Step 1: Go to the courthouse and get the petition.
Go to the circuit court in the county where the abuse occurred, where you live, or where the abuser lives. Find the civil court clerk and ask for a petition to apply for a restraining order. The form you will need is called "Petition for Restraining Order to Prevent Abuse (Family Abuse Prevention Act)."
You can find links to petitions online by going to OR Download Court Forms.
Note: You, the person filing the complaint, are the “petitioner.” The person against whom you are filing against (the abuser) is the “respondent.”
When you go to the courthouse, remember to bring some form of identification. It is also helpful to bring identifying information about the abuser if you have it such as:
- a photo;
- addresses of residence and employment;
- phone numbers;
- a description and plate number of the abuser's car; and
- any history of drugs or gun ownership
You can find a court near you by going to our OR Courthouse Locations page.
Step 2: Fill out the petition.
Read the petition carefully and ask the clerk questions if you don’t understand something. You must provide complete and truthful information.
Write about the most recent incidents of violence, using descriptive language (slapping, hitting, grabbing, choking, threatening, etc.) that fits your situation. Be specific. Include details and dates, if possible. If there is space for it on the petition, you could also include details about the history of abuse so that the judge can understand the bigger picture, not just the most recent incident.
An advocate from a domestic violence organization may be able to help you fill out the form. See OR Advocates and Shelters to find the location of an organization near you.
Do not sign the petition until you have shown it to a clerk; the form may need to be notarized or signed in the presence of court personnel.
Step 3: A judge will review your petition.
After you finish filling out your petition, take it to the court clerk. The clerk will forward it to a judge. The judge may wish to ask you questions as s/he reviews your petition. The judge will decide whether s/he thinks the abuser is a real threat to you and/or your children’s physical safety, and whether or not to issue the temporary restraining order.
If the judge issues you a temporary restraining order, the clerk of the court must deliver a copy of the petition and temporary restraining order to the county sheriff so that the abuser (respondent) can be served. You should also request two free copies of the petition and order for your own records. Make sure to keep a copy of the order with you at all times.
Step 4: Service of process
A restraining order (temporary or permanent) is legal as soon as the court grants it. However, it cannot be enforced until the abuser has been served with it.
The county sheriff is responsible for serving the abuser (respondent). You may have the order served by another private party or an officer of the peace. If you choose this option, the person who serves it may have to fill out an affidavit of service that you will have to bring back to court with you – ask the clerk about this if you choose to not have the sheriff serve the papers. You cannot serve the abuser the papers yourself.
There is no cost to file a petition, to have the sheriff serve the papers, or to have a court hearing about the restraining order.
Step 5: See if the abuser requests a hearing.
When the abuser receives his/her copy of the restraining order papers and knows about your petition, s/he has 30 days to ask for a hearing, which must be held within 21 days of that request. The court will let you know if there is a hearing scheduled.
Step 6: The hearing
You will only have a hearing if the abuser requests one. If the abuser requests a hearing, it is extremely important that you attend that hearing so that your restraining order doesn't get dismissed. If you -- or any witness who you plan to have testify-- cannot attend the hearing in person, you can file a motion (court request) in which you ask the judge to allow you or your witness to "attend" by phone or by another two-way electronic communication device. If the judge believes there is "good cause" to allow this the judge can allow it. For example, if you convince the judge that the safety of your or your witness would be threatened if the judge required you/your witness to appear in person, this could be considered "good cause."*
The judge will want to hear from you and from any witnesses that you may have who witnessed the abuse or your injuries. You will need to be specific -- describe when and where the abuse took place, what happened, how (and with what) you were injured, (e.g., explain to the judge if you were hit with a fist, an elbow, an open palm, a heavy object, on the floor or against a door or furniture, etc.), whether the police were called, and if you were treated by a doctor or medical professional. If you have any pictures of your injuries, medical reports, or police reports, bring them to court with you. See Preparing Your Case page for ways you can show the judge that you were abused.
If the abuser shows up to the hearing with a lawyer, you may ask the court to postpone the hearing to a later date (also called a continuance) to give you some time to get a lawyer to represent you. Even if the abuser doesn’t have a lawyer, you may wish to bring one with you to the hearing to help present your case to the judge. See OR Finding a Lawyer for contact information of lawyers in your area. If the abuser does not show up for the hearing, the judge may still grant you a restraining order for up to one year, or the judge may order a new hearing date.
* O.R.S. § 107.717(1),(3)