Authored By: Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma, Inc.
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A Protective Order is a document issued by a civil court that orders the person who is abusing, harassing, or stalking you to stop doing so or be punished by the court.
You can apply for a protection order at any time, even if:
- Criminal charges haven't been filed against the person harassing you
- You have already obtained a Temporary Protective Order as part of a criminal proceeding.
Protectice Orders can last for any period of time, up to three years. Protective orders are only pieces of paper and you still must take other steps to protect yourself. See the Safety Planning page to learn what you can do.
Table of Contents
How much does it cost to get a protective order? Do I need a lawyer?
How do I get a permanent protective order?
What will I have to prove at the hearing?
What should I do before the hearing to prepare my case?
What should I do on the day of the hearing?
What is the order of events in the courtroom?
What should I do when I leave the courthouse?
I was not granted a protective order. What are my options?
What can I do if the abuser violates the order?
How do I change or extend the protective order?
Reconciling after getting a protective order?
What happens if I move?
What is the legal definition of stalking in Oklahoma?
What is a stalking protective order?
What are the steps for filing for a stalking protective order?
Where can I find additional information on stalking?
A protective order is a civil court order that is designed to stop violent and harassing behavior and to protect you and your family from the abuser. It offers civil legal protection from domestic violence to both male and female victims. While protection orders can help keep you safe, they are only pieces of paper and you still must take other steps to protect yourself.
You can seek legal protection from acts of domestic abuse committed by a "family or household member" against you or your minor child. This means you can seek protection from:
Ø A spouse
Ø An ex-spouse
Ø A present spouse of an ex-spouse
Ø Parents, grandparents, stepparents, adoptive parents and foster parents
Ø Children, grandchildren, stepchildren, adopted children and foster children
Ø Anyone related to you by blood or marriage
Ø Anyone you live with
Ø Anyone you used to live with
Ø Anyone with whom you have had a child, even if you never married that person
Ø Someone you're dating
Ø Someone you used to date
A minor who is 16 or 17 years old can file for a protective order themselves. A minor who is under 16 years old must have an adult family or household member file on their behalf. A minor filling against an adult must file in a regular local court. Anyone filling against a minor age 13 or older must file in the local court with Juvenile Court jurisdiction.
If your abuser is not a "family or household member" under this definition, you may be eligible for a Stalking Protective Order. See What is a Stalking Protective Order for more information.
Ø Emergency ex parte protection orders
Ø Permanent protection orders.
A judge will assume that if you are asking for an emergency ex parte order or an emergency temporary order, you will also want a final order.
Things to remember about an emergency ex parte order:
Ø You must file an emergency ex parte petition yourself at a district court during court business hours. (See the Courthouse Locations and Information page for more details on your District court.)
Ø A police officer cannot file the order for you.
Ø You may file for the emergency ex parte order without the abuser's knowledge or presence in the courthouse.
Ø An emergency ex parte order protects you until your hearing for your final protection order, which usually takes place within 20 days.
Things to remember about a permanent protective order:
Ø A permanent protective order can be issued only after a court hearing in which you and the abuser both have a chance to tell your sides of the story.
Ø A final order lasts up to three years. You may also be able to have it extended. (See How do I change or extend the protective order?
What protective orders cannot do?
The Protective Order cannot help you until the papers are served on the abuser. Call the police if you need assistance. The Protective Order cannot award custody or mandate a visitation schedule; however, most judges will facilitate an emergency agreement to stabilize children pending the filing of a divorce. The judge can facilitate an agreement for supervised visitations if necessary. The protective order cannot award financial assistance or child support. It cannot award property.
Generally, there are no fees for filing for a protective order. However, if the judge finds that the order was filed for frivolous reasons, the judge may decide to order the petitioner, or person filing, to pay certain court costs or attorney fees.
You do not need a lawyer to file for a protective order. However, you may wish to have a lawyer, especially if your abuser has a lawyer. If you can, contact a lawyer to make sure that your legal rights are protected.
If you cannot afford a lawyer but want one to help you with your case, you can find information on legal assistance on the Links and Resources page. Domestic violence organizations in your area may also be able to help you through the legal process and may have lawyer referrals.
Step 1: Go to the nearest district court and request a petition.
Go to the district court in your area. You can find a court near you by going to our Courthouse Locations and Information page. Find the civil court clerk and request a petition for a final protection order. In some counties, the court clerk will help you fill out the court papers. Be sure to tell the clerk if you need immediate protection and want an emergency ex parte order.
In many areas, local Domestic Violence organizations will assist you with completing protective order paperwork and are familiar with the usual practices of the courts in their areas. To find a Domestic Violence organization, go to our Links and Resources page.
You can find links to petitions online by going to the Filling Out a Protective Order Form page. If you live in Tulsa County, there is a free, interactive computer system that can help you fill out your protective order forms. Visit www.icandocs.org/ok to access this computer application.
Step 2: Bring identification for you and identifying information about your abuser.
When you go to the courthouse, remember to bring some form of identification. It is also very important to bring identifying information about your abuser, such as:
a photo; addresses of residence and employment phone numbers; a description and plate number of your abuser's car; and any history of drugs or gun ownership
Step 3: Fill out the necessary forms.
Carefully fill out the forms. On the complaint, you will be the "petitioner" and your abuser will be the "defendant." Write briefly about the most recent incident of violence, using descriptive language (slapping, hitting, grabbing, choking, threatening, etc.) that fits your situation. Be specific. Include details and dates, if possible. But remember to be honest.
Be sure to write your name, a safe mailing address, and a phone number. If you are staying at a shelter, contact your shelter for the correct mailing address.
If you need assistance filling out the form, ask the court clerk for help. Some courts may have an advocate that can assist you. A domestic violence organization may also be able to provide you with help filling out the form. See our Links and Resources page for the location of an organization near you.
Do not sign the petition until you have shown it to a clerk, as the form may need to be notarized or signed in the presence of court personnel.
Step 4: A judge will review your petition
After you finish filling out your petition, bring it to the court clerk. The clerk will forward it to a judge. The judge may do this in a courtroom or he may even review it by himself. The judge may wish to ask you questions as he reviews your petition. The judge will decide whether or not to issue the emergency order, and if you seek a permanent order the judge will set a date for a hearing. You will be given papers that state the time and date of your hearing.
Step 5: Service of process
In order for your protective order to be valid, your abuser must be served, or given papers that tell him about the hearing date and your emergency ex parte order (if the judge gave you one). The abuser must be given the papers in person. But remember, do not try and serve the abuser in person with the papers yourself.
After you file for your order, the court will send copies of any protection orders and notices of hearing to the police or sheriff for service to your abuser.
If the judge is ordering the abuser to leave your house, contact a sheriff or local police to ask how you should proceed with doing so.
Step 6: The Hearing
You must go to the hearing. If you do not go to the hearing, your emergency ex parte order will expire and you will have to start the process over. If you do not show up at the hearing 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 permanent protection order, or the judge may order a new hearing date.
Depending on your case and your individual situation, you may want to contact an attorney. You can find references for attorneys and information about advocates and organizations in our Links and Resources page.
Should you wish to represent yourself, you will first want to contact witnesses who saw the abuse or your injuries. Anyone can be a witness - a friend, family member, children, emergency room nurse, doctor, a stranger who saw or heard the abuse take place, a law enforcement officer, etc.
Also, you will want to get evidence and documentation to help you prove your case. The best evidence is your honest, verbal testimony. But other evidence can include:
Ø what you or a witness says in court about the incident(s)
Ø police reports
Ø pictures of your injuries (dates if possible)
Ø pictures of your household in disarray after an episode of domestic violence
Ø tapes of calls you may have made to 911 (there may be a fee to get copies)
Ø certified copies of the abuser's criminal records
Ø anything else to help you convince the judge you have suffered acts of domestic violence and need certain relief and protection
The more evidence you have, the greater your chances of being granted a protection order. However, the judge will listen to your story even if you have no evidence or witnesses.
Practice telling your story. You may want to make an outline or notes of the history of violence by the abuser. You may take notes to court with you to look at if you forget something, but the judge may order that the abuser be allowed to see the notes if you read from them.
Tell your story in your own words, but leave out details that have nothing to do with the physical violence or threats of violence. Also, rather than saying "He (or she) hit me," tell the judge how you were hit, where on your body you were hit, and how many times. Be specific.
You may also want to mention:
Ø The most recent two incidents of violence
Ø The worst two incidents of violence
Ø Whether the defendant has a gun or other weapons
Ø Whether the defendant has threatened to physically hurt or kill you
Ø Be on time. Remember some courthouses may have limited parking and lenghty security lines
Ø Have your witnesses there and ready. If you have subpoenaed witnesses and they do not come, tell the judge.
Ø Dress clean and neatly.
Ø Speak directly to the judge, he or she will understand if you feel nervous.
Ø Always address the judge as "Your Honor" and always stand when speaking.
Ø Be prepared to spend all day in court (There may be hearings before yours). You should make child care arrangements if possible.
Ø If your abuser comes to court with a lawyer and you are not represented, ask the judge for a "continuance" so you can look for a lawyer.
Ø Once your case is called, enter the courtroom and find a seat. It is your right to take another seat if the abuser sits next to you, and to receive help from court staff in keeping the abuser away from you.
Ø Stand when the judge enters and sit when the judge or bailiff asks you to.
Ø Relax and remain calm. Take deep breaths if you feel yourself getting tense.
Ø Never lose your temper in the courtroom.
Ø Always tell the truth.
Ø If you don't understand a question, just say so.
Ø If you don't know the answer to a question, just say so.
Ø Never make up an answer.
Ø At the hearing, everyone who testifies will swear to tell the truth.
Ø You will tell your side of the story first.
Ø The judge and your abuser (or your abuser's lawyer, if he has one) may ask you questions. If you are afraid to answer any of them, tell the judge.
Ø When you are finished, your witnesses will take the stand. You (or your lawyer, if you have one) may ask them questions, and then the judge and the abuser will have a turn to ask them questions.
Ø The abuser will tell his side of the story. It may be very different from yours. The judge will ask him questions, and you may also ask him questions.
Ø The judge will make a decision after hearing both sides and considering the evidence.
Ø If the judge decides in your favor, he or she will sign your permanent protective prder.
Ø This order will have boxes that the judge can check that order your abuser to follow specific rules (such as stopping the abuse and not contacting you). The order will also have a place for the judge to write in any additional rules he or she sees as necessary for your protection.
Ø The judge should also include the date of expiration for the permanent protective order.
Ø You will be given a copy of the protective order. Review it carefully before you leave the courthouse. If you have ANY questions about it, be sure to ask the judge.
Ø Review the order before you leave the courthouse.
Ø If something is wrong or missing, ask the clerk to correct the order before you leave, and be sure it gets filed in the courthouse.
Ø Make several copies of the order as soon as possible.
Ø Keep a copy of the order with you at all times.
Ø Leave copies of the order at your work place, at your home, at the children's school or daycare, in your car, with a sympathetic neighbor, and so on.
Ø Give a copy to the security guard or person at the front desk where you live and/or work.
Ø If the court has not given you an extra copy for your local law enforcement agency, take one of your extra copies and deliver it to them.
Ø You may wish to consider changing your locks and your phone number.
Ø Give a copy to the county sheriff or police in any other counties that you frequently visit.
You may also wish to make a safety plan. Women can do a number of things to increase their safety during violent incidents, when preparing to leave an abusive relationship, and when they are at home, work, and school. Many batterers obey protection orders, but some do not and it is important to build on the things you have already been doing to keep yourself safe. See the Safety Planning page for more information.
If you are not granted a Protective Order, there are still some things you can do to stay safe. It might be a good idea to contact one of the Domestic Violence resource centers in your area to get help, support, and advice on how to stay safe. They can help you come up with a safety plan and help connect you with the resources you need. You will find a list of Oklahoma resources on the Links and Resources page. You will also find information on safety planning on the Safety Planning page.
If you were not granted a Protective Order because your relationship with the abuser does not qualify as a "family or household member," you may be able to seek protection through a Stalking order. You will find more information about stalking protection orders in the stalking section of this page.
You may also be able to reapply for a Protective Order if you have new evidence to show the court that domestic violence did occur, or if a new incident of domestic violence occurs after you are denied the Order.
Generally, appeals can be complicated and you will most likely need the help of a lawyer.
If the abuser attempts to harm you, the police can arrest him. Violation of protective orders carries much higher penalties than most assaults. A violation of the order occurs whenever the defendant does something that is strictly prohibited by the order. You do not have to wait until physical violence occurs.
The first violation is a criminal misdemeanor which is punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 or one year in jail or both. The violation becomes a felony if any of the following circumstances exist:
Ø If the violation causes physical injury of impairment to you or someone in your household.
Ø If there is a temporary restraining order, a protective order or emergency ex parte order, or an injunction in effect which prohibits the behavior.
Ø If within the last 10 years, the defendant has completed a sentence or been convicted of a crime which involved use or threat of violence against you or a member or your immediate family.
ANY 2ND VIOLATION OF A VPO IS A FELONY, NO MATTER IF THERE IS PHYSICAL HARM OR NOT.
If the defendant bothers you, call the police and notify them that you have a protective order. The police can arrest the violator then and there, if they observe the offense; that is, if they see him or her harassing, threatening, visiting, etc. Police can arrest any person any place if the officer has probable cause to believe the person committed an act of physical violence within the last four hours. The officer need only observe some evidence of a recent physical injury or impairment of your physical condition.
You may file a report against the abuser for violating the protective order, even if the police don't make an arrest or file criminal charges. Civil charges may be filed in the same court that issued your protection order.
You may file a report against the abuser for violating the protective order, even if the police don't make an arrest or file criminal charges. Civil charges may be filed in the same court that issued your protection order.
Make sure a police report is filled out, even if no arrest is made. If you have copies of the violation reports, it will help you have the order extended or modified.
If the defendant has already gone when the police arrive, you can file a complaint with either the police department or the district attorney's office. The defendant can then be charged and a warrant issued for his arrest. If the police are called, request that they write a police report which you can sign.
Experience has shown that abusers usually stop their behavior when they must face consequences. Many plead guilty before they go to trial. The expense, embarrassment, and potential fines and jail time for domestic abuse, stalking, and harassment are strong deterrents for most abusers.
Only a judge can modify or extend a Protective Order. You will have to go back to the court where the order was issued, and file a motion to modify the order with the clerk of court. The abuser will have the opportunity to be present at this hearing.
If you reconcile with the abuser after obtaining a protective order, it is possible to go back to court and modify the order to reflect your new circumstances. The law provides for you to have protection from battering even when you live together. Not all judges agree that it should be this way, and not all law enforcement will arrest when you live together. If you explain to the judge why you have reconciled, it helps the judge understand particular pressures facing battered individuals.
Your protective order is good everywhere in the state of Oklahoma. If you move to a different county, you should contact the court clerk in your new county to make sure that they have your protection order on file and take a copy to the local police and sheriff's department.
Additionally, the federal law provides what is called "Full Faith and Credit," which means that once you have a criminal or civil protection order, it follows you wherever you go, including U.S. Territories and tribal lands. Different states have different rules for enforcing out-of-state protection orders. You can find out about your state's policies by contacting a domestic violence program, the clerk of courts, or the prosecutor in your area.
Civil protective orders are enforceable on military bases, but this law is relatively new (2003) and you may have trouble getting the order enforced. Military protective orders are not enforceable off base. If you have an MPO, local police may notify the military police, if the incident happens off base. Please check with your local police department, court clerk, and/or a local domestic violence organization for more details.
Following you on foot or by car, or watching you from outside your home or workplace.
In Oklahoma, stalking takes place when an adult or minor (who is thirteen years of age or older) follows you repeatedly for the purpose of making you afraid of death or physical injury.
A stalking protective order is similar to a protection order for domestic abuse. It is a civil court order that is designed to protect you from your stalker by ordering them to stop following you and threatening you.
The steps for filing for a stalking protective order are generally the same as the steps for filing for a protective order for domestic abuse. See Filling Out a Protective Order for a more detailed description of those steps. Remember, stalking is very hard to prove and you will need to provide the same proof of evidence as domestic abuse.
If your stalker is not a "family or household member" as defined by Oklahoma state law, then you will first have to file a complaint against your stalker with your local law enforcement agency before filing a petition for a protective order at the district court. You will be asked to provide a copy of the complaint when filing your petition for the protective order.
A "complaint" is a written statement of the essential facts explaining the offense that has taken place. After the complaint is filed, a warrant may or may not be issued for your stalker's arrest.
If your stalker is a "family or household member," you do NOT have to file a complaint with the police before seeking a protection order.
To get help through this process, you can contact a local domestic violence organization in your area. Go to the Links and Resources page to find one near you.
Safety planning for victims of stalking,
Information on state and federal stalking laws, and
A victim assistance line.
Stalking Resource Center of the NCVC
Victim Assistance Line: 1-800-FYI-CALL (open M-F 8:30 am -8:30 pm, EST)
While the Stalking Resource Center is a valuable resource, they do not run an emergency hotline. If you are in immediate danger, please call 9-1-1.