Drafting Your Declaration for a Domestic Violence Restraining Order

Examples and tips for drafting a domestic violence restraining order declaration.

A declaration is a sworn written statement telling your side of the story about the important issues in the case. The declaration of abuse is the most important part of your request for a domestic violence restraining order. You must be clear and detailed. At the same time, you need to stay on topic, because the judge does not have a lot of time to read the declaration.You should describe the abuse in detail:Describe all abuse, either toward you or another person you want protected. This can include:

  • Physical abuse: Hurting or trying to hurt someone.
  • Examples: "He hit me on the right side of my body, and I had several bruises on my ribcage."or "She threw a large glass aiming for my head, but I ducked and it missed me."
  • Tip: Be as specific as possible about what the abuser did, the body part targeted, and any injuries.
  • Threats of abuse: verbal or visual threats or promises to hurt or kill someone, including any statements that Respondent will hurt someone, or making the motion of hurting someone.
  • Examples: "Respondent told me, "If you ever try to leave me, I will hunt you down and kill you.'" or "Respondent raised his hand above my head as if he was going to hit me."
  • Tip: Include quotes from the abuser. Explain any physical threats, such as attempts to throw something at you, even if you were not actually harmed.
  • Sexual assault: forcing you to commit sexual acts Tip: Explain how the abuser forced you to commit sexual acts. Also state if the abuser has hurt or threatened you before when you refused to engage in a sexual act.
  • Stalking/harassment: following you, repeatedly calling, texting, emailing, messaging you.
  • Example: "Respondent texted me 20 times in one hour after I asked Respondent to stop."or "Respondent came to my house unannounced."
  • Tip: Give numbers on how many times Respondent contacted you and whether the contact was unwanted. Bring copies of the communications or call/text logs to your hearing.
  • Surveillance: If Respondent is tracking your location or reading through your messages or emails, this is a form of abuse. Example: "In September of this year, Respondent tracked my location through a GPS tracker."
  • Electronic impersonation: pretending that the person is you over the internet or electronically.
  • Example:"Last Sunday, Respondent answered text messages on my phone, pretending she was me."
  • Example: "Respondent has created fake dating profiles and other online accounts in my name."
  • Nonconsensual distribution of sexual photos
  • Example: "Respondent has posted my personal information and sexual photographs on the internet. Respondent placed advertisements online and in newspapers saying that I engaged in sexual acts."
  • Destroyed property: destroying things that belong to you or someone you want protected Example: "Respondent smashed my guitar onto the floor." "Respondent threw my dog across the room."
  • Disturbing someone's peace in any other way.

A few more tips:

  • Start with a general paragraph summarizing the overall history of abuse, how long it has lasted, and your efforts to stop it.
  • Be as specific as possible and give details about how you or others were harmed by Respondent.
  • Organize your declaration with the most recent events first, going backward in time. The last 6-12 months are the most important to the judge. (If you use HelpSelf, we will ask you questions in this order.)
  • Explain the "why now?" The just wants to know how you are in immediate Explain why the abuser's actions make you afraid of your or other protected persons' safety.
  • If the abuser uses drugs/alcohol that make the abuse or violence worse, describe that.
  • If the abuser has a criminal record, write a summary of any violence, threats of violence, illegal weapons, recklessness and vandalism, with specifics.
  • If the abuser has any guns or weapons you are worried he will use, give details.

Stay away from topics that will weaken your case. Keep your declaration focused on violence and threats of violence. Some topics that are not important are:

  • Cheating partner: Respondent's infidelity is almost never helpful to getting a restraining order. The judge wants to know why you are afraid of being harmed or harassed by Respondent. The fact that Respondent is cheating on you may be very hurtful, but it is not relevant to the restraining order. Instead, it can make you look like you are trying to get revenge by filing for a restraining order.
  • Wasting money: It may be very frustrating that the abuser is wasting money, or does not give you enough money for your or your children's daily expenses. However, it is not relevant to the restraining order unless he is using abuse, force, threats or intimidation to get money from you or to prevent you from accessing money.
  • Custody and visitation: You may be asking for custody and visitation arrangements for your children, and you will need to provide basic information on this. But don't spend most of your time on custody issues. Your declaration should stay focused on Respondent's unsafe behavior. For example, describe Respondent's unsafe behavior with the children and what you are afraid might happen to you or your children.
  • Irresponsible partner: Like with custody/visitation, you may want to include a sentence about Respondent's irresponsibility and why he should not have custody of the children. However, the main issue for your restraining order will be threats, abuse, and violence, so stay focused on these issues and do not confuse the judge with irrelevant statements about Respondent's irresponsibility. Do not place too much emphasis on Respondent's failure to keep appointments, pick up the kids from school, etc.

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