How to Serve an Order of Protection

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Restraining orders are issued by judges to protect victims of abuse and harassment from further violence. Once a restraining order is issued, it must be served on the respondent (the alleged abuser) to be enforceable. Service is a simple process which involves notifying the respondent of the allegations of abuse and giving him a copy of the restraining order and a notice of hearing. Depending on your location, service may be completed by law enforcement, a private process server or an adult friend or family member.

Provide any current addresses or contact information for the respondent on your application for a protective order. This will help whomever serves the order find the respondent. In some cases, you will also be asked to provide information such as a Social Security number, date of birth, drug use history or information on any weapons the respondent may possess. All these elements help the server serve the restraining order as quickly as possible.

Choose who you want to serve the restraining order. The plaintiff should never serve the order. In most states, the plaintiff may choose between law enforcement, a private process server and an adult friend or family member to serve the order.

In almost every state, it is free to have local law enforcement--usually the sheriff's department--serve the order, and they will often process all paperwork for you. If law enforcement service is not an option where you live, hiring a private process server is the next best option. The court clerk or your attorney can help you find a process server; however, you will have to pay all fees, often including mileage. (In some states, after you are awarded a restraining order, the respondent can be compelled to pay any fees you may incur.) In some states, you can also ask an adult friend or family member, who is not covered under any terms in the restraining order, to serve the respondent for you.

Go to the respondents address and make contact as quickly as possible. In most states, proper service must be completed at least 72 hours before the hearing or the hearing will be postponed. Give him the notice of hearing and copy of the restraining order and tell him he has been served. He does not have to accept the paperwork; you must simply leave it with him.

Complete your county's Proof of Service paperwork and have it notarized. Typically, completion of paperwork simply involves verifying the appropriate forms were delivered and indicating the time and place of service.

Submit the appropriate verification of service paperwork to the court where the restraining order was filed. If you are the plaintiff and law enforcement or a process server served the order for you, she will often do this for you. You should call the court and verify that the appropriate paperwork was notarized and submitted.


  • Restraining orders are not enforceable until they have been properly served.


  • Even if you have a process server or friend serve the order for you, make sure the order is still transmitted to law enforcement. They can keep an eye out for the respondent--such as at traffic stops--and if they come into contact with him, they can serve the order for you.



About the Author

Based in northern Virginia, Rebecca Rogge has been writing since 2005. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Patrick Henry College and has experience in teaching, cleaning and home decor. Her articles reflect expertise in legal topics and a focus on education and home management.

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  • police car up close image by Aaron Kohr from