Getting Served with an Order of Protection

Getting Served with an Order of Protection
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Last updated: May 2010

What is an Order of Protection?

An Order of Protection is a legal document signed by a judge that orders someone to stop certain behavior and stay away from someone else.

The person who files court papers asking for an Order of Protection against someone else is called the “petitioner.” The person whom an Order of Protection has been filed against is called the “respondent.”

Sometimes, an Order of Protection is called a “restraining order.” 

How does someone get an Order of Protection against me?

To get an Order of Protection, a person must file court papers asking for one. An order of protection case starts by filing a “Petition for an Order of Protection.”

In their petition, the person must explain to a judge why they want an order of protection against someone else. Usually, a Petition for Order of Protection includes a section where the person gives a detailed description of events that happened between themselves and the Respondent. These events are known as “incidents of abuse.”

After considering the petition, a judge will decide whether to enter an Order of Protection.

What does Domestic Abuse or Domestic Violence mean?

Domestic violence or abuse occurs when a family or household member abuses a family or household member.

The Illinois Domestic Violence Act defines what is considered a "family or household member" and what behaviors are considered "abuse."

"Family or household members" are:

  • Spouses or former spouses;
  • Parents, children, and stepchildren;
  • People who share or formerly shared the same home;
  • People who dated or were engaged, including same sex couples;
  • People who allegedly have a child in common; and,
  • People with disabilities and their personal assistants

"Abuse" includes:

  • Physical abuse. For example, pushing, hitting, forced sex, or not allowing someone to leave;
  • Harassment. For example, creating a disturbance at someone’s job, repeatedly telephoning, following or watching someone, preventing someone from seeing their child, or threatening to hurt someone;
  • Making a child or other person watch abuse;
  • Forcing someone to do something they don't want to do; and
  • Denying a disabled person access to needed care.

If an Order of Protection was filed against me, what effect does it have on me?

A judge determines whether to issue an Order of Protection against you. In granting an Order of Protection, a judge can:

  • Forbid you from doing things;
  • Order you to do things;
  • Make decisions about the custody and visitation of your children; and
  • Make decisions about property that you share with your accuser (the person asking for the Order).

Specifically, it can order that you:

  • Stop abusive behaviors;
  • Stay away from locations like the accuser’s home, school, or work;
  • Stop contacting the accuser;
  • Attend counseling;
  • Pay child support; or
  • Move out of a shared residence. 

What are the different types of Orders of Protection?

There are three different types of orders of protection:

  • Emergency Order of Protection
  • Interim Order of Protection
  • Plenary Order of Protection

An Emergency Order of Protection is usually granted right away by a judge to quickly stop abuse. An Emergency Order only lasts for 14 to 21 days. The judge can enter this type of Order of Protection without notifying you. So you will usually find out about an Emergency Order after it is already granted against you.

A Plenary Order of Protection is entered after the accuser and you have presented your arguments at a hearing in front of a judge. This type of order may last for up to two years.

An Interim Order of Protection is a temporary order. A judge can grant an Interim Order while waiting for something else to happen, like a hearing or a trial. An Interim Order may last for up to 30 days. These types of orders are often entered while the accuser tries to notify you of an Order of Protection hearing.

What should I do if I am served with an Order of Protection?

You should carefully read all the documents you receive and follow all instructions that they give. These documents you should receive include:

  • The Emergency Order of Protection
  • The Petition for Order of Protection
  • Any supporting statements and accusations

You must immediately obey the Emergency Order. If you don’t, you may be subject to criminal fines or jail time. You cannot violate an Emergency Order of Protection until you know about it.

Read the Emergency Order to determine what the judge has ordered you to do and you to not do. The Order will give the reasons why the judge granted it. The Order will also list a future court date, usually in a week or two. At this court date, you can tell the judge your side of the story.

Make sure to show up in court on that date. If you do not, the judge could enter a Plenary Order of Protection against you without hearing your side of the story.

If an Emergency Order was not entered, you will receive a Petition for an Order of Protection. The Petition will explain the reasons why your accuser wants an Order of Protection against you. There will also be a date for you to show up in court and possibly other instructions for you to follow.

What happens at the Order of Protection hearing? 

At the hearing for an Order of Protection, both you and your accuser can tell your side of the story to a judge. Your accuser will go first, testifying about the abuse to show that an Order of Protection is needed. After your accuser is done, you will have the chance to present your side of the story.

After hearing both sides, the judge will decide whether or not to enter an Order of Protection against you. The judge may do this right away, or may make a decision after a break. The break could take only a few hours, or it could take up to a few weeks. While you wait for a decision by the judge, your accuser may ask the judge to extend the existing Emergency or Interim Order of Protection. 

What happens if I do not show up for the Order of Protection hearing?

If you do not show up in court on the date listed in your notice or Emergency Order, a judge will decide the case based on the accuser’s side of the story.

If the Order of Protection is granted, you will have to follow it, even though you weren’t at the hearing and didn’t get to tell your side of the story.

Can I hire an attorney to represent me at an Order of Protection hearing?

Yes. You can hire an attorney to represent you at the hearing and to help you respond to a Petition for Order of Protection. When possible, it is always better to be represented by an attorney in court.

To find a legal aid organization that may be able to help you, type in your zip code under “Helpful Organizations” below.

Do I have a right to a jury trial at an Order of Protection hearing?

No. At the hearing you will be able to present evidence and make an argument to the judge, but you do not have a right to a jury trial.

What happens if I don't follow the instructions in the Order of Protection? 

If you violate the terms of an Order of Protection, you can be arrested and charged with violating it. If you are convicted, you may be subject to a fine or jail time. To prevent this, you must follow all of the instructions in the Order of Protection as soon as it begins.

Remember that you must continue to follow the Order of Protection until it ends. Carefully read the Order of Protection to determine the exact date that the order expires. 

How can an Order of Protection change my custody or my visits with my children?

Sometimes, children are also included in an Order of Protection. They are known as “protected parties.”

If the Order lists your child as a protected party, the Order can change your custody or visitation rights by:

  • Giving your accuser sole custody of your child if the judge decides it is necessary to protect the child
  • Limiting visits with your child to certain times, days, and locations, and requiring another person to supervise the visits
  • Requiring you to make temporary child support payments
  • Ordering you to not take the child outside of the state or hide the child somewhere within the state 

Can an Order of Protection keep me from entering my home or using my property? 

Yes. An Order of Protection can keep you from entering your accuser’s home, even if you live there. If the judge decides it is best for your accuser’s safety, the judge may order you to stay away from your home for as long as the Order of Protection lasts.

If you share property with your accuser, like a car, the judge may order you to not sell, damage, or hide it. The judge can also keep you from using the property if the judge feels that sharing it would be difficult or risk abuse. 

Can my accuser change the Order of Protection after it begins?

Yes. Your accuser can use a Petition to Modify or Vacate an Order of Protection to ask a judge to:

  • Change or remove any specific term of the Order of Protection
  • Renew or extend the Order of Protection after it expires. If there is a good reason, a judge can extend an Order for another two years and can continue to do this until the abuse ends or the situation changes.
  • Dismiss the Order of Protection, if your accuser feels that the Order is no longer necessary


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