Step 1: Go to the Family Division of the Territorial Court.
Go to the Family Division of the Territorial Court to request a temporary restraining order, and/or a permanent restraining order. If you live on St. John, you must go to court in St. Thomas to request a temporary restraining order or permanent restraining order. To find contact information for the courthouse in your area, click on VI Courthouse Locations. During business hours, go to the clerk’s office. Tell the clerk that you want to file for a permanent restraining order, and the clerk (or other court staff) can help you fill out the necessary forms to file.2 If you are in immediate danger and need emergency protection, tell the clerk you also need an ex parte/temporary restraining order.
1U.S. Virgin Islands Superior Court website
2VI ST T. 16 § 96(d)
Step 2: Bring identification and information about the abuser.
It can be helpful to bring information about the abuser, if you have it, including contact information (address and phone number) and a description of his/her appearance.
Remember to bring some form of personal identification as well (a driver’s license or other identification that includes your picture) since this may be needed to get your signature notarized in court.
Step 3: Fill out the necessary forms.
Check to see if the forms are available online by going to our VI Download Court Forms page.
On the complaint for a permanent restraining order, you will be the “petitioner” and the abuser will be the “respondent.” Write briefly about the most recent incidents of violence, using descriptive language - words like “slapping,” hitting,” “grabbing,” threatening,” “choking,” etc. - that fits your situation. Include details and dates, if possible.
Be specific. You may also want to include any previous court action(s) that you have taken against the abuser. You do not have to include your address on the complaint.1 If you do include your address, be sure to use a safe mailing address and phone number. If you are staying at a shelter with a confidential location, you may want to consider using a Post Office Box, not a street address, if possible. If you need assistance filling out the form, ask the clerk for help.2 Some courts may also have an advocate that can assist you. You may also find help through one of the domestic violence organizations listed on our VI Advocates and Shelters page.
Note: Be sure to sign the forms in front of the clerk of court. The forms may have to be notarized by the clerk of court.
1 VI ST T. 16 § 96(c)
2 VI ST T. 16 § 96(d)
Step 4: The ex-parte/temporary restraining order hearing
If you request a temporary restraining order, the clerk will give your forms to the judge for your ex parte/temporary restraining order hearing. Ex parte means that the abuser does not have to be present or given notice of the hearing. This is a preliminary hearing where the judge can grant you a temporary restraining order for 10 days.1 At this hearing, the judge will read your petition and ask you why you want a temporary restraining order. If the judge believes you have shown “good cause” that an emergency order is needed to protect your life, health, or wellbeing or the wellbeing of a victim on whose behalf you filed, the judge may grant you a temporary restraining order.2 If the judge grants a temporary restraining 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 it with you at all times. You may want to keep copies in your car, workplace, or daycare. The judge will also set a hearing date for your full permanent restraining order hearing. If the judge does not grant you a temporary restraining order at the ex-parte hearing, you will may still be given a court date for a full permanent restraining order hearing (assuming your petition is not dismissed), which would be scheduled to occur within the next 10 days.3
1 VI ST T. 16 § 98(d)
2 VI ST T. 16 § 98(b)
3 VI ST T. 16 § 97(a)
Step 5: Service of process.
The abuser must be served with the papers that tell him/her about the hearing date and your temporary restraining order (if the judge gave you one). The clerk will forward the order to the marshal and the appropriate chief of police.1 The marshal will then find the abuser and serve him/her notice of the temporary restraining order (if the judge gave you one) as well as the date and time of the scheduled permanent restraining order hearing.1 There is no charge to have the authorities serve the abuser. Do not attempt to serve the papers on the abuser yourself.
Note: After the abuser is served with the temporary restraining order, s/he can ask the judge to dismiss or change the order. If the abuser does ask the judge to dismiss or change the order, a hearing will be scheduled and s/he is required to give you only 24 hours’ notice of the hearing. At the hearing, the judge will decide whether or not to grant the abuser’s request.2
1 VI ST T. 16 § 98(c)
2 VI ST T. 16 § 98(d)
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: The hearing for a permanent restraining order
A judge will set a hearing date within 10 days of filing for your order.1
You must go to the hearing. If you do not go to the hearing, your temporary order will expire, and you will have to start the process over. If the abuser does not show up for the hearing the judge may still grant you a restraining order, or the judge may order a new hearing date.
You have the right to bring a lawyer to represent you at the hearing. If you show up to court and the abuser has a lawyer and you do not, you may ask the judge for a continuance to set a later court date so you can have time to find a lawyer for yourself. It can be especially difficult to represent yourself in court against an attorney. If the judge does issue a continuance, the judge should also reissue or extend your temporary order since your original one will probably expire before the rescheduled hearing. You may want to call a local domestic violence program if you have any questions before your hearing. Go to our VI Advocates and Shelters for a list domestic violence organizations.
See the At the Hearing page for ways you can show the judges you were abused.
1 VI ST T. 16 § 97(a)