Step 1: Get and fill out the necessary forms.
You can find the forms from the civil clerk at the superior court, but you may want to find them before you go and fill them out at home or with an advocate from a domestic violence organization or with a lawyer. You will find links to forms online on the CT Download Court Forms page. To find contact information for the Superior Court in your area, click on CT Courthouse Locations.
To start your case, you will need to fill out the necessary forms for a restraining order (relief from abuse order), which include an application and an affidavit (sworn statement). On the affidavit, you will be asked to write about what happened, when, where and who was present. Remember to use specific language (slapping, hitting, grabbing, threatening, etc.) that fits your situation. Include details and dates, if possible. Note: Do not sign the forms until you have shown it to a clerk, as the court clerk may have to notarize them -- and remember that you may need photo ID for the notary.
Most shelters and other domestic violence prevention organizations can provide support for you while you fill out these papers and go to court. To find a shelter or advocate in your area, go to our CT Advocates and Shelters page.
Step 2: Ex parte hearing
After you have filed the forms with the clerk of court, s/he will bring them to the judge. If you have checked off the box requesting an ex parte order, a temporary (ex parte) restraining order can be issued on the day you apply for your restraining order if you allege (and the judge believes) that there is an immediate and present physical danger to you. When deciding what to include in the temporary ex parte order, the judge can also consider the report that will be prepared by the family services unit of the Judicial Branch that may include, as available:
- any existing or prior orders of protection against the respondent that are recorded in the protection order registry;
- information on any pending criminal case or past criminal case in which the respondent was convicted of a violent crime;
- any outstanding arrest warrant for the respondent;
- the respondent's level of risk based on a risk assessment tool utilized by the Court Support Services Division;
- information related to any pending or disposed (resolved) family matters cases involving you and the respondent.1
The ex parte order will generally last until the full court hearing for the permanent order, which has to take place within 14 days. However, if you include in your application that the abuser has a permit or eligibility certificate to carry a pistol or revolver, a long gun, ammunition, or that s/he possesses firearms or ammunition, the hearing has to take place within 7 days.2
1 C.G.S. § 46b-15(b)
2 C.G.S. § 46b-15(b),(c); see also Application for Abuse from Relief
Step 3: Service of process
To make sure that the abuser knows about the temporary (ex parte) restraining order, if the court issued one, and about the hearing date, you will need to bring all of the papers that need to be served to a state marshal or any “proper officer” for delivery to the abuser. (The clerk or someone at a Court Service Center can explain to you who a “proper officer” is or you can get a list of the proper officers who can serve your papers from the clerk of the court or online from the State of Connecticut Judicial Branch website.) You can choose a state marshal from the towns in which the abuser lives or works and call the state marshal to make the arrangements to serve the papers. At some courthouses, a state marshal is at the courthouse at certain times during the day to help with service.1 If you want to call your local courthouse to find out which hours the state marshal will be there, see our CT Courthouse Locations page for a list of courthouse contact information.
The abuser must be served with the papers at least 3 days before the hearing date. If you include in your application that the respondent has a permit or eligibility certificate to carry a pistol or revolver, a long gun, ammunition, or that s/he possesses a firearm or ammunition, the proper officer who is responsible for serving the respondent should do all of the following:
- provide notice to law enforcement in the abuser's town to let them know when and where service will take place;
- send law enforcement in the abuser's town a copy of your application, affidavit, ex parte order, and the notice of hearing;
- request that a police officer from the law enforcement agency in the abuser's town be present when the abuser is served.2
Remember that it may take multiple attempts to have him/her served. If you do not know where the abuser lives or cannot give enough information about how to find the abuser, the state marshal may not be able to find him/her to deliver the papers, so it is important to bring any and all identifying information that you have about the abuser to the state marshal.1
After the state marshal serves the abuser, s/he should give you back the original papers with a "return of service," which tells the court when the officer served the papers on the abuser. According to the Connecticut Judicial Branch website, it is "recommended" that you bring these papers back to the clerk of the court at least two business days before the date of the hearing.1
Note: If you (or your minor child who is protected by the order) are enrolled in a public or private elementary or secondary school, technical school, or college, you can ask the clerk to send a copy of the order to your (or your child's) school and to any special police force at the school. You will need to give the clerk the name and address of the school or college.2
Step 4: Full court hearing
On the day of the hearing, you must go to the hearing to ask to have your temporary (ex parte) order turned into a permanent restraining order, which will last for up to one year unless the judge orders a different amount of time. If you were not granted a temporary (ex parte) order but a hearing date was set, you must go to the full hearing if you want to ask the court for a permanent restraining order.1
Before going in front of the judge on your hearing day, you and the abuser must meet separately with a Family Relations Counselor (FRC) from the Court Support Services Division. There will be a sign-up sheet in the area of the courthouse where the FRC has the meetings and a Judicial Marshal can tell you where that is. The FRC will ask for information about any existing court orders, possession of firearms or permits, history of the relationship, and information on child-related matters. The FRC may make recommendations and may refer you to other agencies for other services. At the end of the meeting, you and the abuser will go to the courtroom to wait for your hearing.1
At this hearing, you and the abuser will both have a chance to present evidence, testimony, witnesses, etc., to prove your case to the judge. Note: If the victim/applicant is a minor and his/her parent, guardian or another responsible adult ("next friend") has filed the application for the restraining order on his/her behalf, that parent/guardian/next friend cannot speak on the minor applicant's behalf at the hearing unless s/he can show "good cause" as to why the minor applicant is unable to speak on his/her own behalf. However, the parent, guardian or responsible adult can testify as a witness at the hearing.2
See our Preparing Your Case page for tips on what to expect at a restraining order hearing. If you do not go to the hearing, your temporary (ex parte) restraining order may expire. If the abuser does not show up for the hearing, the judge may still grant you a permanent restraining order if there is proof that s/he was properly served, or the judge may reschedule the hearing.
It may be helpful to have a lawyer to help with your case, especially if the abuser has a lawyer. If the abuser shows up with a lawyer or if you were not able to find a lawyer in time for your hearing, you can ask the judge for a "continuance" (a later court date) so that you have time to find a lawyer – and it will be up to the judge to decide whether or not to postpone the hearing. Go to our CT Finding a Lawyer for free and paid legal referrals.
If you are granted a restraining order by the judge, a copy of the order(s) will be given or mailed to the abuser by the clerk of the court. The clerk will also send a copy of the order(s) or the information in the order(s) to law enforcement within forty-eight hours so that they are notified.1