Step 1: Go to a district court and request an application.
Go to the district court in the county where you live, where the abuser lives, or where the abuse took place.1 You can find a court near you by going to our UT Courthouse Locations page. Find the civil court clerk and request a petition for a protective order. You may also find links to petitions online by going to our UT Download Court Forms page.
1 UT ST§ 78B-7-104
Step 2: Fill out the necessary forms.
The clerk will give you with the forms that you need to file. On the protective order form, you will be the “petitioner” and the abuser will be the “respondent.”
Carefully fill out the forms. Write about the most recent incidents of violence and the physical harm that you suffered, using descriptive language (slapping, hitting, grabbing, choking, threatening, etc.) that fits your situation. Be specific. Include details and dates, if possible. It will also be important to write any previous incidents of abuse and any other court action you have taken against the abuser.
If you need assistance filling out the forms, ask the clerk for help. Some courts may have an advocate that can assist you. If you do not have a lawyer, the clerk is responsible for providing you with assistance in filling out your protective order form.1 A domestic violence organization may also be able to provide you with help filling out the forms. See UT Advocates and Shelters for the location of an organization near you.
Note: Be sure to sign the forms in front of the court clerk. Once you have completed your paperwork, return them to the clerk.
1 UT ST § 78B-7-105(2)(c)
Step 3: 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. The judge will decide whether or not to issue the ex parte order.
If the judge grants you an ex parte order, the court clerk will give you a copy of the order. Review the order before you leave the courthouse to make sure that the information is correct. If something is wrong or missing, ask the clerk to correct the order before you leave. Be sure to keep the order with you at all times. You may want to keep copies in your car, workplace, or child’s daycare.
If you seek a full protective order, the judge will set a date for a hearing within 20 days.1 You will be given papers that state the time and date of your hearing for a full protective order.
1 UT ST § 78B-7-604(1)(a)
Step 4: Service of process
The abuser must be served with a notice of hearing and with any protective order that a judge has granted you. The order is not valid until the abuser has been served with it. The clerk will send the order to the county sheriff for service.1 The sheriff or other law enforcement officer will then attempt to find the abuser and serve him/her with the ex parte order, if the judge gave you one, as well as notice of the scheduled hearing for the full protective order. 2
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 UT ST § 78B-7-603(5)
2 UT ST § 78B-7-603(8)
Step 5: The hearing
It is very important that you attend the court hearing. If you do not go to the hearing, your ex parte order will expire and you will have to start the process over. If you absolutely cannot attend, contact the court immediately and ask how you can get a “continuance” for a later court date.
If the abuser does not attend the hearing, the court may issue a “default judgment” against him/her and you may receive a full protective order in his/her absence. The judge also may decide to pick a new hearing date to give the abuser another chance to come to court. If this happens, be sure to ask the judge to extend your ex parte order if you have one.
At the hearing, you may have the chance to testify in court and present evidence and witnesses to prove the abuse and harassment you have experienced. The abuser may also be allowed to be present evidence and testify in the hearing to defend himself/herself. You may want to get a lawyer to represent you at that hearing, especially if you think the abuser will have one. See the UT Finding a Lawyer page for a listing of free and paid lawyers. If you are going to be in court without a lawyer, you can visit our At the Hearing section for ways you can show the judge that you were abused. You can learn more about the court system in our Preparing for Court – By Yourself section.