  If you have this information, bring it with you to court when you file.

Remember that the abuser will see the address you list on the petition but not the address you give on the confidential form that you file in court.

* See "Instructions for petition for order for protection," (page 7), available at the IN Courts website

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back to topStep 6: If there is a hearing for a final order for protection, what will I have to prove?

The abuser may request a hearing or the judge can order one on his/her own. If there is a hearing for the final order, as the petitioner requesting an order for protection, you may have to:

  1. Prove that the abuser (the respondent) has committed an act(s) of domestic or family violence (as defined by law) against you or your minor children; and
  2. Convince a judge that you need protection and the specific things you asked for in the petition.
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.  It is also generally best to be represented by an attorney who has expereince with domestic violence cases.  You can find legal referrals at our IN Finding a Lawyer page.

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After the hearing

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

Here are some ideas of what you can do:

  • Make several copies of the order for 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.
  • If the court has not given you an extra copy for your local law enforcement agency, take one of your extra copies and deliver it to them. One week after court, call your local law enforcement offices to make sure they have received copies of the order.
  • Take steps to safety plan, including changing your locks (if permitted by law) and your phone number.
Ongoing safety planning is important after receiving the order.  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 abusers obey protective orders, but some do not.  It is important to build on the things you have already been doing to keep yourself safe.  Click on Staying Safe for suggestions.  Advocates at local resource centers can assist you in designing a safety plan and can provide other forms of support; see IN State and Local Programs.

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

You can call the police, even if you think it is a minor violation.   A person who intentionally violates the protective order can be committing a misdemeanor.  However, if the person has been previously convicted for a violation of the order, he may be guilty of a felony, which carries a greater punishment.*  It is also 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.

You can also file a petition for contempt in the courthouse where you got the order.  For violating the order, the abuser can be held in “contempt of court” and punished by the judge.  Additionally, if the judge believes that the abuser violated an order for protection, the court can:

  • require a respondent to wear a GPS tracking device (with victim notification capabilities if available); and
  • prohibit the respondent from approaching or entering certain locations where you may be found.**
* IC § 35-46-1-15.1
** IC § 34-26-5-9(i)

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

If you wish to modify (change) the order, you must go back to court and file a “petition to modify an order for protection.”   You will have to explain to the judge what the substantial change in circumstances has been that makes this modification necessary and you will check off which additional protections you need.  Some modifications will not require a hearing while others will.

If you wish to extend your final order beyond the expiration date, the judge may require evidence of a continuing need for the order.  Ask the clerk what forms you need to file to do this - it is possible you may have to file a new petition and start the process over.

If you want to extend your order, it is best to start the petition process before your first order expires, so that you are not left unprotected.

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back to topIf I move out of state, will my order still be valid?

Yes.  Your order for protection can be enforced even if you move to another state. If you move, your order for protection must be given “full faith and credit” in any other U.S. state or territory; this means that your order can be good wherever you go.*  See Moving to Another State with an Order of Protection for more information.

Remember to take a certified copy of your order with you when you move.

If you are moving to a new state, you may want to call the National Center on Protection Orders and Full Faith & Credit (1-800-903-0111 x2) for information on enforcing your order in the new state.

* See 18 U.S.C §§ 2265 and 2266

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