You should get to the courthouse at least 15 minutes prior to your hearing. If you are late, your case will likely be dismissed. You need to be dressed appropriately and conservatively--like you are going for a job interview. You will likely need to leave your cell phone in the car (unless it is evidence). If you do need to bring your phone or a tape recorder into the courthouse, be sure to tell the security office that you are bringing it in as evidence in your case.
1. The judge will usually ask you and the Respondent questions about what happened. Make sure you answer the judge's questions clearly. If the judge doesn't ask questions, you will need to describe the incident that caused you to file for the Order of Protection. You should briefly describe what happened immediately before the abuse occurred, and focus mainly on the actual abuse itself. If you have asked for visitation to be denied, you need to be prepared to say why.*
Tip: Write down what you want to say to the court and bring this with you. If you get nervous, you can always look at what you wrote to help you!
2. Be sure to tell the judge if you have witnesses or evidence
3. The Respondent will have an opportunity to tell his or her side of the story--be prepared for the Respondent to say something bad about you. Do not react to what the Respondent says or interrupt while he/she is speaking. If you need to respond, you can politely ask the Court to speak again or "cross-examine" the Respondent (ask them questions directly).
4. You should also be aware that the Respondent will likely have the opportunity to ask you questions directly. This can be very stressful for survivors. It is important that you remember to remain calm.
5. After hearing both sides, the judge will make a decision and say what the decision is. If you think the judge left something out, you can politely ask the judge about this. For example, if you asked for possession of a certain car and the judge didn't say anything about it, you may stand up and ask the judge about it.
*Note: Usually a court will only deny visitation if the abuse occurred in front of hte children or if there is some other serious concern that the children are at risk of harm.