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

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J. The Final Hearing. The plaintiff must attend the final hearing. All final protection hearings are public. The plaintiff is responsible to remember the court date set for the final hearing. Even if the defendant is not yet served, if the plaintiff does not appear on the hearing date, the case is likely to be dismissed. In a genuine emergency, the plaintiff should inform the court as soon as possible and may ask for a continuance (postponement). The judge will decide whether to continue the 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. The plaintiff may bring a friend or an advocate from the local Domestic Violence project to the hearing. The defendant has a right to be at the hearing and must have notice of the date and time of the hearing.

The defendant has a right to have a lawyer, and may testify and bring witnesses to testify in his/her behalf. If the defendant does not appear, the judge may grant an order without a hearing.

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.

At the final hearing, the plaintiff should be prepared to justify any relief he/she may have requested in the protection complaint. If the plaintiff is seeking money damages or restitution from the defendant, the plaintiff should be prepared to state exactly the kind and amount of damage caused by the defendant. If plaintiff is requesting that the defendant pay money for the plaintiff's support, plaintiff must be prepared to give the judge specific information about his/her income and expenses.

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