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Basic Information About Contested Hearings

A contested hearing is a court date where both sides of a restraining order case talk to the judge. A contested hearing may happen at a courthouse or remote (by phone or video).  Both sides get to present evidence and make arguments to a judge at a contested hearing. 

Keep reading for more information about contested hearings. 

At a contested hearing, both the Petitioner and Respondent get to explain their side of the story to a judge. They can show evidence and have witnesses testify. At the end of the hearing, a judge will decide whether the Petitioner can keep their restraining order. A judge can also make changes to a restraining order at that time.  

Most contested hearings last anywhere from 30 minutes to a few hours. The length of the hearing depends on how much evidence both sides have.  

A restraining order is serious. It creates a lot of rules for the Respondent to follow. A contested hearing is an opportunity for both sides to explain to a judge whether a restraining order is necessary.    

It depends.   

In some cases, the court will automatically schedule a contested hearing. If the court does this, you must go to the hearing. 

If the court doesn't set a hearing automatically, there will only be a contested hearing if the Respondent asks for one. The Respondent must ask for one within 30 days of getting served.

  • Respondents: If you want to change the order or disagree with the order, you should go to the contested hearing. If you miss the hearing, the Petitioner will automatically get to keep their restraining order.   
  • Petitioners: You will lose your restraining order if you don’t show up to the contested hearing.  

If you need to reschedule a hearing or accidentally miss your hearing, call your local circuit court immediately. Sometimes court staff will let you reschedule.   

The court will notify you by mail, email, or phone. If you have any questions about the hearing date, call the court immediately. 

If you are a Petitioner and you are not sure if the Respondent requested a hearing, you can also call the court and they can tell you. 

Courts must schedule contested hearings very quickly. The court may schedule the hearing within a few days or a few weeks after the Respondent requests a hearing. 

Most people involved in restraining order cases do not have lawyers. But it can be useful to have a lawyer to help you prepare and/or go to court with you.  

You can visit the Referral Database to find legal help in your area.

In some situations, a judge can require you to pay the other person’s attorney fees (if they hired an attorney). A judge will usually only make you pay attorney fees if they think you acted badly during the case. You don’t have to pay the other side’s attorney fees just because you lose. 

If a judge says you must pay the other person’s attorney fees, you’ll get more paperwork about this from the other person’s attorney. You should act quickly if you want to disagree with paying attorney fees or the amount of attorney fees. Read the paperwork carefully so you understand your rights.  

In some situations, you can also ask the court to order the other person to pay your attorney fees. You must ask the judge for this in writing before the contested hearing.  

  • If you're the Petitioner: You can ask the Respondent to pay for your attorney fees on your application for a restraining order (Petition).  
  • If you’re the Respondent: You can ask the Petitioner to pay for your attorney fees on your "Request for Hearing" form.  

Go here for information on how to prepare for your hearing. 

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