What to Expect in Family Court for a Final DVPO Hearing

Common Questions

How can I prepare for the final hearing?

To prepare for the hearing, a petitioner should gather evidence, like photographs, medical reports, police reports, and text messages. Also, the petitioner can contact witnesses and ask them to come testify. Witnesses can be people involved in the situation, like the petitioner. Witnesses can also be other people who have direct information about the case, like police officers . Witnesses should be people who saw what happened with their own eyes or heard it happen with their own ears. If you need you need a person to testify as a witness but that person says they will not come to court, you may need a “subpoena.” A subpoena is a written command by the court that the person with the papers or pictures must give them to you.

What happens at the Final hearing if the respondent hasn’t been served?

Service of Process (Notifying the Respondent)-If law enforcement does not serve (notify) the respondent with the Emergency Protective Order by the family court hearing date, the judge will continue (reschedule) the hearing until a later date so that law enforcement may try to serve the respondent again. If the hearing is rescheduled, the Emergency Protective Order will remain in effect until the judge hears the case.

If law enforcement cannot serve the respondent in person, the family court may ask the circuit clerk to publish a notice of the family court hearing in a local newspaper. Once the notice has been published, the judge will hear the case. The petitioner will not be required to pay any publication costs.

What happens at the final hearing if the respondent has been served?

At the final hearing, the judge will ask the petitioner to tell what happened. Then the respondent may testify. The petitioner or respondent may bring any witnesses (best to limit to two or three) and evidence (pictures, medical or police records, etc.) to the final hearing.

Do I have to have a lawyer?

Lawyers are often hired to represent parties in domestic violence cases. However, no one is required to hire a lawyer and many people represent themselves in court. Domestic violence advocates or other support persons may accompany a party to the hearing. However, if the support person who comes to the hearing is also a witness, the witness may be asked to wait outside the courtroom until it is time to testify.