What steps do I take to apply for an order?
These are the basic steps to getting an order:
Step #1: Go to superior court to file a complaint and affidavit.1
Step #2: The judge reviews your paperwork and may question you. The judge may then grant a temporary ex parte order and a court date is set for a hearing on the final order.
Step #3: The abuser must be notified of the complaint, temporary ex parte order and the hearing through a process called “service” prior to the hearing date. You can use a law enforcement officer to personally serve (notify) the abuser - you cannot deliver the papers yourself. The person serving the complaint must file a “return of service” with the court indicating the date, time, and place that the order was personally delivered to the abuser. This is your proof that the abuser was properly served if s/he does not show up to court for the hearing. If service cannot be made prior to the hearing date, you can request additional time to serve the abuser/defendant and the judge will determine how much time is needed to complete service.2
Step #4: After the abuser is served, you will have a hearing in court on the scheduled hearing date. During this hearing, you must prove to the judge that the abuser has sexually assaulted or stalked you through witnesses, testimony, and other evidence. The abuser/defendant has a right to offer evidence that s/he did not sexually assault or stalk you. You may want to have an attorney represent you at the hearing. Go to our VT Finding a Lawyer page for free and paid legal referrals. If you have to represent yourself, you can find some helpful information on our Preparing for Court page.
The judge will determine if you will receive a final order. If the judge believes that the defendant stalked you or the defendant has been criminally convicted of sexual assault, the judge can grant you an order against stalking or sexual assault without considering whether or not the defendant poses a risk of future harm. However, if s/he was not convicted criminally of sexual assault, you must prove to the judge that s/he sexually assaulted you and that there is a danger of further harm to you.3
In either case, the judge may add additional protections to your order than the protections you had on your temporary ex parte order.4
Note: During the hearing, the judge can consider the defendant’s past behavior as relevant evidence of future harm but, in general, the judge cannot consider evidence about your reputation or your past sexual conduct (although there are exceptions). See Can my past sexual history be used against me in court? for more information.
1 VT ST T. 12 § 5133(a),(h)
2 VT ST T. 12 § 5135
3 VT ST T. 12 § 5133(c),(d)(1)
4 VT ST T. 12 § 5133(d)