ROADMAP: Getting a Relief from Abuse (RFA) Order in Vermont

After the Hearing

At the end of the hearing, if the judge agrees with you, they will give you a Relief from Abuse order. The court will also hand the defendant a copy.

Note that the order does not go into effect until the defendant has a copy. If the defendant is at the hearing, the order goes into effect right away. If the defendant does not show up for the hearing, the court will ask the police to serve them. The order will not go into effect until the order is served. If a temporary order was issued, that order will remain in effect until the defendant is served with the final order.

Safety Note

Do you think the defendant might try to hurt you before they are served with the order? Talk to your local domestic violence agency about a safety plan.

The RFA order lasts for a fixed amount of time. During that time, if the defendant violates the order, contact local police. Violating the order is a separate criminal charge against the defendant.

While the order is in effect, it is good anywhere in the United States. It is good even if you and/or the defendant leave Vermont. Keep a copy with you so that you can prove you have a Relief from Abuse order against the defendant. Consider giving copies to others such as your workplace, children’s school or childcare providers.

In most cases, the defendant cannot legally own or purchase firearms (guns) after the court gives you a final Relief from Abuse Order. Do you have questions or concerns about the defendant’s firearms? Contact an advocate or contact us at Legal Services Vermont and Vermont Legal Aid.

Do you need to extend your order?

Deadline

Are you still in danger? Is your RFA order about to expire? Use the Motion to Extend or Modify form to ask for the order to be extended. Do this before your current order expires. The court may need to have another hearing.

The Relief from Abuse order is about the physical safety of you and/or your children. Decisions about things like housing, child support and custody in the Relief from Abuse order are temporary. To get final decisions about these issues, you may need to start a separate court case. For example, married people who have property and/or children together would need a divorce. An unmarried couple might need a parentage case about their children or a partition case about shared property.

Do you need to change your order?

Life can change. After you get your RFA order, maybe you realize you still need to talk to the defendant about bills, your housing, or your children. It is important to know:

  • As the plaintiff, you can’t get in trouble for contacting the defendant.
  • You can modify the order when circumstances change. For example, you can ask the court to let the defendant contact you about certain things, but not abuse or harass you. You do not have to give up your RFA order just because you need to talk to the defendant about something.
  • You can also modify the order if the defendant does something new that makes you afraid or unsafe.
  • Use this Motion to Modify form and get it to your local family court.
  • Contact us at Legal Services Vermont with questions about modifying your final RFA order.

Have a question?

If you have questions, contact us at Legal Services Vermont and Vermont Legal Aid to ask for help.

Updated: Aug 24, 2021