You do not need an attorney to get an Order for Protection (OFP). You certainly may feel more comfortable with an attorney on your side, and you would likely benefit from the counsel and advice an attorney could provide. But I understand, attorneys are expensive, money is short, and you may need to save that money for the divorce you see coming. I would rather you go into court without me now to ensure your safety, than wait until you have the money to hire me and get hurt in the mean time.
Order for Protection (OFP) Forms
You can get fill-in-the-blank Order for Protection (OFP) forms from your local courthouse, or you can get them on-line from the Minnesota Supreme Court’s web site by clicking the highlighted link. Order for Protection (OFP) forms are specifically designed to be used by people who do not have an attorney. The instructions are clear and fairly easy to follow. You are not required to pay any sort of filing fee to get an Order for Protection (OFP).
Once you complete the forms as directed, you bring them to court administration for filing. Court administration will make sure a copy of your form called the “petition” is served on the abusing party by law enforcement. Depending on the facts of your case, the judge may issue a temporary “Ex Parte Order for Protection,” which is just a fancy way of saying the judge issued the order before any hearing was held. If the judge issues an Ex Parte Order for Protection it will usually remain in effect until a full hearing on your petition can occur.
What Happens at the Hearing?
At the hearing you will be expected to testify and tell your side of what happened. During your testimony you need to be very specific about what your abuser did that hurt you, or made you fear that he/she would do so in the immediate future. Your abuser will then be given an opportunity to cross examine you by asking you questions. After you are done testifying, your abuser will then be able to testify about what happened, and you get to ask him/her questions. If you have any witnesses to the event, bring them to the hearing so that they can testify as well. Once the judge has heard all of the testimony, he/she will decide whether an Order for Protection will be issued.
There are more rules that decide whether and when a hearing on your petition for an Order for Protection is held. Which rules apply depend on the specific facts of your case. However, the important message here is that you should not wait until you have enough money to hire an attorney before you ask the court for an Order for Protection. There are forms and resources to get you through the process. Of course, if at any point you feel overwhelmed by the process, or your abuser gets an attorney, it is always advisable to get an attorney of your own.