Step 1: Fill out the necessary forms and file them in court.
To start your case, you will need to fill out the necessary forms. You may find it helpful to get the forms first and fill them out at home or with an advocate from a local domestic violence organization. You will find links to forms online on the LA Download Court Forms page.
On the forms, you are the “petitioner” and your abuser is the “defendant.” Read the petition carefully and ask questions of the court clerk if you don’t understand something. Write about the most recent incidents of violence, using descriptive language (slapping, hitting, grabbing, choking, threatening, etc.) that fits your situation. Be specific. Include details and dates, if possible.
A domestic violence organization may be able to provide you with help or support as you fill out the forms. See LA Advocates and Shelters for the location of an organization near you.
Note: Do not sign the application until you have shown it to a clerk. The form may need to be notarized or signed in the presence of court personnel, which will likely require you to have photo identification.
Step 2: A judge will review your petition and may issue a TRO.
After you finish filing your paperwork, 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 temporary restraining order (TRO) and will set a court date for a full hearing for a protective order. The court may issue you a TRO during an ex parte hearing without the abuser present if there is an “immediate and present danger of abuse.” The judge must consider any and all past history of abuse, or threats of abuse, in determining whether or not there is an immediate and present danger of abuse. (There is no requirement that the abuse itself be recent, immediate, or present.)1 You will be given a copy of your petition, along with papers that state the time and date of your hearing for a long-term protective order.
By the end of the next business day, the clerk will get the order entered into the Louisiana Protective Order Registry and send a copy of it to the chief law enforcement officer of the parish where you live.2
1 LA R.S. 46:2135(A)
2 LA R.S. 46:2135(H)
Step 3: Service of process
The clerk will give a copy of the petition and the TRO to the sheriff’s office to serve the abuser. Remember, your protective order is NOT valid until the abuser has been served with it. The abuser must be notified and have the opportunity to be present in court on the date and time of the hearing and informed of any temporary or emergency orders that a judge has granted you.
Usually the court will send copies of the order and notice of hearing to the police or sheriff, but in some areas you may have to bring the papers to the sheriff or police yourself. You may want to ask the court clerk or a domestic violence organization for more information about serving the abuser. By the end of the next business day, the clerk will also get the order entered into the Louisiana Protective Order Registry and send a copy of it to the chief law enforcement officer of the parish where you live.1
Do not try and serve the abuser in person with the papers yourself.
1 LA R.S. 46:2136(H)
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 full court hearing
You must go to this hearing if you want to get a final protective order. If you do not go to the hearing, your temporary order will expire and you will have to start the process over. If you do not show up at the hearing it may possibly 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 long-term protective order, or the judge may order a new hearing date. 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.
You may wish to hire a lawyer to help with your case, especially if the abuser has a lawyer. If you show up to court and the abuser has a lawyer and you do not, you may ask the judge for a “continuance” to set a later court date so you can have time to find a lawyer for yourself. You can also represent yourself. See the At the Hearing section for information on representing yourself. You can learn more about the court system in our Preparing for Court – By Yourself section.