You may want to view this video first, explaining the basics. Then learn more details below.
Need to start at the beginning of the process? Read the first part of our guide: Protection from Abuse in Maine: First Steps & Frequently Asked Questions
Many Protection from Abuse cases are handled without a lawyer. If you believe that the other side will have a lawyer, or if there are complicated issues involved in your case, you may be better off with a lawyer.
If you want a lawyer for the hearing, call one as early as possible. If you cannot afford a lawyer, you may be able to get one through the Domestic Violence Project or Sexual Assault Project in your county or through Pine Tree Legal Assistance. If you do not want a lawyer but do not want to go alone, you can ask a friend to go with you. A non-lawyer advocate from the local domestic violence projector sexual assault project may also be able to go with you.
At the hearing, you will be asking the judge to continue the Temporary Order for up to two years. To get this, you must prove that the Defendant has abused you (or your child) in at least one of these ways:
When you are thinking about how to tell the judge your story, be aware of these legal categories of abuse.
If you know other people who saw or heard the abuse, or saw you right after the abuse happened, you may want to ask them to testify.
You also have the right to subpoena witnesses. You can get subpoena forms from the clerk's office. A subpoena is a way to make someone come to court and testify. It may not be a good idea to subpoena someone who is not willing to come on their own unless you are pretty sure that they will testify honestly and be helpful to your case.
Keep in mind that, as a general rule, witnesses can only testify about what they actually saw and heard. Extra witnesses who did not actually see any abuse, or the immediate results of the abuse, will probably not be very helpful to your case.
NOTE: Subpoena forms must be signed by either an attorney or a court clerk.
If you have brought the complaint on behalf of a child, your case may be difficult to prove. If the child is too young to testify, then you will need other evidence to prove your case. You may need testimony from a professional who has treated your child, like a doctor or counselor, especially if there are no other witnesses to the abuse who can testify.
Many documents contain out of court statements which cannot be used in court. Most police reports fall into this category. A medical report documenting injuries can be helpful, but you must ask the hospital to certify it first. A threatening letter or note from the Defendant can be used as evidence. If you have documents that you think may help prove your case, bring them and the judge will decide if they can rely on them or not. Any documents you present as evidence will go into the court file, so make copies of papers you want to keep.
After the hearing, the judge will decide whether to extend your Order. If they do, then there will be questions about what to include in the Order. The Order will usually:
If you have mutual children, the Order may also:
You can also ask the judge to:
NOTE: If the judge orders the Defendant to turn over weapons, the Order will say:
This can be a law enforcement agency or a trusted third party. If a third party is named to hold the weapons, the Defendant must immediately (within 24 hours) file a written statement explaining:
If these orders are not followed, the Court may issue a search warrant, to find and take the weapons.
If you think that the defendant did not hand over all the dangerous weapons they own, you should call the police to let them know. You can also ask the court to issue a search warrant to allow the police to search and get the weapons from the defendant.
Here's how to ask the court to issue a search warrant:
Think about any specific kind of relief you may need and be prepared to ask for it. For example:
You may not have a hearing. Some judges will grant the Order without a hearing. Tell the judge what you want the Order to say. Other judges will want you to testify briefly about the statements made in your complaint. Explain again how the Defendant has abused you. If your Temporary Order was denied, be prepared to tell the judge about the abuse in more detail. Then tell the judge what you want the Order to say.
The judge will usually draft an Order at your request and sign it. In that case, you will not need a hearing. Tell the judge about any specific relief you need in the Order. If you get an "Order by agreement," it carries the same legal weight as an Order issued by a judge after a hearing. In other words, you can enforce it in the same way that an Order after full hearing is enforceable.
NOTE: If you or the other party has a lawyer, the lawyer may encourage you to enter into an Order by agreement. If you agree to such an Order, you give up your right to a hearing. Be very sure that you understand and are satisfied with the terms of any agreement before you accept an Order without a hearing.
You will have a hearing so the judge can decide the issues you disagree on. Each witness will be sworn in. As the Plaintiff, you testify first. Tell the judge your story, describing the abuse as specifically as you can. Explain what happened and when. Then tell the judge about any specific relief you need and why. Tell the judge how long you want the order to last. If you have brought documents, ask the judge to consider them. If you have brought or subpoenaed witnesses, ask them to tell the judge what they saw and heard. The Defendant will have the chance to ask you and your witnesses questions.
After you have finished, the judge will ask the Defendant to give their testimony and present witnesses. If you disagree with what the Defendant is saying, don't interrupt. Write down what you want to ask or say later in response. When the Defendant finishes, you can ask questions. You can also ask questions of the Defendant's witnesses. You have the right to see any documents the Defendant presents.
If the Defendant brings up any new issues, you may testify again after the Defendant closes, but only to respond to any new issues raised by the defense, not to go back over evidence you have already presented.
After both sides have finished, the judge will decide the case. If the Defendant is there and the judge issues an Order, a deputy sheriff will serve the Defendant with the Order right away. You should get a copy of the Order, too. If the Defendant is not there, the clerk will get an officer to serve the Order on the Defendant. The clerk will also send a copy of the Order to your local police or sheriff's office.
Here are some options:
Call the police and tell them that the Defendant has violated your Order. The officer can arrest the Defendant for this violation. The officer does not need a warrant and does not have to see the violation in order to arrest..
If the Defendant is being prosecuted for crimes against you, contact the victim advocate at your county district attorney's office for information and support.
NOTE: The separation of "civil law" from "criminal law" creates a lot of confusion. The Protection from Abuse process described here exists in the "civil" realm. A Protection from Abuse Order addresses "civil" issues that are between you and the defendant. In contrast, the "criminal" system involves cases brought by the State of Maine (prosecutors) against persons charged with crimes. An abuser's actions can trigger criminal charges, as well as the need for a civil Protection Order. Also, most violations of that civil Protection Order are classified as crimes. The Protection Order indicates which parts of the Order, if violated, are treated as crimes.
If the Order is going to run out and you still have good reason to believe that you need protection, you can ask for an extension of the Order. You need to do this before your order expires. Ask the clerk's office for a Motion to Extend form. Fill this out, along with a new Protection Order Service Information form. The clerk will set a time and date for your request for an extension to be heard by the judge after the Defendant has received notice of the hearing.
If you do not file the Motion to Extend before the old Order runs out:
If you have mutual children but do not have a long-term family court order that establishes parental rights and responsibilities, you may want to get this done while your Protection from Abuse Order is still in effect. If you are married to the Defendant, you would deal with these issues in a Divorce. If you are not married to the Defendant, you would need to bring a Determination of Parental Rights and Responsibilities Complaint.
You can ask to be notified. Get more information on victim notification here. If your protection order is still in effect, and you are still afraid, you may be able to get an extensionof that order. If your order has run out, it may be difficult to get a new order. But, if the defendant does anything new to threaten you, you could then ask for a new order.
Regardless of whether you have a Protection Order in place, or not, the abuser commits a crime if they:
Call 911. Or report the violation to the police or sheriff's department. Consider getting a Protection Order for longer-term protection, if you haven't already done that.