Step 4: The hearing
A judge will set a hearing date, usually within 15 days of filing your petition (although it could be within 30 days if the ex parte order is extended because the respondent couldn’t be served or for another reason).1 You must go to the hearing or your emergency (ex parte) order will expire and you will have to start the process over. At the hearing, you and the abuser will have a chance to present evidence, witnesses, etc., to prove your case. The judge has the power to question (examine) your child in private in order to verify the claims of either party. The judge can allow both parties’ attorneys to be present and to question the child as well. The judge can allow an unrepresented party to give the judge a list of questions beforehand that the judge can use when examining the child. The judge will then report back to the parties what the child said.2
It is often best to have a lawyer to represent you at the hearing who is familiar with orders of protection from abuse. If you show up to court and 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. See DE Finding a Lawyer page for legal referrals. If you are representing yourself, see the Preparing Your Case page for ways you can show the judge that you were abused.
If the abuser has received notice of the hearing, but does not show up, the judge may continue with the hearing or may reschedule the hearing for a future date. If the judge reschedules the hearing, make sure to ask the clerk if you need to reissue or extend your emergency order (if you have one) so that you will continue to be protected you until the new hearing date.
1 10 Del. C. § 1043(d)
2 10 Del. C. § 1042(f)