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.
If you are applying for a temporary ex parte order, you will have to include a detailed description of the facts and circumstances concerning the family violence and the need for the immediate protective order. Also, you must sign the application under oath.
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 (slapping, hitting, grabbing, choking, threatening, etc.) that fits your situation. Be specific. Include details and dates, if possible.
Note: Do not sign the form until you have shown it to a clerk. The form must 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, bring it to the court clerk. 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. She must request the hearing within five days of service of the order upon him/her.1
1 Minn Stat § 518B.01(7)(c)
Step 3: Service of process
If you receive an ex parte order, it will not take effect until the papers have been served upon the abuser. The courthouse clerk will give all of the necessary paperwork to the sheriff or another law enforcement officer to be served personally upon the abuser. However, if personal service cannot be made, the judge may order service of the petition and any ex parte order by alternate means (such as to the respondent’s last known addresses) or by “publication.”1
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. 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.1
The court may also order publication in Minnesota or in another state, but only if such publication may reasonably succeed in notifying the respondent of the proceeding. If either of these options are ordered, service shall be considered complete 14 days after mailing or 14 days after court-ordered publication.1
1 Minn Stat § 518B.01(8)(a),(c)
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?
Step 4: The 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.
If the abuser does not attend the hearing, the judge may either issue a “default judgment” and grant you a permanent order for protection, or the judge may decide to reschedule the hearing. If the hearing is rescheduled, be sure to ask the judge to extend your ex parte order so that you are protected until the next hearing date.