Step 5: The hearing
It is very important that you attend all of the court dates. If you find out you absolutely cannot attend, contact the court clerk immediately and ask how you can get a “continuance” or an “adjournment” for a later court date. If you do not attend, the judge may dismiss your case and any temporary orders of protection will stop being effective.
If the court case does not settle, it will go to a hearing (trial). At the hearing, you will be able to testify in court about the abuse and harassment you have experienced, present witnesses and other evidence to support your case. The abuser will be allowed to do the same. If you are not represented by a lawyer, you may want to consult with a lawyer before the hearing to understand what documents and evidence is legally admissible in court. You can also find tips on our Preparing Your Case page.
If the abuser does not attend the hearing, the court may issue a “default judgment” and you may receive an order of protection against him/her in his/her absence. The judge may hold what is called an “inquest,” which is a one-sided trial where you present your evidence and testimony and the judge decides the case based on that alone. It is also possible that the judge may decide to reschedule the hearing for a different day.
If you have a temporary order of protection, it may expire on the next court date and another temporary one may be issued that is effective until the following court date. Be sure to look at the expiration date of the order before each court date so you know if the judge should be issuing another temporary order of protection on your return court date. If the judge does not mention that the order of protection is extended or continued, be sure to ask the judge if a new order is being issued on your behalf. Once the case goes to a hearing or trial, if you win your case, the judge would issue a final order of protection.