Know the Laws: Illinois
UPDATED October 23, 2012
An order of protection is a civil order that provides protection from someone who is harming you.
This section defines domestic violence for the purposes of getting an order of protection. Domestic violence means:1) Physical abuse - the law defines this as:
a) sexual abuse;2) Harassment - unnecessary conduct which causes you emotional distress. The law assumes the following to be harassment:
b) physical force, confinement or restraint;
c) purposeful, repeated and unnecessary sleep deprivation; or
d) behavior which creates an immediate risk of physical harm.*
a) creating a disturbance at your work or school;3) Intimidation of a dependent (someone can be "dependent" on the abuser because of age, health or disability) - this is defined as when the abuser makes you participate in or witness physical force, physical confinement, or restraint against any person (regardless of whether that person is a family or household member).*2
b) repeatedly telephoning your work or school;
c) repeatedly following you in a public place or places;
d) repeatedly keeping you under surveillance by staying outside of your home, school, work, vehicle or another place you are in OR by peering through your windows;
e) threatening physical force, confinement or restraint on one or more occasions; or
f) improperly hiding your child from you or repeatedly threatening to do so, repeatedly threatening to improperly remove your child from your physical care or from the state, or making a single one of these threats following an actual or attempted improper removal or hiding of your child; (Note: There is an exception for someone who is accused of doing this if s/he was fleeing an incident or pattern of domestic violence).*1
There are three types of orders. Emergency and interim orders of protection provide temporary, short-term protection. A plenary order offers longer-term protection.
Emergency orders. An emergency order can be obtained based solely on your testimony to a judge. The judge can grant this order ex parte (without prior notice to the abuser and without him/her being in court) if the harm you are trying to prevent would be likely to happen if s/he is notified that you applied for the order.* In order to get the abuser removed from your shared home, the judge must believe that the immediate danger of further abuse outweighs the hardship to the abuser of being suddenly removed from his/her`home.*1 You may also be able to get possession of personal property in an emergency order if the judge believes that the abuser would likely get rid of the property if s/he knew you were asking the judge for it or if you have an immediate and pressing need for possession of that property. *2
You can file for an emergency order even on holidays and weekends or when the court is closed at night. You can file a petition for a 21-day emergency order before any available circuit judge or associate judge.*3 The emergency order will last until you can have a full hearing for a plenary order, usually within 14-21 days.*4
Interim orders. You do not need to have a full court hearing to be granted an interim order. However, the abuser (or possibly his/her lawyer) must have made an initial appearance before the court or the abuser must have been notified of the date of your court hearing before you can be given an interim order.*5 Interim orders are often used to protect you inbetween the time when your emergency order expires and your full court hearing for a plenary order takes place. An interim order lasts for up to 30 days.*6
Plenary orders. A plenary order of protection can be issued only after a court hearing in which you and the abuser both have a chance to present evidence. A plenary order may last up to two years,*7 and there is no limit on the number of times an order of protection can be renewed.*8 See How do I change or extend my order of protection? for more information on renewing an order. You may want to have a lawyer represent you in the hearing, especially if you believe the abuser will have a lawyer. Go to our IL Finding a Lawyer page for legal referrals.
* 750 ILCS 60/217(a)(3)(i)
*1 750 ILCS 60/217(a)(3)(ii)
*2 750 ILCS 60/217(a)(3)(iii)
*3 750 ILCS 60/217(c)(1)
*4 750 ILCS 60/220(a)(1)
*5 750 ILCS 60/218(a)(3)
*6 750 ILCS 60/220(a)(2)
*7 750 ILCS 60/220(b)
*8 750 ILCS 60/220(e)
Most likely, yes. The law allows domestic abuse advocates to help victims of abuse while they prepare their petitions. Also, you can have an advocate sit next to you at the table in the courtroom and confer (talk) with you during the hearing, unless the judge says otherwise.*
* 750 ILCS 60/205(b)
A petition for an order of protection may be filed in any county where you live, where the abuser lives, where the abuse occurred or where you are temporarily located if you left your home to avoid further abuse and could not obtain safe temporary housing in the county where your home is located. However, if you are asking for the abuser to be removed from the home (known as “exclusive possession”) as part of your order of protection, you can ONLY file in the county where the home is located* unless you meet one of the following exceptions (and then you can file in the county or judicial circuit where the residence is located or in a neighboring county or judicial circuit):
In an emergency order, the judge can order the abuser to:
Possibly, yes. If the judge believes that you are in immediate danger of further abuse by the abuser* and this immediate danger outweighs the hardship to him/her of being removed from the home, the judge may give you exclusive possession of home, which means the abuser will be prohibited from entering or staying in the home. The judge can order this even if the abuser owns or leases the home as long as you have a “right to live in the home,” which means that one of the following is true:
If you and the abuser both have a right to live in the home, the judge will balance the hardship to the abuser (and any minor child or dependent adult in the abuser’s care) that would come from him/her being excluded against the hardship that would be caused to you (and any minor child or dependent adult in your care) if the abuser were not excluded. The judge will consider whether allowing the abuser to remain in the home may result in:
If the judge believes that the abuser will take/destroy your personal property if s/he were given prior notice of your petition for the order of protection, the judge can give you possession of personal property that you own alone or that you and the abuser own jointly. This does not affect the title (ownership) of the property, however.*
To get possession of shared property that you co-own with the abuser, the judge must believe that:
An interim order can include all of the protections that you can get in a plenary (final) order of protection except it cannot include an order for counseling, legal custody, support payments, or reimbursing you for costs/damages unless the abuser has filed a general appearance in court or s/he has been personally served.* For more information, see How can a plenary order of protection help me?
Note: If the abuser appears in court (files a general appearance), s/he will have the right to testify during this hearing.**
* 750 ILCS 60/218(a)
** 750 ILCS 60/218(b)
A plenary order of protection can order the abuser to:
Yes. Visitation can be denied if the judge believes that the respondent has done or is likely to do any of the following:
Yes, but there are many factors the judge must consider first. When you and the abuser attend the same public, private, or non-public elementary, middle, or high school, the judge has to consider:
You can file an order of protection against a family or household member who has committed acts of domestic violence against you or your minor child. Also, the following other people may apply: any high-risk adult with disabilities who is abused, neglected, or exploited by a family or household member; any minor child or dependent adult in the care of such person; and any person living or employed at a private home or public shelter which houses an abused family or household member may also be eligible to apply for an order of protection.*You can file for an order of protection for yourself and/or your minor child(ren). A minor may also be able to file on his/her own. See Can a minor file for an order of protection? for more information.
A family or household member includes a:
Yes. In IL, a person is eligible to file for an order of protection against a family or household member, which includes a current or former dating partner or someone you lived with or currently live with.*
There may also be other legal options for you as well. To find help in your state, please click on the IL Where to Find Help tab at the top of this page.
* 750 ILCS 60/103(6)
Illinois law states that a person will not be denied an order of protection simply because s/he is a minor filing for an order without an adult.* Sometimes a minor is able to get an order of protection without an adult. However, it may be more difficult to do so when the minor is filing against a parent or legal guardian. For instance, in Cook County, there is a court rule that states minors must have a parent or guardian filing on their behalf.**
* 750 ILCS 60/214(a)
** Circuit Court of Cook County website
There are no fees for filing for an order of protection or for having the papers served on the abuser by the sheriff. Also, the court clerk cannot charge a fee for filing, amending (changing), vacating (dismissing), certifying, or photocopying petitions or order of protection.*
You do not need a lawyer to file for an order of protection. However, you may wish to have a lawyer, especially if the abuser has a lawyer. If you can, contact a lawyer to make sure that your legal rights are protected. If you cannot afford a lawyer but want one to help you with your case, you can find information for low-cost legal assistance on the IL Finding a Lawyer page.
Domestic violence organizations in your area may also be able to help you through the legal process, or may be able to give you a lawyer referral.
* 750 ILCS 60/202(b)
Go to the circuit court where you live, where the abuser lives, or where the abuse occurred.* You can find a court near you by going to our IL Courthouse Locations page. Note: If you are requesting exclusive possession of the home you share, you would generally go to the court in the county where that home is located but there are exceptions that may allow you to file in a neighboring county.** Go to In which county can I file for an order of protection? for more information.
When in court, find the circuit court clerk and request a petition for an emergency order of protection. The clerk will give you the forms, and may recommend that you work with a domestic violence legal advocate.
You may also be able to find the forms you need online through our IL Download Court Forms page.
Note: It may also be useful to bring identifying information about the abuser such as a photo (which may be used in serving the order to respondent); addresses of the abuser's residence and employment; a description and plate number of the abuser's car; and information about his/her gun ownership.
* 750 ICLS 60/209(a)
** 750 ICLS 60/209(a)(2); 750 ICLS 60/214(b)(2)
Carefully fill out the petition. On the petition, you will be the petitioner and the abuser will be the respondent. Write about the most recent incident of violence, using descriptive language (words like "slapping," "hitting," "grabbing," "choking," "threatening," etc.) that fit your situation. Include details and dates, if possible. Be specific.
When giving your address, you can ask that your address be kept confidential. You may also ask that the school(s) you or your children attend also be kept confidential if that would put you or your children in danger. If you are staying at a shelter, give their post office box (P.O. box), not a street address.
If you need assistance filling out the forms, you may be able to ask questions to the clerk. Some courts may have an advocate that can assist you.* A domestic violence organization may also be able to provide you with help filling out the forms. See the IL State and Local Programs page for the location of an organization near you.
* 750 ILCS 60/205
After you finish filling out your petition, bring it to the court clerk – you may have to sign the petition in front of the clerk to get it notarized. The clerk will forward it to a judge. The judge may wish to ask you questions as s/he reviews your petition. The judge will decide whether or not to issue the emergency order, and will set a date for a full court hearing for the plenary order. You will be given papers that state the time and date of your hearing for a plenary order.
The abuser must be served with a notice of the hearing date and with any emergency or interim orders that a judge has granted you before s/he may be charged with violating the order. Only official process servers, such as the police and other law enforcement personnel may serve the abuser.* There is no charge to have the authorities serve the abuser. The abuser may only be arrested for violating the order after s/he has been given notice that the order exists and is in effect.**
You can ask the court clerk or a domestic violence organization for more information about serving the abuser. Do not try and serve the abuser with the papers yourself.
* 750 ILCS 60/202(b)
** 720 ILCS 5/12-3.4(2)
You must go to the hearing if you want to keep your order of protection. If you do not go to the hearing, your emergency or interim order will be canceled, and you will have to start the process over. If you do not show up at the hearing, it may be harder for you to be granted an order in the future.
If the abuser does not show up for the hearing, the judge may still grant you a plenary order or the judge may order a new hearing date.*
See the Preparing Your Case section under the Preparing for Court tab at the top of this page for ways you can show the judge that you were abused.
* 750 ILCS 60/210(f)
These are some things you may want to consider after you have been granted an order of protection. Depending on what you think is safest in your situation, you may do any or all of the following:
If you are not granted an order of protection, there are still some things you can do to try to stay safe. It might be a good idea to contact one of the domestic violence resource centers in your area to get help, support, and advice on how to stay safe. They can help you come up with a safety plan and help connect you with the resources you need. You will find a list of resources on our IL State and Local Programs page. You will also find information on safety planning on our Staying Safe page.
You may also be able to reapply for an order of protection if a new incident of domestic violence occurs after you are denied the order.
If you believe the judge made an error of law, you can talk to someone at a domestic violence organization or a lawyer about the possibility of an appeal. Generally, appeals can be complicated and you will most likely need the help of a lawyer. Go to our Filing Appeals page for general information on appeals.
You can call the police or sheriff, even if you think it is a minor violation. The Illinois Domestic Violence Act requires that police take all reasonable steps to prevent further abuse to you, including possibly arresting the abuser.* The police need not witness the actual abuse, as long as there is “probable cause” (good reason) to believe that a crime happened.** It is a good idea to write down the name of the responding officer(s) and their badge numbers in case you want to follow up on your case. Make sure a police report is filled out, even if no arrest is made.
When the police arrive, show them a copy of the order of protection. If you don't have a copy, they can verify its existence by telephone or radio with local law enforcement. Once they verify the order and that it has been served, they may arrest the abuser.*** If the order has not been served, they may serve the abuser, if the abuser is present.
If the police do not arrest the abuser or file a criminal complaint, you may still have the right to file for civil contempt for a violation of the order. It can be a crime and contempt of court if the abuser knowingly violates the order in any way. If the abuser is a minor, the court may hold the parents, guardian, or legal custodian of the minor in civil or criminal contempt for the violation if they directed, encouraged, or assisted the minor in violating the order.**** A judge can punish someone for being in contempt of court. To file for civil contempt, go to the clerk's office in the courthouse where the order was originally filed, and ask for the necessary forms.
* 750 ILCS 60/304(a)(1)
** 750 ILCS 60/301(a)
*** 750 ILCS 60/301(b)
**** 750 ILCS 60/223(b-2)
Changing your order
To try to change (modify) your order, you will have to go back to the court where the order was issued and file a petition to modify the order with the clerk of court.
You can file to modify an emergency, interim, or plenary order of protection. If the respondent has abused you since the hearing for your order, you can add or change one or more of the terms (protections) in the order.* However, even without further abuse, you can file to modify the order to add protections in certain circumstances.** Note: To read about under what circumstances an order can be modified without further abuse, go to our IL Statutes page and read subsection(b) of section 60/224.
Either you or the respondent can also file to modify custody, visitation, and/or support payments that were included in the order of protection.***
Extending your order
Any emergency, interim or plenary order may be extended one or more times, as necessary.**** If you want to extend your order of protection, you must apply for an extension (a motion to modify the order) before your original order expires. In your motion/affidavit, you would state the reason for the requested extension and you will verify that there has been no material (important) change in relevant circumstances since the order was issued. If the abuser does not contest (fight) your motion for an extension and you are not asking to change the order, the order can be extended based on your motion.****
* 750 ILCS 60/224(a)(1)
** 750 ILCS 60/224(a)(2)
*** 750 ILCS 60/224(b)
**** 750 ILCS 60/220(e)
Your order is good throughout IL and the United States. If you do move within the state, it might be a good idea to call the clerk to change your address but be sure to tell the clerk that you need it to be kept confidential if the abuser does not know where you are living.
Additionally, the federal law provides what is called "full faith and credit," which means that once you have a criminal or civil protection order, it follows you wherever you go, including U.S. Territories and tribal lands.* Different states have different rules for enforcing out-of-state protection orders. You can find out about your state’s policies by contacting a domestic violence program, the clerk of courts, or the prosecutor in your area.
If you are moving to a new state, you may want to contact a lawyer in that new state who can give you information about how that state treats out-of state orders. For information on lawyers in the area, please see our Finding a Lawyer page and select the new state to which you will be moving. You may also want to call the National Center on Protection Orders and Full Faith and Credit (1-800-903-0111 x 2) for information on enforcing your order out of state.
Note: For information on enforcing a military protective order (MPO) off the military installation, or enforcing a civil protection order (CPO) on a military installation, please see our Military Protective Orders page.
* U.S.C.A. Const. Art. IV § 1