Step 1 - Fill out the necessary forms.
To start your case, you will need to fill out the necessary forms. You can get the forms from the civil clerk at the District Courthouse or you can download them from our Maine Download Court Forms page. If you need to keep your address confidential, you can fill out an affidavit of confidential address form.
On the forms, you will be the “plaintiff” and the abuser will be the “defendant.” In the box provided for explaining why you want the protection from abuse order, write about incidents of abuse, using specific language, such slapping, hitting, grabbing, threatening, etc., that fits your situation. Include details and dates, if possible. The court may not allow you to testify to any abuse that happened before the dates you list in the order so you may want to list past abuse also so that the court can see a pattern of abuse if it exists. Clerks and magistrates can show you which blanks to fill in, but they cannot help you decide what to write.1
Most domestic violence programs can provide support for you while you fill out these papers and go to court. Go to Maine Advocates and Shelters page for local organizations.
Note: Do not sign the forms until you are in front of the clerk since the complaint likely has to be notarized.
1 ME ST T. 19-A § 4106(1)(A)
Step 2 - The judge reviews your complaint and may issue an ex parte temporary PFA order.
The clerk will show your complaint to the judge. The judge might want to question you or ask you to explain the abuse in more detail. If the judge who reads your complaint agrees that there is a “good cause” to grant the order, for example, that you are in immediate and present danger, you can be granted a temporary ex parte order.1 The judge will also set a hearing date for the final PFA hearing. Note: After the abuser is served, s/he has the right to file a motion asking the judge to end (dissolve) or change (modify) the temporary order. You may only be given two days’ notice of this hearing.2
1 ME ST T. 19-A § 4108(1)
2 ME ST T. 19-A § 4108(6)
Step 3 - Service of process
This step will be slightly different, depending on whether or not the judge granted you a temporary order.
If you were granted a temporary PFA order, the clerk will ask a police officer or deputy sheriff to serve the complaint and temporary order and notice of hearing on the defendant.
If the defendant is not in Maine, the Court will send out your complaint and other required paperwork to the appropriate law enforcement agency for service. However, you may want to follow up to make sure it gets served. You can go to our Sheriff Departments page and enter the state where the defendant lives to find contact information for sheriffs offices.
If you were not granted a temporary PFA order, the court clerk will fill out a summons that tells the defendant the date and time that your complaint will be heard by the court. S/he will give you copies of the complaint and summons. Take two copies of each to the police department or sheriff’s office, along with the service information sheet for service on the defendant.1
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 final hearing
You must go to this hearing if you want to get a final PFA order. If you do not go to the hearing, your temporary order will be dismissed. If the abuser does not show up for the hearing, the judge may still grant you a PFA order or the judge may adjourn the case to another date. Note: If the defendant was not served by the hearing date, you must still go to court at the scheduled time. The judge will postpone the hearing and set a new date. This might happen a few times until the defendant is served.
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 Maine Finding a Lawyer page under the Places that Help tab at the top of this page. You may also wish to have a domestic violence advocate accompany you to court for support. To find a program in your area, go to our Maine Advocates and Shelters page.
See the At the Hearing section under the Preparing for Court section for ways you can show the judge that you were abused and for tips on representing yourself in court pro se. You can learn more about the court system, too, in our Preparing for Court – By Yourself section.