Step 1: Go to court to get and file the petition.
You can go to the family division of the circuit court to get a petition during normal business hours, Monday through Friday. To find the courthouse in your area, go to MI Courthouse Locations.
You may also get a sample petition online on our MI Download Court Forms page.
At the courthouse, tell the clerk of court that you want to file a petition for a personal protection order. Let the clerk know whether you are filing for a domestic relationship PPO (or a non-domestic PPO).
Step 2: Fill out the necessary forms.
The clerk will provide you with the forms that you need to file. On the complaint form, you will be the “petitioner” and the abuser will be the “respondent.” You can write about the most recent incidents of violence, using descriptive language - words like “slapping,” hitting,” “grabbing,” threatening,” “choking,” etc. - that fits your situation. Include details and dates, if possible. Be specific.
Be sure to give a safe mailing address and phone number - and ask to keep your home address confidential if the abuser doesn’t know where you live. If you are staying at a shelter, you may want to ask the shelter if they have a Post Office Box that you can use.
If you need assistance filling out the form, you may want to ask the clerk for help. Some courts may have an advocate that can assist you. Another option is to find help through one of the domestic violence agencies or legal organizations listed on our MI Advocates and Shelters page or MI Finding a Lawyer page. You can also find some of the forms you will need from our MI Download Court Forms page.
Note: Remember to bring some form of photo identification of your own (a driver’s license or other identification that includes your picture) since you may likely have to show that when you sign your petition in court. Be sure to sign the forms in front of the court clerk.
Step 3: The "ex parte" hearing
When your case number is called, you will be brought to the judge’s chambers for an ex parte hearing. At this hearing, the judge will read your petition and ask you why you want a PPO. The abuser will not be present for the ex parte hearing. At the end of this hearing, the judge can grant you an ex parte domestic relationship PPO that will be valid for at least 182 days.1
If the judge grants an ex parte PPO, the court clerk will give you a copy of the order. Review the order before you leave the courthouse to make sure that the information is correct. If something is wrong or missing, ask the clerk how you can correct the order before you leave.
An ex parte domestic relationship PPO is enforceable anywhere in Michigan as soon as it is signed by a judge - even before it is served on the abuser.2 However, it may not be enforceable outside of Michigan until the abuser has been served with papers that tell him/her about the PPO. If you plan on leaving Michigan before the abuser has been served, please speak with an advocate at a domestic violence organization in your area to figure out a safety plan. Go to our MI Advocates and Shelters for organizations near you.
1 MCLA 600.2950(13)
2 MCLA 600.2950(12)
Step 4: Service of process
The abuser must be “served,” or given papers that tell him/her about your domestic relationship PPO.
A police officer, a process server, or another adult must personally serve the respondent with the PPO and other court paperwork. You cannot serve the respondent yourself. The abuser may also be served by certified mail, return receipt requested. The mail must be specifically directed to the abuser (you must include his/her name as the name for delivery and not some other person who lives with the abuser). Check with the clerk to be sure of the proper instructions for service. If the abuser is a minor (under 18), his/her parent, guardian or custodian must also be served either personally or by certified mail.1
In most counties, there is no charge to have the authorities serve the abuser (although some sheriff’s offices may charge a fee for service and mileage). You cannot serve the papers on the abuser yourself.
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 MCLA 600.2950(18); Michigan Court’s Instructions for Personal Protection Forms
Step 5: The hearing
Unlike many other states, a hearing for a final order isn’t automatically scheduled by the judge after you get your ex parte PPO. The abuser has the right to file a motion to modify (change) or rescind (cancel) the personal protection order and request a hearing within 14 days of being served with the ex parte order (unless s/he has a good reason to extend the time to file the motion).1 If the abuser does request a court hearing, a hearing will normally be set for some time during the following 14 days unless s/he uses a gun for his/her job - in that case, it would take place within 5 days.2
You must go to the hearing, if the abuser requests one. If you do not go to the hearing, a judge might take away your ex parte PPO. See the At the Hearing section for ways you can show the judge that you were abused. If the abuser requested a hearing, but does not show up, the judge may continue with the hearing without the abuser or s/he may order a new hearing date.
You have the right to bring a lawyer to represent you at the hearing. If you need more time to find a lawyer (especially 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. Go to our MI Finding a Lawyer page for legal referrals.
1 MCLA 600.2950(11)(g),(13)
2 MCLA 600.2950(14)