Step 1: Go to court and file a petition.
Go to the district court to file your petition.1 You can find a court near you by going to our NE Courthouse Locations page. You can also find links to the form online by going to NE Download Court Forms. The forms will ask you to include all relevant information, including, but not limited to:
- a description of the most recent incident;
- a description of the most severe incident;
- the dates or approximate dates of such incidents.2
Carefully fill out the forms. Write about the incidents of violence or abuse, using descriptive language (slapping, hitting, grabbing, choking, threatening, etc.) that fits your situation. Be specific. Include details and dates, if possible. If your petition is based on threats rather than a physical incident, write about how the threats affected you. If the threats made you fearful, you can explain why the threat caused you fear (for example, perhaps due to past behavior/threats). If the fear has affected your daily activities (for example, causing you to change your routine, etc.), you can explain how the fear has affected your life in this way.
A domestic violence organization may be able to provide you with help filling out the form. See NE Advocates and Shelters page for the location of an organization near you.
Note: Do not sign the petition until you have shown it to a clerk, as the form may need to be notarized or signed in the presence of court personnel.
1 NE R.S. § 42-924(2)
2 NE R.S. § 42-924.02(2)
Step 2: A judge will review your petition and may issue an ex parte order.
After you finish filling out your petition, bring it to the court clerk. 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 you an ex parte order. The judge can issue an ex parte order if s/he has reason to believe that you are in immediate danger of being abused based on your affidavit or your statements.1 If the judge does not give you an ex parte order, the judge should schedule a hearing within 14 days where the abuser can be present and you will have to prove that the order should be issued.2
1 NE R.S. § 42-925(1)
2 NE R.S. § 42-925(3)
Step 3: Service of process
If the judge issues you an ex parte order, it will be served on the respondent (abuser) along with a form for the abuser to request a “show-cause hearing” in which the abuser would appear in court and show cause (evidence) why the order should be dismissed. Note: If the abuser wants to request a show-cause hearing, s/he has to return this form to the clerk within ten business days of receiving the order and the hearing would be scheduled within 30 days.1 If the respondent does not request a hearing, then the order will remain in effect for one year.2
The courts will forward copies of your papers to law enforcement, who will then try to serve the papers.3 In order for the papers to be served upon (legally given to) the abuser, the sheriff will go to the abuser’s home, work, or other place s/he can be found to hand him/her the papers. If, for example, you believe that serving the respondent at his/her work will endanger you, you can include this information in the forms that you fill out and request that the abuser not be served at work. The order is not valid until law enforcement has served the respondent.
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 NE R.S. § 42-925(1)
2 NE R.S. § 42-925(5)
3 NE R.S. § 42-926(1)
Step 4: The hearing for a final protection order
There may or may not be a hearing. If the judge does not give you an ex parte order, the judge is supposed to schedule a hearing within 14 days where you can better prove your case.1 If the judge does grant you an ex parte order, there will only be a hearing if:
- the abuser requests a “show-cause hearing” within 10 business days of being served with the ex parte order;
- you request one; or
- the judge decides on his/her own to hold a hearing.2
The hearing will immediately be scheduled and will take place within 30 days.2 You must go to the hearing. If you do not go to the hearing, your order will expire and you will have to start the process over again. At this show-cause hearing, the judge could decide to instead issue a harassment protection order or a sexual assault protection order if the judge believes one of those orders is more appropriate or if you request it. Then, the abuser would have to “show cause” why the judge should not issue one of those orders.3
If there is a hearing, you must prove that the abuser has committed an act of domestic abuse (as defined by the law) against you or your children. You must also convince a judge that you need protection and the specific things you asked for in the order.
Note: If at this hearing, the judge finds that there is “clear and convincing evidence” that the statements in your petition were false and that the protection order was sought in bad faith, the judge could order you to pay the court fees.4
1 NE R.S. § 42-925(3)
2 NE R.S. § 42-925(1)
3 NE R.S. § 42-925(3), (7)
4 NE R.S. § 42-924.01