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Know the Laws: Nebraska

UPDATED November 30, 2012

Domestic Violence Protection Orders

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A domestic violence protection order is a civil order that provides protection from harm by a family or household member, including former or current dating partners.

Basic information

back to topWhat is the legal definition of abuse in NE?

This section defines abuse for the purposes of getting a domestic violence protection order. The following acts are considered abuse (domestic violence) when they occur between family or household members:

  • causing or attempting to cause bodily injury, with or without a "dangerous instrument" (i.e., a weapon, heavy object, etc.);
  • placing someone in fear of bodily injury by "credible threat," which means:
    • a verbal or written threat (including via email, text, etc.)
    • a threat that is implied through a pattern of conduct or a combination of verbal, written, or electronic statements/conduct that causes you to fear for your safety or your family's safety; (Note: you do not have to prove that the harasser had the intention to actually act on the threat, just that s/he seemed to have the ability to do so if s/he chose to.  If the harasser makes the threat while s/he is in jail, that does not matter -- you can still believe that s/he has the ability to carry out the threat); or
  • forcing unwanted sexual contact or sexual penetration, as defined by the law.*
Family or household members include:
  • spouses or former spouses,
  • children,
  • people who are presently living together or who have lived together in the past,
  • people who have a child in common whether or not they have been married or have lived together at any time,
  • people related by blood or marriage, and
  • people who are presently involved in a dating relationship with each other or who have been involved in a dating relationship with each other in the past.**

* NE R.S. § 42-903(1)
** NE R.S. § 42-903(3)

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

In Nebraska there are ex parte temporary protection orders and final protection orders

Ex parte is a Latin term meaning “from one side.”  These orders are called ex parte because you may receive them without prior notice to the abuser or his/her presence in the courtroom.  When you file your petition for a protection order, a judge can issue an ex parte order if s/he has reason to believe that you are in immediate danger of being abused based on your affidavit or your statements.*  If the judge does not give you an ex parte order, the judge should schedule a hearing within 14 days where the abuser can be present and you will have to prove that the order should be issued.**

If an ex parte order is issued, it will be served upon the abuser along with a form for the abuser to request a "show-cause hearing" in which the abuser would appear in court and show cause (evidence) why the order should be dismissed -- and you would present evidence why you should keep the order.  If the abuser wants to request a show-cause hearing, s/he has to return this form to the clerk within 5 days of receiving the order and the hearing would be scheduled within 30 days.  If the abuser cannot prove that the order should be dropped or does not appear at the hearing, the temporary ex parte order is now considered to be a final order.*  A final protection order will last for 1 year.***

* NE R.S. § 42-925(1)
** NE R.S. § 42-925(2)
*** NE R.S. § 42-925(4)

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back to topHow can a protection order help me?

A protection order can order the abuser to:

  • not to restrain you or restrict your liberty (freedom);
  • not to threaten, assault, bother, attack, or otherwise disturb you;
  • not to contact you in any way;
  • be excluded (removed) from your home (regardless of who owns the home);
  • stay away from any place specified by the court;
  • not have or buy a firearm; and/or
  • do anything else that the judge believes is necessary for your safety.
  • Note: The order can also give you temporary custody of any minor children for up to 90 days.*

Whether a judge orders any or all of the above depends on the facts of your case.

* NE R.S. § 42-924(1)

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back to topIn which court do I file for a protection order?

You must file the petition in district court and the case may take place in either district court or in county court.*  In the petition, you may be asked to include whether you want the case to be heard by a county court judge or by a district court judge.**  However, just because you choose a particular court, it doesn’t mean that the case will necessarily go to that court.   If you are unsure of which court to request, you might want to ask an attorney in your county to see what the difference is (if there is one).  For courthouse locations in your area, see NE Courthouse Locations.  To find legal organizations, go to NE Finding a Lawyer.

* NE R.S. § 42-924(2)
** NE R.S. § 25-2740(2)

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Who can get a domestic violence protection order

back to topAm I eligible for a domestic violence protection order?

You may be eligible to file for a domestic violence protection order if you have been the victim of abuse by one of the following family or household members:

  • Your spouse or former spouse;
  • A person who you live with or who have lived with you in the past;
  • A person with whom you have had a child, even if you were never married;
  • A person you are dating or have dated in the past;
  • A relative by blood or marriage; or
  • Your child.*

If you do not qualify for a domestic violence protection order, you may qualify for a harassment protection order.  See our Harassment Protection Orders section for more information.  

* NE R.S. § 42-903(3)

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

Yes. In Nebraska, you may apply for a protection order against a current or former same-sex partner if you meet the qualifications of abuse as defined in What is the legal definition of abuse in Nebraska?  Note: If you and your same-sex partner have lived together, you may be able to use that household-member relationship when filing for an order.   If you have never lived together, you will have to reveal that you are in a same-sex relationship.  If you do not feel it is safe to do this for any reason, there may be other ways for you to plan for your safety.

To find help in your state, please click on the NE Where to Find Help tab at the top of this page.

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back to topHow much does it cost to get a protection order?

There is no fee for filing for or serving a protection order.  However, the judge may order you to pay fees and costs if the judge determines that the statements in the petition were false and that the protection order was sought in "bad faith."  Furthermore, at the final hearing, a judge may order the respondent to pay these costs.*

* NE R.S. § 42-924.01

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back to topDo I need an attorney to get a protection order?

No, you do not need an attorney to file for a protection order, but it is generally better to have one, especially if there will be a hearing or if the abuser is represented by one.  A domestic violence organization in your area may be able to refer you to an attorney or legal aid service that will take your case for free.  Often, domestic violence organizations can help you through the process if you do not have an attorney.  To find a lawyer or legal aid program in your area, please visit the NE Finding a Lawyer page.  To find a domestic violence organization, fo to our NE State and Local Programs page.

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Steps for getting a domestic violence protection order

back to topStep 1: Go to court and file a petition.

Go to the district court to file your petition.*  You can find a court near you by going to our NE Courthouse Locations page.  Once in court, find the Clerk of the District Court and request a petition for a protection order.  You can also find links to the form online by going to NE Download Court Forms.  Carefully fill out the forms. Write about the incidents of violence or abuse, using descriptive language (slapping, hitting, grabbing, choking, threatening, etc.) that fits your situation.  Be specific.  Include details and dates, if possible.  If your petition is based on threats rather than a physical incident, write about how the threats affected you.   If the threats made you fearful, you can explain why the threat caused you fear (for example, perhaps due to past behavior/threats).  If the fear has affected your daily activities (for example, causing you to change your routine, etc.), you can explain how the fear has affected your life in this way.

A domestic violence organization may be able to provide you with help filling out the form.  See NE State and Local Programs page for the location of an organization near you.

Note: Do not sign the petition until you have shown it to a clerk, as the form may need to be notarized or signed in the presence of court personnel.

* NE R.S. § 42-924(2)

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back to topStep 2: A judge will review your petition and may issue an ex parte order.

After you finish filling out your petition, bring it to the court clerk. The clerk will forward it to a judge. The judge may wish to ask you questions as s/he reviews your petition. The judge will decide whether or not to issue you an ex parte order.  The judge can issue an ex parte order if s/he has reason to believe that you are in immediate danger of being abused based on your affidavit or your statements.*  If the judge does not give you an ex parte order, the judge should schedule a hearing within 14 days where the abuser can be present and you will have to prove that the order should be issued.**

* NE R.S. § 42-925(1)
** NE R.S. § 42-925(2)

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back to topStep 3: Service of process

If the judge issues you an ex parte order, it will be served on the respondent (abuser) along with a form for the abuser to request a "show-cause hearing" in which the abuser would appear in court and show cause (evidence) why the order should be dismissed. Note: If the abuser wants to request a show-cause hearing, s/he has to return this form to the clerk within 5 days of receiving the order and the hearing would be scheduled within 30 days.*  If the respondent does not request a hearing, then the order will remain in effect for one year.**

The courts will forward copies of your papers to law enforcement, who will then try to serve the papers.***  In order for the papers to be served upon (legally given to) the abuser, the sheriff will go to the abuser’s home, work, or other place s/he can be found to hand him/her the papers.  If, for example, you believe that serving the respondent at his/her work will endanger you, you can include this information in the forms that you fill out and request that the abuser not be served at work.  The order is not valid until law enforcement has served the respondent.

* NE R.S. § 42-925(1)
** NE R.S. § 42-925(4)
*** NE R.S. § 42-926(1)

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back to topStep 4: The hearing for a final protection order

There may or may not be a hearing. If the judge does not give you an ex parte order, the judge is supposed to schedule a hearing within 14 days where you can better prove your case.*  If the judge does grant you an ex parte order, there will only be a hearing if:

  • the abuser requests a "show-cause hearing" within 5 days of being served with the ex parte order;
  • you request one; or
  • the judge decides on his/her own to hold a hearing.**
The hearing will immediately be scheduled and will take place within 30 days.**  You must go to the hearing.  If you do not go to the hearing, your order will expire and you will have to start the process over again.  If you do not show up at the hearing, it may even possibly be harder for you to be granted an order in the future.  Also, some judges have even determined that if you do not show up for the hearing, then you must have filed the application in “bad faith” and the information contained in the application is not truthful.  This might make it possible for the judge to issue an order that you have to pay the court fees.***

If there is a hearing, you must prove that the abuser has committed an act of domestic abuse (as defined by the law) against you or your children. You must also convince a judge that you need protection and the specific things you asked for in the order.

See the Preparing Your Case section under for ways you can show the judge that you were abused.

* NE R.S. § 42-925(2)
** NE R.S. § 42-925(1)
*** See NE R.S. § 42-924.01

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After the hearing

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

There are several things that you may want to consider doing upon leaving the courthouse.  You will have to evaluate each one and see if it is safe for your situation.  You may want to:

  • 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.
  • Keep a copy of the order with you at all times.
  • Make several copies of the order as soon as possible and 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.
  • You may wish to consider changing your locks and your phone number.
For more ways to stay safe, go to our Safety Planning page.

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

You can call the police or sheriff, even if you think it is a minor violation.  An abuser can be arrested, fined and/or jailed.  Note: In July 2012, violation of a protection order was raised from a Class II misdemeanor to a Class I misdemeanor; and for repeat violations, a second conviction is now a Class IV felony (instead of a Class I misdemeanor).*  

Nebraska law requires that an arrest be made if "probable cause" exists that the respondent violated a domestic abuse protection order.**  If you feel that law enforcement officers did not respond according to Nebraska law, you should contact an attorney to discuss the issue and to see what legal actions can be taken.  Go to our NE Finding a Lawyer page for legal referrals.

If the police become involved, it is generally a good idea to write down the name of the responding officer(s) and his/her badge number in case you want to follow up on your case.  Make sure a police report is filled out, even if no arrest is made.   If you have legal documentation of all violations of the order, it may be useful in the future.

* NE R.S. § 42-924(4)
** NE R.S. § 42-928

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back to topCan I extend my protection order?

Nebraska law does not allow a protection order to be extended.  If you feel that you still need a protection order and your current protection order is about to expire, you should talk with an attorney or victim advocate to determine what options may be available to you, such as possibly filing for a new order.  Go to our NE Where to Find Help page for referrals to local advocates and attorneys.

 

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back to topWhat happens if I move?

Your order is good everywhere in the state.  Additionally, federal law provides what is called “full faith and credit,” which means that once you have a protection order, it follows you wherever you go in the United States, including U.S. territories and tribal lands.

Different states have different rules for enforcing out-of-state orders. You can find out about your new state’s policies by contacting a domestic violence program, the clerk of courts, or the prosecutor in your new area.

You may 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 - be sure to let them know if the address is confidential and ask how to make sure it cannot be accessed by the respondent.

To read more about this, please visit our Moving to Another State with a Protection Order page.

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WomensLaw.org thanks Robert A. Sanford, Legal Director at the Nebraska Domestic Violence Sexual Assault Coalition, for his help with this section.

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