Step 1: Call the appropriate office for assistance in filling out your petition/getting a TRO.
As soon as possible after the abuse occurs, you may want to call the local office or branch of the family court. They will schedule an appointment with you where they can help you to fill out your petition for an order for protection and get a temporary restraining order (TRO). Be prepared to provide details about the abuse, including physical and psychological abuse, verbal threats and property damage.
The following branches are open Monday - Friday, 7:45am - 3pm HST (except holidays). You can reach them at the following numbers:
• O`ahu - Family court temporary restraining order office - (808) 538-5959
• Hawai`i - Alternatives to violence branch of child and family services - (808) 969-7798
• Kaua`i - Family court office - (808) 482-2330
• Maui - Law library/Service center/Jury pool office - (808) 244-2706
Note: Some of these steps listed in this section may vary depending on what circuit you are in. You may want to contact the appropriate office listed above to make sure that you are taking the right steps.
Step 2: Go to your appointment and fill out your petition with an advocate.
At your appointment, an advocate will help you fill out the paperwork to file for an order for protection and to request a TRO. A petition for a family court order of protection must be in writing and state that either:
- a past act or acts of abuse have happened; or
- threats of abuse or property damage with the intent of causing emotional distress are so strong that it is likely that abuse will happen.1
On the petition, you will be the “petitioner” and the abuser will be called the “respondent.” Write about the most recent incidents of violence, using descriptive language - words like “slapping,” “hitting,” “grabbing,” “threatening,” “choking,” etc. - that fits your specific situation. Include details and dates, if possible. Describe any property damage, hospital visits because of the abuse, and whether the abuser owns or has threatened you with a weapon. Be specific. It may also be important to write any previous court action you have taken against the abuser.
Be sure to write your name and a safe mailing address and phone number. If you are staying at a shelter, give a post office (P.O.) box, not a street address. When you have completed the paperwork, the advocate will instruct you to bring the paperwork to the family court in your county.
Note: It may also be useful to bring identifying information about the abuser such as a photo (which may be used in serving the order to respondent); addresses of residence and employment; a description and plate number of the abuser’s car; and information about his/her gun ownership.
If you prefer not to get help with filling out the petition and other paperwork, you can fill it out on your own. The paperwork is available at your local courthouse and online at the Hawaii Judiciary website. You will find links to the forms you will need at our HI Download Court Forms page. For information on the courthouse in your area, please see our HI Courthouse Locations page. However, you may want to consider going to the appropriate support office in your circuit as they can help you through the process and give you advice on safety planning.
1 HRS § 586-3(c)
Step 3: Bring your petition to family court.
When you bring your petition to court, a judge will look over your request and decide whether to grant you a temporary restraining order (TRO). The judge may ask you questions about your request or s/he may make a decision based on your application only. The abuser does not need to be present for you to get a TRO.
Note: You may not know right away if the judge will grant you the TRO. The clerk may instruct you to call back later in the day to find out the status of your petition. If you file early in the morning, you will usually hear back later that afternoon. If you file later in the day, you will likely hear back the next day.
Step 4: Pick up your copies of the TRO.
If the judge grants a TRO, the court clerk will give you two copies of the order. One copy will be for you, which will include the date of your order to show cause hearing. The other copy is certified, sealed, and stamped which can be used to serve the abuser.
Review the order before you leave the courthouse to make sure that the information is correct. If something is wrong or missing, you may want to ask the clerk how you can correct the order before you leave. Be sure to keep it with you at all times. You may want to keep copies in your car, workplace, or your child’s daycare.
Step 5: Police will serve the abuser.
The abuser must be “served,” or given a copy of the petition along with papers that tell him/her about the temporary restraining order (TRO) and the order to show cause (OSC) hearing date.
After the judge signs your TRO, you will receive a copy. It is your responsibility to make sure that service is completed. You will need to provide an address where the abuser can be found. In some circuits, you may have to take two copies of the TRO to the police station in the district where the abuser can most likely be located. In others, the court will ensure that the abuser is served. You may want to talk to the clerk before you leave the courthouse to make sure you know what the rule is in your circuit. Do not try to serve the abuser yourself.
Your TRO is not enforceable until the defendant is served.1 Once the police serve the order, they are supposed to take all firearms and ammunition from the abuser. You can read more about this in Can the abuser have a gun? You can call Hawaii Police Records and Services Department to ensure that the abuser has been served and your TRO is in effect.
1 See Hawaii Judiciary website
Step 6: The order to show cause (OSC) hearing
Within 15 days of being granted your TRO, an order to show cause (OSC) hearing date will be scheduled. The date and time of your OSC hearing appears on your TRO. A judge will hear all of the evidence and decide whether to extend your TRO beyond 180 days. If the judge believes that a final order of protection should be issued, s/he will grant you an order that can last for as long as s/he determines is necessary (usually up to 3 years).1
You must go to the hearing. If you do not appear, your petition will be dismissed. If the abuser has received notice of the hearing, but does not show up, the judge will generally continue with the hearing. If the abuser has not received notice of the hearing, the judge may order a new hearing date and extend your temporary restraining order.
Advocates may be available to assist you at your OSC hearing. You have the right to bring a lawyer to represent you at the hearing. If you need more time to get a lawyer (especially if, for example, 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 the At the Hearing section under the Preparing for Court tab at the top of this page for ways you can show the judge that you were abused. You can learn more about the court system in our Preparing for Court – By Yourself section.
1 HRS § 586-5.5(a)