Step 1: Go to court to file your petition.
You will file your petition in the magistrate division of the district court in the county where you live (temporarily or permanently) or where the abuser lives.1 You can find the address for the district court near you by going to our ID Courthouse Locations page. The clerk can give you the petition and any other forms you will need to fill out. You can also find links to online forms by going to our ID Download Court Forms page.
When filling out the forms, you will be referred to as the “petitioner” and the abuser will be called the “respondent.” When writing about incidents of violence, use descriptive language - words like “slapping”, “hitting”, “grabbing”, “choking”, “threatening”, etc. - that fits your situation. Be specific. Include details and dates, if you can.
A domestic violence organization may be able to provide you with help filling out the form. See ID Places that Help for the location of an organization near you.
Remember to bring some form of identification, like your driver’s license or other ID that includes your picture. Do not sign the petition until you have shown it to a clerk. It may need to be notarized or signed in the presence of court personnel.
Note: Idaho has Court Assistance Offices (CAO), which provide various services to the public to help ensure equal access to the courts. Services include: review of CAO court forms and documents before they are filed; availability of public access computers for interactive forms; help with general form/document questions; assistance with calculating child support and completing a parenting plan; collection of instructional videos, brochures, and pamphlets on topics such as introduction to the court system, family law matters, domestic violence, etc.; legal research assistance on Law Library website. To find your local office, click here.
1 I.C. § 39-6304(2), (6)
Step 2: A judge will review your petition and may issue an ex parte order.
After you finish filling out your petition, bring it to the court clerk. The clerk will forward it to a judge. The judge may want to ask you questions as s/he looks over your petition, which is known as an ex parte hearing. This ex parte hearing can take place the day you file your petition or the next business day and it could even take place by phone. The judge will decide whether or not to give you a temporary ex parte protection order, which means that the order is issued without prior notice to the abuser. To give you an ex parte order, the judge must believe that serious or permanent (irreparable) injury could result from domestic violence if an order is not issued immediately. In general, a temporary order lasts for up to 14 days, or until you have a court hearing for a permanent order.1
Even if the judge does not issue you a temporary ex parte order, the judge could still set a hearing date for a permanent order. You will be given papers that tell you when your hearing will be, usually within 14 days.
1 I.C. § 39-6308(1), (2), (4), (5)
Step 3: Service of process
The abuser has to be served with paperwork from the court, which includes a copy of your petition, the temporary ex parte order you received (if any), and information about when the hearing for a permanent order will be. Your temporary order will not go into effect until the abuser has been served. There is no fee to have law enforcement serve the order.1 The court will send copies of the order and notice of hearing to the police or sheriff. Usually, law enforcement personnel will attempt to serve the abuser in person.2
Do not try and serve the abuser in person with the papers yourself.
1 I.C. § 39-6305
2 I.C. §§ 39-6309; 39-6310
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 hearing
When you first filed your petition, you would have received a date to return to court for a hearing. You must go to that hearing. If you do not go to the hearing, your temporary order will expire and you will have to start the process over. It may be helpful to have a lawyer at the hearing to make sure that your rights are protected, especially if the abuser has a lawyer. If when you go to the hearing, the respondent (abuser) has a lawyer, you have the right to request that the hearing be delayed so that you can get a lawyer as well. Also, the law says that if the judge believes that it is necessary for both parties to be represented by lawyers, the judge can enter an order to ensure that lawyers are retained. The order may require either you or respondent (or both) to pay for the attorneys’ fees.1 If you cannot afford a lawyer, you can try to get a lawyer through a local legal services organization if you qualify. Go to ID Finding a Lawyer for legal referrals. If you cannot get a lawyer and will be representing yourself, see our At the Hearing page for tips on representing yourself.
If the abuser does not show up for the hearing, the judge may still grant you a protection order or the judge may order a new hearing date.
1 I.C. § 39-6306(1)