Step 1: Go to circuit court and request a petition.
Go to the circuit court where you live, where the abuser lives, or where the abuse occurred.1 You can find a court near you by going to our IL Courthouse Locations page. Note: If you are requesting exclusive possession of the home you share, you would generally go to the court in the county where that home is located but there are exceptions that may allow you to file in a neighboring county.2 Go to In which county can I file for an order of protection? for more information.
When in court, find the circuit court clerk and request a petition for an emergency order of protection. The clerk will give you the forms, and may recommend that you work with a domestic violence legal advocate.
You may also be able to find the forms you need online through our IL Download Court Forms page.
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 the abuser’s residence and employment; a description and plate number of the abuser’s car; and information about his/her gun ownership.
1 750 ICLS 60/209(a)
2 750 ICLS 60/209(a)(2); 750 ICLS 60/214(b)(2)
Step 2: Fill out the petition.
Carefully fill out the petition. On the petition, you will be the petitioner and the abuser will be the respondent. Write about the most recent incident of violence, using descriptive language (words like “slapping,” “hitting,” “grabbing,” “choking,” “threatening,” etc.) that fit your situation. Include details and dates, if possible. Be specific.
When giving your address, you can ask that your address be kept confidential. You may also ask that the school(s) you or your children attend also be kept confidential if that would put you or your children in danger. If you are staying at a shelter, give their post office box (P.O. box), not a street address.
If you need assistance filling out the forms, you may be able to ask questions to the clerk. Some courts may have an advocate that can assist you.1 A domestic violence organization may also be able to provide you with help filling out the forms. See the IL Advocates and Shelters page for the location of an organization near you.
1 750 ILCS 60/205
Step 3: A judge will review your petition.
After you finish filling out your petition, bring it to the court clerk – you may have to sign the petition in front of the clerk to get it notarized. The clerk will forward it to a judge. The judge may wish to ask you questions as s/he reviews your petition. The judge will decide whether or not to issue the emergency order, and will set a date for a full court hearing for the plenary order. You will be given papers that state the time and date of your hearing for a plenary order.
Step 4: Service of process
The abuser must be served with a notice of the hearing date and with any emergency or interim orders that a judge has granted you before s/he may be charged with violating the order. Generally, the sheriff or other law enforcement will serve the summons and order upon the abuser but it is also possible that a “special process server” can be appointed to serve the papers. However, in counties with a population over 3,000,000, a special process server cannot be appointed if the order of protection grants the surrender of a child, the surrender of a firearm or firearm owners identification card, or the exclusive possession of a shared residence.1
There is no charge to have law enforcement serve the abuser.2 The abuser may only be arrested for violating the order after s/he has been given notice that the order exists and is in effect.3
You can ask the court clerk or a domestic violence organization for more information about serving the abuser. Do not try and serve the abuser with the papers yourself.
1 750 ILCS 60/210(c)
2 750 ILCS 60/202(b)
3 720 ILCS 5/12-3.4(2)
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 5: The hearing
You must go to the hearing if you want to keep your order of protection. If you do not go to the hearing, your emergency or interim order will be canceled, and you will have to start the process over. If you do not show up at the hearing, it may be harder for you to be granted an order in the future.
If the abuser does not show up for the hearing, the judge may still grant you a plenary order or the judge may order a new hearing date.1
See the At the Hearing section 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.
1 750 ILCS 60/210(f)