Procedures Applicable to a Plaintiff in a Protection Case - How to file the Complaint and Related Forms

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E. How To File the Complaint and Related Forms. There are two ways you can get and complete the Complaint which starts a protection action. The first is to go to the clerk's office in the District Court, and ask the clerk for either a Protection from Abuse Complaint or a Protection from Harassment Complaint. The clerk will provide the plaintiff with the appropriate complaint form, which the plaintiff may complete at the courthouse, the local Domestic Violence project, or anywhere else. The clerk is available to answer questions regarding the form. However, the clerk is not permitted to give legal advice.

The second way is to access court forms through the internet. If you have a computer and internet connection, set your web browser to either of the following websites:

If you do not have a computer, go to a local library or other site with a public access computer and ask the librarian to help you get to the above web pages. The computer will ask you a series of questions, and will then generate a completed complaint and other necessary forms which you can then print, sign (in front of a notary public or court clerk) and file with your local court.

The plaintiff must also complete a Service Information Sheet that provides information about the defendant that can be used to serve the defendant with any pleadings and orders. The plaintiff should return the Service Information Sheet together with the complaint to the clerk.

In the event the complaint is based on abuse, sexual assault or stalking, the plaintiff has minor children, the defendant is the parent of any of plaintiff's minor children, and no child support order already exists, the plaintiff must also complete a Child Support Affidavit before the final hearing.

Make arrangements for service in accordance with section III(H) below, "Service of the Complaint and Related Forms." In both abuse, sexual assault, and stalking cases, and harassment cases, a party's address and other identifying information can be kept confidential if the party fills out an affidavit for confidential address and phone number stating under oath that disclosure of the information would jeopardize the health, safety or liberty of the party or a child. In that case, the clerk's office will maintain the confidentiality of the contact information and will use it only to contact the party. The court can order the information disclosed only after a hearing, and only if the court decides that disclosure is in the interest of justice.

In any protection case, confidential or not, the plaintiff must inform the clerk's office of any change of address subsequent to the filing of the complaint.

TIPS FOR FILLING OUT THE COMPLAINT:

Fill out the complaint form completely. Be as specific as possible in describing the abuse, sexual assault, stalking or harassment. If the complaint is based on abuse, sexual assault or stalking, do not rely on conclusions such as, "The defendant abused me," or "The defendant threatened stalked me." Instead, include specific allegations such as: "On June 20, my ex-husband John Doe slapped me on the face. He then kicked me on the legs causing bruises. The next day he told me he would kill my son if I didn't obey him." If the complaint is based on or includes allegations of abuse to, or sexual assault or stalking of a child, the complaint should include the child's name and state that the complaint is brought, in whole or in part, on behalf of the child.

If the complaint is based on harassment, do not rely on conclusions such as: "The defendant harassed me." Instead, include specific allegations such as: "My boyfriend's new girlfriend Mary Doe has called me 40 times in the last few weeks." If the complaint is based on or includes allegations of harassment of a child, the complaint should include the child's name and state that the complaint is brought, in whole or in part, on behalf of that child.

If you need immediate protection and cannot wait for a hearing to have a protection order, you should also request a Temporary Protection Order. More information on Temporary Orders is available in Section G below.

If no immediate protection order is necessary, sign the complaint in the presence of the clerk, a notary, or an attorney, and request the clerk to file the complaint. The clerk will complete a Summons and set a date for final hearing when the court's schedule permits. Final hearing in an abuse case must be held within 21 days of when the complaint was filed.

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