Prepare for your restraining order court date

Bring evidence or witnesses

If you have evidence like pictures, text messages, or emails, you will need to print them out and make three copies of each piece of evidence. One copy is for you, one is for the judge, and one is for the other side. 

If you have witnesses who can help support your case, bring them with you to your court date.  

If you have a lot of witnesses, there may be forms you need to complete to let the court know about your witnesses and what they will testify about. You should get free legal help from your local Self-Help Center, or talk to a lawyer.

Plan what you want to say to the judge

It can help to plan out and make notes about what you want to say to the judge. You can read from your notes in court, if you need to. Read over the court papers in your case and write out anything else you want the judge to know. Focus on the facts and details that support your side of the story.

Go over any documents you got from the other side

If the other side served you with papers, make sure you go over the papers and understand what they are asking for and arguing in the case (their allegations). The judge will give you an opportunity to weigh in on the other side's arguments. Think about and write down how you want to defend against their arguments.

Make arrangements beforehand

Find childcare because court may take all morning or afternoon, even all day. Some courts have a Children’s Waiting Room, a safe place for children to wait while parents are in court. You can check with your court in advance to see if this is available.

Bring things you will need, like:

  • Pen and paper

  • Your court papers 

  • Papers the other side filed (if any) 

  • Three copies of anything you want the judge to review. One for you, one for the judge, and one for the other side.

  • Notes with what you plan to say or ask

Bring a support person, if you want one. If you asked for the restraining order, your support person can sit next to you when you present your case. But, your support person cannot speak for you.

Dress nicely, like you're going to a job interview or place of worship. No shorts, baseball hats, or flip flops.


What to expect at your court date

The judge will give both sides a chance to speak

Usually, the judge asks the person who wants the restraining order to talk first. No matter who talks first, you will both get a chance to speak. Going to court can be difficult and stressful but it is important not to talk over anyone. If you have something to say and it is not your turn, let the person finish talking and then ask the judge for permission to speak.  

If you need an interpreter, you should ask for one as soon as possible. Learn more about how to ask for an interpreter. Click if you have a disability and need to request an accommodation or or a sign language interpreter.

Present your case to the judge

When it is your turn to speak, that means it is your turn to present your case. Presenting your case means explaining to the judge the facts that support your case. This can feel scary and overwhelming. It is okay for you to bring notes and read from them. You can also bring in evidence or witnesses to support the facts of your case.  

If you have evidence for the judge to review, let the judge know. This can include witnesses that you brought with you to court and documents, like proof of text messages, emails, and pictures of injuries. You should bring three copies of any document you want the judge to see. One copy is yours, one is for the other side, and one is for your court file.  If you have recordings (video or audio), you should check in with your local Self-Help Center before your court date. Sometimes judges may require a transcript for a recording. A transcript is a written version of the recording that shows exactly what was said.

If your case involves child custody (if you completed or received form DV-105), then the judge will require you to talk with a court professional, called a mediator or child custody recommending counselor. You will meet with the court professional to talk about what your ideal parenting plan looks like. Usually the parents meet together with the court professional but since your case involves domestic violence, you should meet separately. This means that each of you will talk to the court professional alone and then the court professional will either come up with a plan that both parents agree with, or the judge will decide on custody and a parenting plan. Learn more about mediation by watching this 30-minute mediation orientation video.  Also, special laws apply when there is domestic violence. Learn more about child custody in domestic violence cases.

The judge makes a decision  

Usually, the judge decides whether to grant or deny a restraining order on the day of your hearing. If the judge feels like more information or time is needed, the judge may ask you to come back another day.   

  • If the judge denies (does not grant) the request for restraining order, the restraining order case is done. However, sometimes other issues like child custody may still be decided by a judge and you may have to go back to court. 
  • If the judge grants a restraining order, the person protected by the restraining order will have some additional steps to take, like completing a form for the judge to sign. If you are the restrained person, you must obey all the orders that the judge made. If you do not, you could be sent to jail, pay a fine, or face other consequences. 


What to Expect in the Courtroom

What’s next?

Find out what to expect on your court date.

success alert banner:

Have a question about DVRO?

Look for a "Chat Now" button in the right bottom corner of your screen. If you don’t see it, disable any pop-up/ad blockers on your browser.