Filing a Family Offense Petition (Domestic Violence)

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If you are in an “intimate partner relationship” and a victim of Domestic Violence you can start a case in a Family Court by filing a Family Offense Petition. Your petition will ask the court for an Order of Protection. It is free to file. Use the Court Locator box to find the Family Court in your county.

Note: it is best to get help from a domestic violence advocate who knows the process and can support you through the case and help you stay safe. Visit Domestic Violence Resources first to find free help.

Unless you are working with a domestic violence advocate group, you must file (submit) the petition in person at the courthouse. Go to the Clerk’s Office or Court Help Center to file. You can bring the completed form with you, or you can work with court staff to complete the paperwork. Tell the Court Clerk that you need a court interpreter if you don’t speak English well. Ask the court for a free lawyer if you can’t afford one.

When you come to Family Court, you should be given a written notice of your legal rights. See Information for Victims of Domestic Violence.


What to Say in the Family Offense Petition

  • Who's Who. The person who files the petition is called the Petitioner (domestic violence victim). The person that the petition is filed against is called the Respondent (accused abuser).

  • Addresses. You will have to give your address and the respondent’s address, unless the addresses are secret. If you don’t want the respondent to see your address because you are afraid for your safety, you can fill out an Address Confidentiality Affidavit. Learn more about Address Confidentiality.

  • Intimate Partnership Relationship. You will have to say how you and the respondent are related.

  • Domestic Violence Acts or crime. You will have to list the “family offenses” – acts of crimes that the respondent committed, like assault, harassment or stalking.

  • Description of What Happened. You will have to give as many details as you can about the ‘family offenses” that the respondent committed. See Things to Think About When Writing Your Petition.

  • Relief you Want. You have to say what you would like the Judge to order the respondent to do or not do. For example, you can ask that the respondent:
    • stay away from you and your children
    • have no contact with you and others
    • move out of your home
    • follow custody orders
    • pay child support
    • give up guns

What Happens Next

After you file the petition, you will see a judge or referee and tell your side of the story. The respondent won’t be there. The Judge will decide whether to issue a temporary order of protection and give you a court date. A temporary order of protection only lasts until the next time you are in court. It can be extended at each court date until the case is over. The temporary order of protection must be served on the respondent before it is in effect. The temporary order of protection tells the respondent the rules that must be followed to protect you. Visit Basic Steps in a Family Offense Petition Case to learn more.

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