Step 5: The final PFA hearing
A judge will set a hearing date that is generally within 10 days of filing your petition.1 The abuser has the right to be present for this hearing. This means you may have to face him/her in court. You must go to the hearing. If you do not go to the hearing, your emergency PFA will expire (if you were granted one), and you will have to start the process over. If you do not show up at the hearing, it may be harder for you to get a PFA in the future.
If the abuser received notice of the hearing, but does not show up, the judge may issue a "default judgment" and grant you a PFA against him/her anyway OR the judge may set a new hearing date. If you have an emergency PFA, make sure the judge extends it so that it remains effective until the date of your new hearing.
At the hearing, you will testify in court and you can present other evidence or witnesses to prove the abuse you have experienced. The abuser will also be allowed to testify in the hearing. The judge will make a decision after hearing all of the testimony and considering all of the evidence.
You have the right to bring a lawyer to represent you at the hearing. If you show up to court and you need more time to find a lawyer, or the abuser has a lawyer and you do not, you may ask the judge for a "continuance" to set a later court date so you can have time to find a lawyer for yourself. If you will be representing yourself, go to our Preparing Your Case page for tips on how to prepare yourself for court. If the court does issue a continuance, the court should also reissue or extend your emergency order (if you have one), since your original order will probably expire before the rescheduled hearing.2
1 Ala. Code § 30-5-6(a)
2 Ala. Code § 30-5-6(c)