Step 1 - Get the necessary forms.
To start your case, you will need to fill out the necessary forms for a protection order. You can file a petition in the county where you live, or in the county where the abuser lives. You can find the forms from the civil clerk at the courthouse, but you may want to find them before you go and fill them out at home or with an advocate from a local domestic violence program. You will find links to forms online on the SD Download Court Forms page. Most shelters and other domestic violence prevention organizations can provide support for you while you fill out these papers and go to court. Go to SD Advocates and Shelters to find an organization in your area.
Step 2 - Carefully fill out the forms.
On the petition, you will be the “petitioner” and the abuser will be the “respondent.”
On the petition, in the box provided for explaining why you want the protection order, write briefly about incidents of violence, starting with the most recent, using specific language (slapping, hitting, grabbing, threatening, etc.) that fits your situation. Include details and dates, if possible. Clerks and magistrates can show you which blanks to fill in, but they cannot help you decide what to write.
It may also be useful to bring identifying information about the abuser such as a photo (which may be used in serving the order to respondent) and addresses of residence and employment.
Note: Do not sign the forms until you are in front of a notary or a clerk. The clerk can usually notarize the forms for you.
Step 3 - Go to the courthouse to file the forms.
You will need to file the forms in the county courthouse where you live, where your abuser lives, or where the abuse occurred. To file the forms, during business hours, go to the Clerk of Civil Court. Tell the clerk that you want to file for a protection order against domestic violence. If you need emergency protection, also tell the clerk you need temporary order. To find contact information for the courthouse in your area, click on SD Courthouse Locations.
Step 4 - A judge will review your application.
After you finish filling out your application, 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. If the judge believes you or your child are in serious and immediate danger, s/he may give you an ex parte (temporary) order which is good for 30 days, until your full court hearing.
Whether the judge grants you a temporary order or not, you may be given a court date for a full court “hearing” within 30 days (assuming your petiton is not dismissed). This hearing will be in front of a judge at the time shown on the notice of hearing. At this hearing, you and the abuser will both have a chance to explain your sides to the judge.
Note: If you received an ex parte (temporary) order, keep a copy of it with you at all times.
Step 5 - Service of process
After the judge reviews your petition, take all of the forms, to the sheriff’s or police department so they can serve the defendant with notice of the hearing. “Notice of the Hearing” is the document that tells the defendant where and when to appear for the full court hearing.
You will have to provide some contact information for the defendant so the sheriff can find him. The defendant must receive notice of a hearing from the sheriff. If the defendant does not receive notice, the hearing will be rescheduled.
Do not try and serve the abuser in person with the papers yourself. The sheriff or police are required to notify you when the order is served.1
Note: Protection orders may or may not be enforceable prior to the abuser being served, depending on which county you live in.
1 SDCL § 25-10-7
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 6 - Full court hearing
You must go to the hearing. If you do not go to the hearing, your temporary order will expire. It may be harder for you to be granted an order in the future. If the abuser does not show up for the hearing, the judge may still grant you a final protection order or may reschedule the hearing.
You may wish to hire a lawyer to help with your case, especially if the abuser has a lawyer. You can also represent yourself. If the abuser shows up with a lawyer, you can ask the judge for a “continuance” (a later court date) so that you have time to find a lawyer. Go to SD Finding a Lawyer to find help in your area.