Step 1: File a petition.
You should go to the courthouse to file an application. The application forms are available from the office of the clerk of court in Puerto Rico, including in the municipal courts.
A domestic violence organization may be able to help you fill out the form correctly and may be able to accompany you to the courthouse if you would like them to. To find a domestic violence organization in your area, please go to our PR Advocates and Shelters page. You can also call the courthouse or police closest to where you live. Go to our PR Courthouse Locations page to find the contact information for courthouses listed by municipality.
* See 8 L.P.R.A. § 623(a)(1)
Step 2: Carefully fill out the forms.
On the application you will be the “petitioner” and the abuser will be the “respondent.”
Write about the most recent incidents of violence using descriptive words such as slapping, hitting, pulling, threatening, strangling, etc., whichever are appropriate for your situation. Include details and dates if possible. Be specific.
If you need immediate protection, tell the clerk of court that you also want to apply for an ex parte order. A judge can grant an ex parte order if s/he believes that you are in immediate danger. (The abuser does not have to be present in the courthouse or receive advance warning with an ex parte order.)
Note: Do not sign the petition until you have shown it to a court assistant because it is likely that the form will have to be notarized or signed in front of an employee of the court. For this reason, do not forget to bring some type of personal identification with you (driver’s license or other type of photo ID).
You may want to keep your home or work address confidential. However, it is necessary to give the court a mailing address so that they can send you notices in the future. Be sure to tell the clerk that you would like to keep your address confidential.
Step 3: The judge will review your petition.
After you fill out and hand all of the necessary forms to the clerk, s/he will deliver them to the judge.
The judge may want to ask you some questions about your application. If you meet the requirements for an ex parte protection order, the order will be valid until the date of the court hearing, scheduled for within 20 days.1
If the judge does not grant you an ex parte protection order, s/he can still set a date for a hearing for a permanent protection order. The court will notify the parties of a court date for within a maximum of 5 days.2 The hearing will be before a judge, and both you and the abuser will have the opportunity to tell your side of the story and to have an attorney present to represent you. At the end of the hearing, the judge will decide whether to grant the protection order or not.
1 See 8 L.P.R.A. § 625
2 See 8 L.P.R.A. § 624(a)
Step 4: Service of process
The abuser must be notified by a court bailiff or some other law enforcement officer as soon as possible and given a copy of the summons along with a copy of the application and of the ex parte protection order (if the judge granted one).1
1 See 8 L.P.R.A. § 624(b)
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 5: The hearing for the permanent protection order
You must attend the hearing, on the day and time indicated on the summons, in order to ask the judge to extend your ex parte protection order (valid for 20 days) or to ask him/her to grant a permanent protection order for a period the court deems necessary.
If you do not attend, your ex parte order will be nullified and you will have to start the whole process all over again. If you do not attend the hearing, the judge may decide that you do not need the protection order and it may be more difficult for you to obtain an order in the future.
It may be a good idea to have an attorney to represent you at the hearing, especially if you think the abuser will have one, but even if s/he will not. If the abuser shows up with an attorney, you can ask for a continuance (a hearing on another day) so that you have time to get an attorney for your case. To find an attorney in your area, go to our PR Finding a Lawyer page. If you cannot get a lawyer, you can call a domestic violence organization to see if they can help you find an advocate who can accompany you - see PR Advocates and Shelters for contact information. If you have to represent yourself, see the section At the Hearing to learn how to prove to the judge that you were abused.