On this page, we’ll go over the steps you need to take to ensure you’re ready for a final protection order hearing in a civil court. Some of the information on this page may also be useful in custody cases. Your best chance for legal representation is, of course, a lawyer with experience and awareness of domestic violence concerns. However, if you decide to represent yourself, the following information may be helpful. Continue reading to find out more.
Witnesses should be contacted.
Remember that a witness may be a family member, an ER nurse, a doctor, or even a stranger who saw or heard the assault. It could be a child or youngsters, a law enforcement person, or something else.
Some witnesses may be required to appear in court via a subpoena. Subpoena forms are available from court clerks and must be signed by the judge. Individual states have different regulations about how a subpoena must be served, so be sure you check with the judge or the court clerk for this information. Someone over the age of eighteen, or a process server, can serve it in some regions. In other areas, however, it must be delivered by a sheriff’s representative. If persons who have been served with a subpoena have not turned up for the hearing, you should notify the judge. You can ask the judge to postpone the hearing until all of the people who were served with the subpoena show up.
Documentation And Proof
Every state has its own set of rules regarding the admissibility of evidence in court. It’s possible that only certified copies of documents are valid, or that you’ll only be permitted to utilize extracts from the document. To collect reports from doctors, hospitals, and the police, you may need to obtain a subpoena. It’s also possible that the documents will have to be mailed to the courthouse rather than to you. The rules of evidence might be complicated, however in most states, evidence can include things like:
- Court testimony, whether it comes from your witnesses or you.
- Medical reports on the injuries you had as a result of your abuse
- Police reports from the time the cops were summoned
- Photographs of your injuries, preferably at the time they were taken.
- Household items shattered or destroyed by the person who harmed you
- Photographs documenting the state of your home after a domestic abuse incident
- Photographs of the weapons used by the person who assaulted you
- The recordings of your 911 calls (these may have to be subpoenaed)
- Documents proving the individual who harmed you was convicted of a crime. Certified copies will have to be obtained from the clerk of the criminal court.
- A calendar, a personal notebook, or a journal in which you keep track of the abuse you’ve received.
Remember that the more evidence you have, the better. Nonetheless, if you have witnesses or documents, keep in mind that your testimony is also evidence – so don’t be concerned if that is all you have.
Having to convey the abuse in a way that represents the event in a clear and orderly manner is not the same as experiencing it. You can learn to do this by practicing in front of a mirror or with another person; this may also make you feel less nervous when you come before a judge. This method may also aid in the recall of new details from your encounter. Practice speaking effectively and inventing your own phrases to describe the occurrences. Consider the following:
- Incidents of violence
- Violence threats
- Habits of stalking
- Harassment of others
- Tell the judge where you were struck, how many times you were struck, and what injuries and agony you suffered.
- Whether a weapon was used or not
- If at all possible, avoid paraphrasing. Make an effort to utilize precise language and be as specific as possible.
Creating an outline containing notes about the situation’s history can be quite useful. Some states will allow you to refer to the notes, but you may not be allowed to read them. If the court allows it, you may take notes if you need to remember a specific date, for example. However, if the judge decides you can’t, be prepared to testify. When a child or children are involved, it’s a good idea to speak with a lawyer or someone who works as a domestic violence advocate in your state about the best methods to portray the abuse the child or children may have experienced.
Presenting Custody Cases
Each state has its own set of variables that a judge will consider while deciding custody, with the best interests of your child or children taking precedence. Evidence preparation is critical because the judge will examine it while reaching his decision. Some states will interview the parties involved with the help of a custody evaluator. Remember to do the following on the day of the hearing:
- Be on time.
- Ensure that your witnesses are there and ready to testify.
- Make sure your evidence is in order.
- Inform the judge if any witnesses or documents have been subpoenaed but are not present.
- Dress in a professional manner, as if you were going to a job interview.
- Appropriately addressing the judge (using the term “Your Honor” and remembering that you will have the opportunity to tell the judge your story if the abuser says something upsetting).
- You may be required to spend the entire day in court, so be prepared.
- If you don’t have a lawyer but the abuser does, ask the judge for a continuance so you can obtain one.
- If the abuser threatens you or sits next to you in court, you have the right to ask the court officials to keep the abuser away from you.
- It’s fine to be emotional, but try to keep your cool.
- When you’re feeling tense, take a few deep breaths.
- Do not respond to a question unless you fully comprehend it.
- Do not allow the abuser or their lawyer to detract from your ability to share your tale.
The Sequence Of Events In A Courtroom
Although there are a few deviations, the following is the traditional order:
- The bailiff will administer your oath.
- As the plaintiff, you will have the opportunity to explain your narrative and present any proof you have.
- The judge or the abuser’s lawyer may ask you questions, and you must answer truthfully when under cross examination. Remember that these are leading questions, which need a “Yes” or “No” response. If you believe a question is irrelevant or that certain questions are inappropriate, remember that knowing the rules of evidence and the types of questions that are permitted can help.
- After you’ve finished, your witnesses are welcome to testify. You can question them first, followed by the judge, the abuser, and his legal counsel. You have the right to object if the questions asked of your witnesses contradict the rules of evidence.
- The defendant will then present their side of the story, which may differ significantly from yours. The above-mentioned objection rule also applies.
- You and the judge may next ask questions, which are asked in a leading manner once again.
- The judge will then make a decision. He may take a break before making a final choice. It could take a few hours, days, or even weeks before a final decision is made.
- If the judge grants you the restraining order, he or she may sign it during your hearing. Obtain a copy, review it, and ask the judge any questions you may have. Request that the judge prolong your temporary restraining order if the judge does not make a decision that day.
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