Step 1: Fill out the necessary forms and file them in court.
You can get and file a petition for an order for protection at the appropriate courthouse - see In which country can I file for an order for protection? Check our MN Courthouse Locations to find the courthouse in your area. At the courthouse, the clerk will provide you with the forms that you need to file. If you need assistance filling out the form, you may ask the clerk for help or you can try to get help through one of the domestic violence organizations listed on our MN Advocates and Shelters page.
You will also find links to online forms at our MN Download Court Forms page.
Read the petition carefully and ask questions if you don’t understand something. Describe in detail how the abuser (respondent) injured or threatened you. Explain when and where the abuse or threats occurred. Write about the incidents of violence, using descriptive language, such as slapping, hitting, grabbing, choking, threatening, etc. that fits your situation. Be specific. Include approximate dates, if possible.
Note: Do not sign the form until you have shown it to a clerk. The form may have to be signed in front of a notary public at the courthouse.
Step 2: A judge will review your petition and may grant an ex parte order.
After you finish filling out your petition, a judge will review it. If you are in immediate danger, the judge can order an ex parte order. A judge will decide this based on the facts included in your petition.
The abuser does not have to be notified in advance to receive an ex parte order, which can last for up to two years. If an ex parte order is granted, the ex parte order and petition must be served upon the respondent and, if a hearing was requested by you, s/he will also be served with a notice of the date set for the hearing. If you do not request a hearing, the order served on the abuser must include a notice advising the respondent/abuser of the right to request a hearing to object to the order along with a form that can be used by the respondent to request this hearing. S/he must request the hearing within five days of service of the order.1
1 Minn Stat § 518B.01(7)(c)
Step 3: Service of process
If you receive an ex parte order, it will not be enforceable until the papers have been served upon the abuser. The court clerk will give all of the necessary paperwork to the sheriff or another law enforcement officer to be served personally upon the abuser without any cost to you. Service is usually done by a “peace officer” but it could also be done by a corrections officer, such as a probation officer, court services officer, parole officer, or an employee of a jail or correctional facility.1
As an alternative, the law allows a peace officer to serve the respondent with a “short-form notification” that notifies the respondent of the basic elements of the order. This may be appropriate, for example, if the respondent comes into contact with the police and the police learn that there is an unserved temporary order. The short-form notification will have the following instructions to the respondent: “The order for protection is now enforceable. You must report to your nearest sheriff office or county court to obtain a copy of the order for protection. You are subject to arrest and may be charged with a misdemeanor, gross misdemeanor, or felony if you violate any of the terms of the order for protection or this short-form notification.”2
Note: If service was attempted by a peace officer but it was unsuccessful because the respondent is avoiding service by hiding or for any other reason, you can file an affidavit with the court to explain what happened. The judge can then allow the respondent to be “served” by alternate service, which can include mailing a copy to any addresses where there is a reasonable possibility that mail or information will be forwarded or communicated to the respondent and publication in a newspaper for one week. The application for alternate service must include the last known location of the respondent as well as other information about the respondent/abuser’s family members’ locations, etc. When deciding whether to order this, the judge is supposed to consider the length of time the respondent’s location has been unknown, the likelihood that the respondent’s location will become known, the type of things you are asking for in your order for protection, and the nature of the efforts made to locate the respondent. The judge can order service by first class mail, forwarding address requested, to any addresses where there is a reasonable possibility that mail or information will be forwarded or communicated to the respondent/abuser. If either of these options are ordered, service shall be considered complete 14 days after mailing or 14 days after court-ordered publication.3
You can find more information about service of process in our Preparing for Court – By Yourself section, in the question called What is service of process and how do I accomplish it?
1 Minn Stat § 518B.01(3a), (9a)
2 Minn Stat § 518B.01(8)(a), (8a)
3 Minn Stat § 518B.01(4)(g), (5)(f), (8)(a), (8)(c)
Step 4: The hearing
It may be the case that you will not have to come back to court after you receive your ex parte order for protection. However, if you are ordered to return to court for a hearing, it is very important that you attend the court hearing. If you absolutely cannot attend, contact the court clerk immediately and ask how you can get a continuance for a later court date. See the At the Hearing section for ways you can show the judge that you were abused. You can learn more about the court system in our Preparing for Court – By Yourself section. See the MN Finding a Lawyer page for legal referrals.