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Legal Information: Alabama

Restraining Orders

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Laws current as of September 1, 2023

Step 1: Go to court to get the petition.

Go to the courthouse where you live, where you are temporarily staying if you left your residence to get away from the abuser, where the abuser lives, or where a civil case is currently pending between you and the abuser to get your petition.1 To find the courthouse address that you need, go to our AL Courthouse Locations page. At the courthouse, tell the clerk of court that you want to file a petition for a protection from abuse order.  If you are in immediate danger, tell the clerk you also want an emergency (ex parte) order.  The clerk will give you the forms. You will also find links to forms online at our AL Download Court Forms page.

Note: Remember to bring photo ID so that you can show it to the clerk when you have to sign your petition in front of the notary. 

1 Ala. Code § 30-5-3(c)

Step 2: Fill out the necessary forms and file them with the clerk.

Read the protection from abuse petition carefully and ask the clerk questions if you don’t understand something.

On the petition, you will be the “plaintiff” and the abuser will be the “defendant.” Write about the most recent incidents of violence, using descriptive language, such as words like “slapping,” “hitting,” “grabbing,” “threatening,” “choking,” etc., that fits your situation.  Include details and dates, if possible. Be specific. You can also include some of the history of abuse and information on any previous, related court action you have taken against the abuser.

Remember to write your name and a safe mailing address and phone number. If you are staying at a shelter, give the post office box, not the street address. If the abuser does not know the locations of your residence and employment, be sure to tell the clerk you want your home, work, and other addresses to remain confidential.

If you need assistance filling out the form, you may be able to find help through one of the domestic violence organizations listed on our AL Local Programs page.

Note: Once you have completed your paperwork, return them to the clerk. Be sure to wait to sign the forms in front of the court clerk, where you will likely have to show photo ID to get the forms notarized.

Step 3: Go in front of the judge for the ex parte hearing.

The judge will read your petition and may ask you questions about why you need protection through a PFA order. Only you are present at this hearing, not the abuser.

If the judge grants you an ex parte PFA order, the court clerk should give you a copy of the order. Review the order before you leave the courthouse to make sure that the information is correct. If something is wrong or missing, ask the clerk to correct the order before you leave. Be sure to keep the order with you at all times. You may want to keep copies in your car, workplace, or daycare. The judge will also set a hearing date for your final PFA order hearing.

Step 4: Service of process

The abuser must be served with the papers that tell him/her about the hearing date, a copy of the petition that you filed, and your ex parte PFA if the judge gave you one. The clerk of court should tell you what to do to get the papers served on the abuser. There is no fee for service.1 Do not attempt to serve the papers on the abuser yourself.

You can find more information about service of process in our Preparing for Court – By Yourself section, in the question called What is service of process and how do I accomplish it?

1 Ala. Code § 30-5-5(e)


Step 5: The final PFA hearing

A judge will set a hearing date that is generally within 10 days of filing your petition.1 The abuser has the right to be present for this hearing. You must go to the hearing. If you do not go to the hearing, your ex parte PFA order will expire, and you will have to start the process over. 

If the abuser received notice of the hearing, but does not show up, the judge may issue a “default judgment” and grant you a PFA order or the judge may set a new hearing date and extend your ex parte PFA order until the date of your new hearing.2

At the hearing, you will testify in court and you can present other evidence or witnesses to prove the abuse you have experienced. The abuser will also be allowed to testify in the hearing. The judge will make a decision after hearing all of the testimony and considering all of the evidence.

It is recommended that you bring a lawyer to represent you at the hearing. For legal referrals, go to our Finding a Lawyer page. If you show up to court and you need more time to find a lawyer, or the abuser has a lawyer and you do not, you may ask the judge for a “continuance” to set a later court date so you can have time to find a lawyer for yourself. If you will be representing yourself, go to our Preparing for Court - By Yourself page for tips on how to represent yourself.

1 Ala. Code § 30-5-6(a)
2 Ala. Code § 30-5-6(c)