Step 1: Get and fill out the necessary forms.
You can file your petition at the circuit court in the county where you live or the county where the abuser lives. You can find the forms from the civil clerk at the circuit court, but you may want to download them beforehand and fill them out at home or with an advocate from a domestic violence organization or with a lawyer. You will find links to forms online on the Oregon Download Court Forms page. To find contact information for the circuit court in your area, click on the Oregon Courthouse Locations page.
To start your case, you will need to fill out the necessary forms for a restraining order, which include a petition and an affidavit (sworn statement). On the affidavit, you will be asked to write about what happened. Remember to use specific language (slapping, hitting, grabbing, threatening, etc.) that fits your situation. Include details and dates, if possible. Note: Do not sign the forms until you have shown them to a clerk, as the court clerk may have to notarize them – and remember that you may need photo ID for the notary.
Most shelters and other domestic violence prevention organizations can provide support for you while you fill out these papers and go to court. To find a shelter or advocate in your area, go to our Oregon Advocates and Shelters page.
Step 2: Ex parte hearing
After you have filed the forms with the clerk of court, the clerk will forward them to the judge. The judge may ask you questions about what you wrote in your affidavit at what is often called an ex parte hearing. An ex parte hearing basically means that only one side is present for the hearing and it is done without prior notice to the abuser. You have the responsibility of proving the incidents of abuse included in your petition, so if you have evidence to prove the abuse, you may want to bring it with you to the hearing.1 You can read our At the Hearing page for more information about how to prepare for a court hearing. If the judge decides that you have been a victim of domestic abuse, the judge may issue you a temporary restraining order.
1 O.R.S. § 107.710(2)
Step 3: Service of process
A restraining order (temporary or final) is legal as soon as the court grants it. However, it cannot be enforced against the abuser until the abuser has been served with it.
The sheriff’s deputy or a private party can serve the abuser (respondent) with the order and court paperwork.1 If you choose someone other than the sheriff’s deputy to serve the papers, the person who serves it will have to fill out a certificate of service that you will have to bring back to court with you – ask the clerk about this if you choose to not have the sheriff serve the papers.2You cannot serve the abuser the papers yourself.3
There is no cost to file a petition, to have the sheriff serve the papers, or to have a court hearing about the restraining order.4
1 O.R.S. § 107.723(1)
2 Family Abuse Prevention Act Order Certificate of Service
3Oregon Courts website’s Instructions for Obtaining a Restraining Order
4 O.R.S. § 107.718(8)(c)
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: Full court hearing
When the abuser receives a copy of the restraining order papers and knows about your petition, s/he has 30 days to ask for a hearing, which must be held within 21 days of that request.1 However, if the judge schedules an exceptional circumstances hearing, then there will be a hearing regardless of whether the abuser requests one or not. An exceptional circumstances hearing is held within 14 days from when the temporary restraining order is issued but the abuser can request that it be held earlier. If s/he makes such a request, the hearing will be held within five days of his/her request.2 The court will let you know if there is a hearing scheduled.
If the abuser requests a hearing, it is extremely important that you attend that hearing so that your restraining order doesn’t get dismissed. If you or any witness who you plan to have testify cannot attend the hearing in person, you can file a motion (court request) in which you ask the judge to allow you or your witness to “attend” by phone or by another two-way electronic communication device. If the judge believes there is “good cause” to allow this, the judge can allow it.3 For example, if you convince the judge that the safety of you or your witness would be threatened if the judge required you/your witness to appear in person, this could be considered “good cause.”
At the hearing, the judge may want to hear from you and from any witnesses that you may have who witnessed the abuse or your injuries. You will need to be specific when you testify. Describe:
- when and where the abuse took place;
- what happened;
- how you were injured;
- if an object was used to injure you, explain what was used. For example, explain to the judge if you were hit with a fist, an elbow, an open palm, a heavy object, on the floor or against a door or furniture, etc.;
- whether the police were called; and
- if you were treated by a doctor or medical professional.
If you have any pictures of your injuries, medical reports, or police reports, bring them to court with you. See our At the Hearing page for ways you can show the judge that you were abused.
If the abuser shows up to the hearing with a lawyer, you may ask the judge to postpone the hearing to a later date to give you some time to get a lawyer to represent you. Even if the abuser doesn’t have a lawyer, you may wish to bring one with you to the hearing to help present your case to the judge. See the Oregon Finding a Lawyer page for contact information for legal services organizations in your area. If the abuser does not show up for the hearing, the judge may still grant you a restraining order for up to one year, or the judge may order a new hearing date.4
1 O.R.S. § 107.718(10)(a)
2 O.R.S. § 107.718(2)
3 O.R.S. § 107.717(1),(3)
4 O.R.S. § 107.718(3)