It is against the law for a partner or family member to cause you bodily harm or cause you to fear bodily harm.
If you are being hurt or threatened with harm, your partner is breaking the law. An Order of Protection is a court order. It’s signed by a judge and says the person who has hurt you or threatened you cannot do that again. It can keep that person from having contact with you. The paperwork necessary to apply for an Order of Protection is here on our website, however, we recommend all persons interested in applying for an order read the following information.
The information on this page answers questions about Orders of Protection and walks users through the process of obtaining one. Click on the questions below for more information. To download and print the entire contents of this page, click here.
First, please talk to a victim advocate. A victim advocate can help you decide if an Order of Protection is right for you. Sometimes an Order of Protection would not be in your best interest. An advocate can help you figure out if an Order of Protection would help you or not. S/he can also give you more information about how to apply for an Order of Protection. A list of all Victim Advocates in Montana — including their phone numbers — is found here on this website.
You may choose to represent yourself. If you ask a court to grant you an Order of Protection, the following information will help you understand the hearing process and present your case effectively.
Decide the relief you want the court to give you. You will be asking the judge to grant you an Order of Protection against the person who abused you or threatened to abuse you. You need to tell the judge specifically what you want the Order to say. You can ask the judge to:
- Order the Respondent not to hurt you;
- Order the Respondent not to harass or otherwise disturb you (and/or your children);
- Order the Respondent not to contact you (in person, through 3rd parties, through writing, by email, by telephone, etc.);
- Order the Respondent to stay a specific distance from you, your residence and/or your place of employment;
- Order the Respondent to vacate the home you are living in;
- Order the Respondent to allow you access to your personal property;
- Order the Respondent not to possess a gun or other dangerous weapon;
- Order the Respondent to attend batterer’s intervention counseling or drug/alcohol counseling.
If the Respondent appears and disagrees that an Order of Protection be granted, the judge will probably ask you to present your case (your side of the story) first.
- Being sworn in to testify truthfully
- Taking the witness stand
- Presenting your evidence
- Asking for the specific relief you need
The judge may ask you specific questions about the situation. After you have finished, the Respondent will have a chance to ask you questions. After the Respondent has finished asking you questions, you will have the opportunity to ask questions of your witnesses. After each of your witnesses is done testifying, the Respondent has the opportunity to ask them questions.
Evidence for Petitioners
“Evidence” is what you present in court to prove that the respondent has harmed or may harm you (and/or your child). Evidence can be your statements (called “testimony”), documents, photos, or objects such as torn clothing or a weapon. The following are examples of the types of evidence that can be used to show the judge that you are in danger and need an Order of Protection.
You should tell the judge why you want the Order of Protection, including why you are afraid of the respondent. You should include information about times when the respondent abused you. If there have been many abusive times, you should focus your testimony on the most recent and the worst.
- Describe each time you were abused by telling “who, how, when and where”.
You can tell the judge about:
You can ask people who have seen or heard the abuse (and/or threats), or saw you after the abuse and/or threats, to testify at the Order of Protection hearing.
The following are examples of people that you may ask to testify:
- Family, Friends, Neighbors
- Medical Providers, Counselors, Dentists
- Police Officers, Victim Advocates
- Teachers, Clergy
You can present physical items as you testify in order to prove that you have been abused (and/or threatened). You should ask the judge to “admit” such items as evidence. Some examples of items include:
- Physical injuries
- Torn/bloody clothes
- Damaged property
- Police reports
- Medical records
- Letters, emails
- Voicemail messages
After you have presented your side of the story, the judge will allow the Respondent to present his/her evidence, including having his/her witnesses testify. If you disagree with what the Respondent or witnesses say, don’t interrupt. You will have a chance to ask the Respondent questions after he/she has testified. You will also have a chance to ask witnesses questions after each has testified and you can use those opportunities to show that the evidence you disagree with is either false or taken out of context. You also will be given the opportunity to testify in response to issues the Respondent brings up that you did not discuss while you presented your case. After both you and the Respondent have finished presenting your cases, the Judge will make a decision as to whether or not to grant an Order of Protection for you.
- Sit far away from the abuser.
- Bring a friend, relative, or a Crime Victim Advocate with you.
- Ask the judge to keep the abuser there for several minutes when court is over and leave quickly.
- If you think the abuser is following you when you leave, call the police immediately.
- Learn places where you can get help.
- Keep a phone in a room you can lock from the inside. Get a cellular phone that you keep with you at all times.
- Plan an escape route out of your home to a safe place. Teach it to your children.
- Set up a plan with your neighbors to signal them when you need them to call the police.
- Pack a bag with important things. Keep it ready in case you have to leave quickly. Put it in a safe place or give it to someone you trust. Make sure the bag has cash, keys, court papers, passports, birth certificates, medical records, medicines, formula, diapers.
- Take a self-defense course.
If your abuser has moved out:
- Change the locks on doors and windows.
- Ask neighbors to call police if they see the abuser at your house.
- Get an unlisted phone number.
- Stay away from the kitchen, where the abuser can find weapons like knives.
- Stay away from small spaces such as bathrooms, closets.
- Call 911.
- Get to a room with a door or window. Lock the abuser out if you can.
- Run to a neighbor or a public place.
- Teach them to not get in the middle of a fight, even if they want to help.
- Teach them how to get to safety, call emergency numbers, and give your address and phone number to police.
- Give the school/daycare a copy of your Protection Order. Tell them not to release your children to anyone without talking to you first. Use a password so they know it’s you on the phone. Give them a photo of your abuser.
- Make sure the children know who to tell at school if they see the abuser.
- Make sure the school will not give out your address or phone number.
- Change your regular travel habits.
- Get rides with people.
- Bank and shop at different places.
- Cancel bank accounts or credit cards you shared with the abuser and open new ones.
- Keep a cell phone. Program it to speed-dial emergency numbers.
- Keep your Order of Protection with you always. It is valid in all states.
- Keep your Order of Protection with you. A state-issued Hope Card is a convenient way to carry this information with you at all times. More information is here on this website.
- Give a picture of your abuser to coworkers and security guards.
- Tell your supervisors about your abuser. Ask them to help you.
- Don’t go out alone.
- Ask a security guard or co-worker to walk you to your car or bus.
- If your abuser contacts you at work, save the voicemail or email and tell your supervisor.