Judges issue restraining orders to protect victims of violence and abuse from further harm. In Delaware, restraining orders are called Orders of Protection from Abuse -- civil orders providing protection from domestic violence.
Delaware's definition of domestic violence includes actually or trying to cause actual physical injury or sexual offenses, harming your property, trespassing, child abuse, kidnapping, fear or emotional distress, and "any other conduct a reasonable person would find threatening or harmful" when one of these offenses is committed by a family member or someone living in your home.
Go to the court in the Delaware county where you live and file a petition for an Order for Protection From Abuse. You can ask the court clerk for the appropriate forms or find them online on the Delaware State Courts website. This form requires information such as your relationship to the abuser; a description of the "acts of abuse;" a description of the terms requested (such as no contact, repayment of legal fees and a description of aggravating factors, such as a history of violating protective orders). You will also need to give your contact information and the alleged abuser's. Give the paperwork to the clerk.
Appear before a Commissioner of the Court in an ex parte hearing. At this hearing, which is usually held immediately after you file the petition (unless you file late in the day or in a particularly busy court), you will be able to present your case to the Commissioner. After hearing you describe your situation, he will decide whether to grant you an Emergency Order. If he does, the Emergency Order will protect you until a full hearing can be held. Either way, a full hearing will be scheduled, at which the alleged abuser will also have the opportunity to present his case, within about 10 days.
Prepare to present your case in court. Professional legal assistance can be helpful, particularly if you have children or are trying to get sole rights to a shared home. Gather any evidence that may help you demonstrate to the judge that you are in need of protection: police or medical records, witness testimony, photographs of injuries or damaged property, or any written communication between you and the alleged abuser.
Appear in court at the hearing. If you fail to appear, your case may be dismissed. Also, your emergency order, if you have one, will expire and you will be left without protection. The alleged abuser will also be there; if not, you may be automatically granted the restraining order.
The judge will listen to both sides of the story, and then decide whether to grant you a Long-term Order of Protection from Abuse. In Delaware, these protection orders will last for up to a year; they can also be extended for an extra six months, but only after another hearing is held.
Protection orders can only changed or dismissed by the court. The parties involved cannot decide on their own that they don't need the protection order in place any more.
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