Know the Laws: Nebraska
UPDATED August 18, 2016
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.
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:
* NE R.S. § 42-903(1)
** NE R.S. § 42-903(3)
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)
An ex parte order or a final protection order can order the abuser to:
Whether a judge orders any or all of the above depends on the facts of your case.
* NE R.S. §§ 42-924(1); 42-925(1)
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)
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:
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)
In Nebraska, you may apply for a domestic violence protection order against a current or former same-sex partner as long as the relationship meets the requirements listed in Am I eligible for a domestic violence protection order? You must also be the victim of an act of abuse, which is explained here What is the legal definition of abuse in Nebraska?
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
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.
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)
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)
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)
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:
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:
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. A violation of a protection order can be a Class I misdemeanor; and for repeat violations, a second conviction can be a Class IV felony.*
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
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.
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.
WomensLaw.org thanks Robert A. Sanford, Legal Director at the Nebraska Domestic Violence Sexual Assault Coalition, for his help with this section.