What to Expect at the Initial Hearing on a Petition for Order for Protection
You (Petitioner) filed a Petition for Order for Protection in Minnesota against the person alleged to have abused you (Respondent), and the Court issued an Emergency Ex Parte Order for Protection (“Ex Parte OFP”). In the Ex Parte OFP, the Court scheduled a hearing.
Wait! What? You thought the Ex Parte OFP was granted, why is there a hearing?
There are a number of reasons why the Court scheduled hearing, but the most typical reason is if the OFP restricts the Respondent’s access to minor children of the parties. By virtue of the OFP the Respondent cannot have contact with the Petitioner and if they have minor children there are logistics to parenting time that may result in contact between Petitioner and Respondent.
So, what happens at the hearing?
The hearing is deemed an “initial” hearing and some Courts refer to it as an “admit/deny” hearing. And, these hearings typically occur via zoom.
The purpose of the hearing is to provide Respondent with the following options:
- The Respondent can admit to the allegations of domestic abuse and agree to the entry of the OFP;
- The Respondent can deny the allegations of domestic abuse, but agree to the entry of the OFP without a finding of domestic abuse; or
- The Respondent can deny the allegations of domestic abuse, and demand an evidentiary hearing.
In my experience, a Respondent has never admitted to the allegations of domestic abuse; a Respondent has often agreed to the entry of the OFP without findings; and some cases are scheduled for an evidentiary hearing based on the denial and demand of the Respondent.
If the matter is scheduled for an evidentiary hearing, the Ex Parte OFP will be extended until the date of the evidentiary hearing.
Other things that might happen at an initial hearing include:
- The issuance of a permanent OFP, if the Respondent has been served, but does not appear for the hearing.
- If the Respondent was not served with the Ex Parte OFP and therefore did not receive notice of the hearing, the initial hearing may be continued. The Respondent must be personally served, which typically happens via a law enforcement official.
- If the Respondent was not served with the Ex Parte OFP because they evaded service, the Court may issue an Order for Service by Alternative Means, in which case the initial hearing will be continued.
- The dismissal of the Ex Parte OFP, if the Petitioner does not appear for the hearing.
- Temporary agreements regarding minor children and parenting time with the Respondent, and support or other financial issues.
- I have also had a client (Petitioner) served with divorce papers at the initial hearing (on one occasion by the attorney for the Respondent, which is not proper service).
If the Petitioner is represented by an attorney, the attorney will speak on their behalf. It is very rare for the initial hearing to turn into an evidentiary hearing.
Based on my experience, it is a best practice to prepare the Petitioner for all scenarios that may happen at the initial hearing. Leaving an abusive relationship, and filing for an OFP, increase the fear of the unknown. Preparing the Petitioner for all scenarios that may happen at the initial hearing may not quell the entirety of fear of the unknown, but at the very least they will be better equipped to be present at the initial hearing.