Step 1: Go to court to get and file the petition.
Go to the county courthouse in the county:
- where you live; or
- where the abuser lives; or
- where the abuse took place.1
In most counties in Indiana, you can go to any court to ask for a protective order. However, some counties may require that you go to a particular type of court or a particular division in a courthouse. To find the courthouse nearest you, go to Indiana Courthouse Locations.
At the courthouse, tell the civil court clerk that you want to file a petition for an order for protection. You can obtain a petition during normal business hours, Monday through Friday. The clerk will give you the forms. You will fill out a non-confidential petition, as well as a confidential form which is standardized across the state. In addition, you can find links to the petitions online, any time day or night, by going to our Indiana Download Court Forms page.
1 IC § 34-26-5-4(b)
Step 2: Fill out the necessary forms.
The clerk will provide you with the forms that you need to file and the clerk may help you fill out the forms if you request help. You can also access the forms on our Indiana Download Court Forms page. On the petition, you are the “Petitioner” and the abuser is the “Respondent.” You will fill out two main forms:
- Petition for an order for protection – This form is used to tell the judge why you need protection, to describe what happened, and to list every kind of relief you are asking for. It is not confidential. The abuser will see it. When you are asked to put your address on the form, only put a safe mailing address – it doesn’t have to be your actual home address. If you prefer, you can enroll in the Attorney General’s Address Confidentiality Program and use that address instead. If you are staying at a shelter, give a post office box, not a street address.
- Confidential form - This is the form used by the clerk to record important information about the people involved in the case. The information on this form is confidential according to state law. The only people who will have access to it are law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and court and clerk staff. This form must be submitted with the petition at the time the case is filed.
Carefully fill out the forms. On the petition for an order for protection, write about the incidents of violence, including the use or threatened use of any weapons. Use descriptive language - words like “slapping,” “hitting,” “grabbing,” “threatening,” “choking,” etc. - that fits your situation. Include details and dates, if possible. Be specific. If you are including a threat that the abuser said, try to use the exact words that s/he used instead of summarizing the threat.
Take all of your completed forms to the clerk’s office. Don’t sign and date the petition until you are in front of the clerk since photo ID may be required to notarize your signature. The clerk will bring your petition to a judge.
If you need assistance filling out the form, a domestic violence organization or lawyer may be able to provide you with help. See our Indiana Places that Help page for the location of an organization near you.
Step 3: The ex parte hearing
The judge will review your forms and may wish to ask you questions, known as an ex parte hearing. If the judge grants you an ex parte order for protection, take the signed order to the clerk. The clerk will assign a case number and stamp the copies with the date of filing. The clerk will keep the confidential form and copies of your signed ex parte order for protection. Make sure the clerk gives you several copies of the ex parte order for protection.
Review the order before you leave the courthouse to make sure that the information is correct, that the ex parte order for protection is file-stamped, and that it has the judge’s signature. If something is wrong or missing, ask the clerk to 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 daycare.
If the order for protection is filed against someone who attends the same school as you, the judge will have to determine whether issuing the order for protection may affect the school’s ability to provide you with in-person instruction. If the judge believes that it might have such an effect, then the judge cannot issue the order for protection until a notice is provided to the school corporation, by registered mail or certified mail, that includes:
- notice of the petition for the order for protection; and
- the date for the hearing on the petition for the order for protection.1
Once the school receives this notice, the school corporation has three business days to respond to the notice and a representative of the school corporation has the right to testify at the hearing on the petition for the order for protection. If the school doesn’t respond to the notice within the three business days, then the judge can issue the order for protection.1
1 IC § 34-26-5-2(f)
Step 4: Service of process
The court will send copies of the petition, ex parte order, and notice of the hearing to the police or sheriff. A law enforcement agency will serve the abuser. Do not try to serve the papers on the abuser yourself. The clerk may ask you to provide the following information about the abuser to help with service of the petition and registry of the order into the Protection Order Registry: 1) an accurate address for him/her; 2) his/her date of birth; 3) his/her Social Security number.1 If you have this information, bring it with you to court when you file.
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?
1 See “Instructions for petition for order for protection,” available at the Indiana Courts website
Step 5: If there is a hearing for a final order for protection, what will I have to prove?
The abuser may request a hearing or the judge can order one on his/her own. If there is a hearing for the final order, you may have to:
- prove that the abuser (the respondent) has committed an act(s) of domestic or family violence (as defined by law), harassment, stalking, or a sex offense against you or your minor children; and
- convince a judge that you need protection and the specific things you asked for in the petition.
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. It is also generally best to be represented at a hearing by an attorney who has experience with orders for protection cases. You can find legal referrals at our Indiana Finding a Lawyer page.