Step 1: Get the required forms.
You will need to go to an appropriate county or district court and ask for the required forms for filing a “motion for civil protection order.” An appropriate county court is a court in the county where you live or work, where the defendant lives or works, or where the abusive incident occurred. You need to file in district court if you have previously filed for divorce or custody with the person you wish to get the order against. (To find the courthouse in your county, go to CO Courthouse Locations.)
The forms are also available online. To access those forms and instructions on how to go about asking for a protection order, you can go to the Colorado state court website.
Step 2: Fill out the appropriate forms.
Carefully fill out the appropriate forms. When you are filling out the forms, you will be the "petitioner" and the abuser will be the "respondent." Be prepared to provide the following information:
- The county where you live or work and the county where the abuser lives or works;
- The names and birthdays of children who will also be protected by the protection order;
- A description of what happened and when – in other words, you’ll need to explain why you are seeking a protection order; and
- What kind of relief you are seeking – in other words, you need to tell the court whether you want the abuser to get out of your home, to not contact you at all, to only contact you in specific ways, etc.
When filling out the forms, be sure to include a detailed description of the facts and circumstances of the domestic violence that you have been through. If you would like the court to give you a temporary (ex parte) protection order, be sure to also explain why you need immediate protection. You must show the court why your need for protection is urgent and cannot wait. (The complaint/motion for protection order will use the word “imminent” instead of “immediate.”)
Read the application carefully and ask questions if you don’t understand something. Describe in detail how the defendant (abuser) injured or threatened you. Explain when and where the abuse or threats occurred. Write about the most recent incident of violence, using descriptive language ("slapping," "hitting," "grabbing," "choking," "threatening," etc.) that fits your situation. Be specific. Include details and dates, if possible. Colorado provides a form called an “incident checklist,” which may help you identify the different forms of abuse that the abuser committed against you.
Please note that the court will not deny you a protection order solely because of a lapse of time between an act of abuse or threat of harm and filing of the petition for a protection order.1
Note: If you are divorced from your abuser, you may have to include in your application for a protection order either a copy of the divorce decree (court order) or a statement that the decree is currently unavailable, but that you will file a copy of the decree with the court before the hearing date on the application.
1 Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-14-104.5(7)(a)
Step 3: Sign the verified complaint/motion for protection order and affidavit regarding children in front of a court clerk or notary public and submit all forms to the clerk.
A court clerk or notary public must see you sign the verified complaint/motion for protection order and affidavit regarding children. You may either (1) bring the completed, but unsigned paperwork with you when you go to the courthouse to submit it and ask a clerk to witness your signing, or (2) take the completed, but unsigned paperwork with you to a notary public who will witness your signing and notarize the verified complaint/motion for protection order and affidavit regarding children. There may be a fee (usually around five dollars) for a notary. There is no fee for the court clerk.1
The judge may wish to ask you questions as s/he reviews your petition. The judge will then decide, based on the information you provide, whether or not to give you a temporary protection order.
If the judge grants a temporary protection order, you will be given a written copy of it. Be sure to obtain any additional copies you might need. You will need at least two copies, one for yourself and one to have served to the abuser (see Step 4: Service of Process for more information). You may need more depending on your situation. (For example, if you have minor children listed on your temporary protection order, you may want to give a copy of the order to the child’s school or daycare provider.)1
Note: Remember that although the hearing for your temporary protection order will happen without the abuser being there, the abuser does have the right to be present at the hearing for the permanent protection order. For tips on how to deal with seeing the abuser at the hearing for the permanent protection order, see Safety in Court under our Safety Tips page.
1 See Instructions for Obtaining a Civil Protection Order, JDF 400, available at the Colorado Judicial Branch website
Step 4: Service of process
The abuser must be served with: (1) a copy of the verified complaint/motion for protection order and (2) a temporary protection order (if one is granted) before the date of your hearing for a permanent protection order.1
You may ask a local sheriff in the county where the abuser will be located when served, a private process server, or someone you know who is at least 18 years old, is not involved in the case, and is familiar with the Colorado rules of service to serve the abuser.2
You cannot be charged a fee for having a sheriff serve a protection order related to domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.3
Once service is complete, whoever completed service has to fill out the affidavit/certificate of service, sign it in front of a notary (unless the process server is a deputy sheriff), and give it back to you. You should then make a copy of it and and keep it with your copy of the protection order and bring the original to the hearing. This document is very important, especially if the abuser doesn’t show up in court; it is your proof that the abuser was served with the papers and notified of the court date. The order is not enforceable until the defendant has been served.
1 Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-14-104.5(9)
2 see Rule 4 C.R.C.P.
3 Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-14-109(2)
Step 5: The hearing
To get a permanent protection order, you must show up for your scheduled hearing. The time and date of your hearing will be on your temporary protection order. If you do not show up, your temporary protection order will automatically expire.1 Note: Failure to show up for your hearing may possibly make it more difficult for you to get one in the future. It is extremely important that you show up for your hearing.
There are a number of possible outcomes at the permanent protection order hearing:
- The defendant does not appear in court and you can prove the defendant has been served. If that happens, you may request that the protection order be made permanent. If you request the permanent order and no changes are made to the order, the law allows the judge to make the order permanent without requiring the defendant to be served again.2 If any changes are made when the permanent order is issued, the law requires that the defendant be served with a copy of the modified permanent protection order.
- The defendant was never served. If the defendant has not been served, you still need to go to court to ask for a continuance to continue to attempt to get the defendant served.
- The defendant agrees to make the protection order permanent or to extend the temporary order for 1 year. At the beginning of the protection order hearing, the judge may ask what each party would like to have happen. At this time the defendant may agree to make it permanent or to extend it for 1 year (but you must also agree to this in order for the judge to issue the one-year temporary order).3
- Another possible outcome is a contested hearing, which is a hearing where you will likely each have the opportunity to testify and present witnesses, photographs, and other evidence either through your attorney or on your own (it is recommended that you have an attorney). After the hearing, the judge will decide whether to make the protection order permanent or to deny the protection order.
See the Preparing Your Case section for ways you can prove to the judge that you were abused.
1 See Instructions for Obtaining a Civil Protection Order, JDF 400
2 Colo. Rev. Stat. §13-14-106(1)(a)
3 Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-14-106(1)(a),(b)