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.
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 IN 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 IN Court Forms.
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. On the petition, you are the "Petitioner" and the abuser is the "Respondent." You will fill out two forms:
- Petition for an order for protection – This is what you use to ask the judge to issue an order for protection and also to ask for a hearing, if a hearing is required. 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. This requires you to put an address where you can be reached so the court can send you papers, if needed. 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 you and 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 he used instead of summarizing the threat.
Take all of your completed forms to the clerk's office. Review these documents carefully with the assistance of a clerk or an advocate if possible. Remember, you are signing this legal petition under oath, and therefore swearing that all of the information is accurate. Don't sign and date the petition until you are in front of the clerk (who may require photo ID to notarize your signature.) The clerk will bring your petition to a judge.
The forms you need and other valuable information can also be found on our IN Court Forms page.
Note: The court clerk is required by law to provide you with an explanation of the processes for obtaining an order, information about when the order becomes effective, and information about procedures to follow if the order is violated. However, a clerk cannot offer any legal advice about your case.
If you need assistance filling out the form, a domestic violence organization or lawyer may be able to provide you with help. See our IN 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. 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 court must hold a hearing on your petition, make sure you know the correct date and time of the hearing before you leave the clerk's office. Make sure you have the court's telephone number; you may want call ahead a few days before the hearing and confirm the court date and time.
Step 4: Service of process
Your ex parte order for protection is not valid until the abuser has been served, meaning that he was given the legal papers that tell him about the hearing date (if the court gave you one), your order for protection, and the non-confidential petition.
The court will send copies of the order and notice of the hearing (if there is one) 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.
Remember that the abuser will see the address you list on the petition but not the address you give on the confidential form that you file in court.
1 See "Instructions for petition for order for protection," (page 7), available at the IN 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, as the petitioner requesting an order for protection, you may have to:
- Prove that the abuser (the respondent) has committed an act(s) of domestic or family violence (as defined by law) 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 Preparing your Case section under the Preparing for Court tab at the top of this page for ways you can show the judge that you were abused. It is also generally best to be represented by an attorney who has expereince with domestic violence cases. You can find legal referrals at our IN Finding a Lawyer page.