Step 1 - Get the necessary forms.
You will need to file the forms in the county courthouse where you live (even if you just moved there to escape abuse).1 To find contact information for the courthouse in your area, click on KY Courthouse Locations. You can also find links to forms online on our KY Download Court Forms page.
If you need the immediate protection of an emergency protective order (EPO), be sure to tell the clerk. An EPO is a temporary emergency order that a judge can grant you if you or your child are in immediate danger without prior notice to the abuser.
Most shelters and other domestic violence prevention organizations can provide support for you while you fill out these papers and go to court. Go to KY Advocates and Shelters page for contact information.
1 KRS § 403.725(2)
Step 2 - Carefully fill out the forms.
On the petition, you will be the “petitioner” and the abuser will be the “respondent.” On the petition, in the box provided for explaining why you want the protective order, write about the most recent incidents of violence, using specific language (slapping, hitting, grabbing, threatening, etc.) that fits your situation. Include details and dates, if possible.
Note: Do not sign the forms until you are in front of the court clerk. Your statements must be made under oath and the forms may have to be notarized.
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. When filling our your address, be sure to give a safe mailing address. If you are staying at a shelter, give a post office box, not the street address. If you do not want the abuser to know your address, ask the clerk first how you can keep your address confidential.
Step 3 - The judge considers your petition and may grant you an ex parte order.
When you have filed the forms with the clerk of court, s/he will bring your papers to the judge. If the judge believes there is an immediate and present danger of domestic violence and abuse, s/he may give you an emergency protective order (EPO), which is good for 14 days until your full court hearing.1
Regardless of whether or not the judge grants you an EPO, you can still be given a hearing date and time if the judge believes that domestic violence and abuse exists. The hearing will take place within 14 days of your filing your petition.2 At the hearing, the abuser and you will both have a chance to present evidence to the judge.
1 KRS §§ 403.730(2)(a); 403.730(1)(a)
2 KRS § 403.730(1)(a)
Step 4 - Service of process
If you get an EPO, it should be served on the abuser by law enforcement. It is important that you provide accurate, up-to-date information about where the abuser can be found in order for the EPO to be served. Arrangements for service will be made by the court clerk after the judge issues the order. For sheriff department contact information, go to our KY Sheriff Departments page. The respondent must receive notice of the hearing for the final DVO. If s/he does not receive notice, the hearing will be rescheduled.
You can also register with a statewide system, called VINE Protective Order to receive a confidential notification when the order is served on the abuser.
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 - Full court hearing
You must go the full court hearing. If you do not go, your emergency protective order (EPO) will expire, and you may not be able to obtain a domestic violence order (DVO).
If the abuser does not show up for the hearing, the judge may still grant you a DVO, or the judge may reschedule the hearing. You may wish to hire a lawyer to help with your case, especially if the abuser has a lawyer. If the abuser shows up with a lawyer, you can ask the judge for a “continuance” (a later court date) so that you have time to find a lawyer. Go to our KY Finding a Lawyer page for legal referrals. You can also represent yourself. See our At the Hearing page for tips on how to represent yourself in a protective order hearing.
If you cannot go to the hearing at the scheduled time, you may call the judge’s office to ask that your case be “continued,” but the judge may deny your request. If the court does issue a continuance, the court should also reissue an EPO to you since your original one will probably expire before the rescheduled hearing.