Procedures Applicable to a Defendant in a Protection Case - The Final Hearing

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B. The Final Hearing: The defendant is under no obligation to file a formal written response to the plaintiff's protection

complaint. The Summons includes the date, time and place of the final hearing on the protection case.

The defendant has a right to be at the hearing and must get notice of the date and time of the hearing. The defendant also may hire a lawyer, may testify and bring witnesses to testify on his/her behalf, and may subpoena witnesses.

If the defendant wishes to say anything about the case, he/she must be at the hearing. If the defendant is at the hearing and the plaintiff does not show up, the case against the defendant is likely to be dismissed. If the plaintiff is at the hearing and the defendant is not there, the judge will probably issue a protection order for the plaintiff and against the defendant. The above is also true if the defendant files a motion to dissolve but fails to appear at the dissolution hearing.

At the hearing, the plaintiff has the burden to prove that the defendant abused, sexually assaulted, stalked or harassed the plaintiff or any children for whom the plaintiff is responsible. A plaintiff with personal knowledge usually must testify at the hearing. If the action is brought on behalf of a child and if the adult plaintiff has no personal knowledge of the events that support the claim of abuse, sexual assault, stalking or harassment, the child will probably be required to testify. The plaintiff may bring other witnesses to support his/her case, may subpoena witnesses, and may hire a lawyer if he/she wishes.

At the hearing, the judge will first ask the plaintiff to present evidence and witnesses to support his/her case. The judge will rule on any objections. Then the defendant will have an opportunity to respond and to present witnesses. Both parties have the right to cross-examine each other or any witnesses, but the judge will determine how it is done. After hearing all the evidence and all the witnesses, the judge will make a decision on all issues.

In an abuse, sexual assault or stalking case, if the plaintiff and defendant are the parents of minor children, both the plaintiff and the defendant must have completed a child support affidavit before the hearing. At the hearing, the judge may ask both the plaintiff and the defendant for any information regarding the income of either. If a protection from abuse order is granted, the judge will also probably order child support, so long as there is not already a child support order in existence. The plaintiff's complaint may have asked for certain relief, described in section III(F). The defendant should review the plaintiff's request and this list prior to the hearing and be prepared to explain why any particular form of relief is inappropriate or suggest an arrangement that is appropriate, based on the parties' circumstances of their children, if applicable.

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