Step 1: Go to court to fill out the necessary forms.
To figure out what court to go to, see In which county can I file for an order of protection? You can get a petition during normal business hours, Monday through Friday. To find the courthouse nearest to you, go to our AZ Courthouse Locations page. Note: If you need protection and the courts are closed, or you need protection before getting to a court, call the police. A police officer may be able to help you get an emergency order of protection if you are in immediate danger.
The clerk will provide you with the forms that you need to file. On the “Petition for Order of Protection,” you will be the “plaintiff” and the abuser will be the “defendant.”
You may want to write about the most recent incidents of violence, using descriptive words like “slapping,” “hitting,” “grabbing,” “threatening,” “choking,” etc. - that fits your situation. Include details and dates, if possible. Be specific. Here are some other things you may want to consider including:
- why you need protection. Your explanation may include specific acts that have occurred within the past year. If there are events that happened more than a year ago, you can include those but the judge does not have to consider those unless “good cause” is shown.1 Also, if the abuser was out of state or in jail, that could lengthen the period of time that the judge will consider domestic violence incidents;2
- a description of the abuse, threats and/or injuries you received from the abuser, and when they happened; and/or
- if the abuser has access to or possession of any firearms or weapons.
You may also have to provide an accurate physical description of the abuser and an address where s/he can be found so the order can be served.
You can keep your home, work and other addresses confidential if the abuser does not know them.3 However, you do have to give a mailing address so that the court can contact you if there are future hearings. Make sure to tell the clerk of court if you would like to keep your address confidential.
You can find links to forms online on the AZ Download Court Forms page or you can get them from the court clerk. You may also be able to get these forms by calling a local domestic violence organization or legal aid office. Most domestic violence prevention organizations can provide support for you while you fill out these papers. Go to the AZ Places that Help tab at the top of this page to find an organization in your area.
Note: Do not sign the petition until you have shown it to a clerk because the form may need to be notarized or signed in the presence of court personnel.
1 A.R.S. § 13-3602(E)(2)
2 A.R.S. § 13-3602(F)
3 A.R.S. § 13-3602(C)
Step 2: The "ex parte" hearing
Once the clerk has your petition, a judicial officer will review it and hear your sworn testimony and any other important evidence. This hearing will be “ex parte” which means that the abuser will not be in court with you.
At this hearing, one of two things could happen:
- the judge can decide to issue a “permanent” order of protection, which lasts for one year from the day it is served (and it has to be served within one year of the date it was issued); or
- the judge could decide that more evidence is needed before issuing a “permanent” order and s/he may order a hearing within 10 days, which the abuser has the right to attend.1
1 A.R.S. § 13-3602(F)
Step 3: Service of process
The abuser must be served (given) papers that tell him/her about the order of protection. The order is not enforceable until the abuser is served and the order must be served within one year of the date it was issued.1 The clerk of court will tell you where you can go to get your papers served. In Arizona, you (the plaintiff) control when the order is served. It is your responsibility to get it to the appropriate law enforcement agency to serve it.
If you get an order from a justice court, the court constable can serve the order. If you obtain your order from a municipal (city) court and the abuser can be served within city limits, the city police will serve the abuser. If you obtain your order of protection from Superior Court, the county sheriff’s office may serve your order, or you may hire someone to serve the abuser for you.2 You will find links to AZ Sheriff Departments under the Places that Help tab at the top of this page. Remember, the police and courts cannot enforce your order until the abuser has been served.
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 abuser may request a hearing.
As soon as the defendant (the abuser) is served with the order, it is valid/enforcable.1 However, the abuser has the right to go to court and tell his/her side of the story. S/he can do so by requesting in writing a hearing to contest the order at any time during the year that the order is valid.2 You will not have a “hearing to contest” unless the abuser requests one. If s/he requests a hearing, the court will notify you as long as the court has current contact information for you. You must go to this hearing. If you do not show up in court, then the judge is likely to dismiss (drop) your order of protection (also known as “quashing” your order).
At the hearing, you and the defendant will both appear before a judicial officer. You will each have a chance to present evidence, witnesses and testimony to prove your case. Go to our Preparing Your Case page for more information on how to prepare yourself for court.
It is generally best to bring a lawyer to represent you at the hearing. Go to our AZ Finding a Lawyer page for legal referrals. If you show up to court and the abuser has a lawyer and you do not, you may ask the judicial officer for a continuance to set a later court date so you can have time to find a lawyer for yourself (although please keep in mind that the judicial officer may not grant your request).
1 A.R.S. § 13-3602(K)
2 A.R.S. § 13-3602(I)