Going to Court

If you are going to court for a final protective order, your abuser may also be coming to court. Here are some ideas on keeping safe in court.

Getting to court:

  • Plan on getting to court an hour or more before your hearing. That way, you may get to court before your abuser does. This can make it safer for you to get into the building.
  • Try to get a domestic violence worker to go with you. It can really help with safety. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-SAFE) to find help near you.
  • Bring a friend or family member with you.
  • See if your police department or sheriff’s department will take you to the courthouse. Ask them to meet you away from the courthouse. Ask the officer to walk you inside. Have the officer wait with you until the bailiff or courthouse security is around.
  • Have a friend drive you. It’s best to get someone whose car your abuser doesn’t know. Ask your friend to drop you off at the courthouse entrance, instead of having you walk in from the parking lot.
  • If you have to drive yourself, try to keep your abuser from recognizing your car. If you can, borrow or rent a car that your abuser doesn’t know. If you drive your own car, cover it with a sheet once you’ve parked.

Once you’re inside the courthouse:

  • Travel in a group with the people who came with you. Pick a person who will only pay attention to the surroundings and safety considerations.
  • Find someone who knows the court well – like the domestic violence worker or someone who works at the court. Ask them about safe places you can hide inside the court. Some safe places to hide might be witness rooms or where courthouse security is. Ask them where all the exits are, in case you have to leave in a hurry. Besides the main exit, there may be exits through the courtrooms, side exits, or exits through the judges’ chambers (their offices).
  • Let the bailiff or courthouse security know if your abuser sits next to you or tries to harass you. Ask the bailiff to keep your abuser away from you.

Leaving the courthouse:

  • At the end of your hearing, ask the judge to “detain” your abuser – to hold him until you can leave.
  • If the judge doesn’t detain your abuser, think about letting your abuser leave first. Then wait a long time before leaving.
  • Have a police officer or sheriff walk out with you.
  • Have a friend pick you up at the exit.