Family Offense Petitions: How to Request Relief in Family Court

January 26, 2021

By Jill K. Sanders, Esq.

Not every Order of Protection is issued by a criminal court. Indeed, many are issued in family and matrimonial proceedings. Accordingly, people choose to use the Family Court to address certain legal issues. Specifically, a family offense petition can be filed in Family Court when a family member or intimate partner committed certain acts or crimes.

Since filing a family offense petition and going to court can be a complicated legal undertaking, you should contact a lawyer or a domestic violence advocate to assist you in the process. Contact the attorneys at Pappalardo & Pappalardo, LLP today, and we can assist you in any family court proceeding.


What is a Family Offense?

For filing a family offense petition, “family members” are defined as people related by blood or marriage, people who were formerly married, people who have a child together, and people who are or have been in an intimate relationship.

The types of acts or offenses which can be addressed in Family Court include:

  • Disorderly conduct
  • Unlawful dissemination or publication of an intimate image
  • Harassment and aggravated harassment
  • Sexual misconduct, forcible touching, and sexual abuse
  • Menacing
  • Reckless endangerment
  • Strangulation and criminal obstruction of breathing or blood circulation
  • Assault or attempted assault
  • Stalking
  • Criminal mischief
  • Identity theft
  • Grand larceny
  • Coercion


What Should the Family Offense Petition Include?

Identify the parties. The person filing the petition is the Petitioner, and the petition is filed against the Respondent.

Contact information. You will need to list your address and the Respondent’s address. There are also some cases where you can keep your address confidential if you are afraid for your safety.

Description of relationship. The Family Court will need to know how you and the Respondent are related.

Acts or crimes. The petition will have to include a list of the family offenses the Respondent committed.

Facts. You will have to give a description of what happened. This should detail the family offenses committed by the Respondent.

Relief requested. Tell the Family Court what you would like the Judge to do. The Judge can order the Respondent to do various things. This includes staying away from you and/or your children, having no contact with you, moving out, and other types of relief.


What Happens in Court During Family Offense Proceedings?

After filing the family offense petition, you will see the Judge. However, the Respondent won’t be there. At this initial proceeding, the Judge will review the petition and decide whether to issue a Temporary Order of Protection. Then, you will get a date to return to Court.

After this, the Temporary Order of Protection, summons, and family offense petition must then be served on the Respondent. This can be done by a process server, police officer, or a friend. Thereafter, you must file proof of service with the Family Court.

On the next court date, both you and the Respondent should be there. If you don’t go to Court, the case will be dismissed and the Temporary Order of Protection vacated. You can also choose to withdraw the petition at any time. If the Respondent doesn’t go to Court, the Judge can hear the case and issue a Final Order of Protection.

If he/she appears at Court, the Respondent could agree to a Final Order of Protection or negotiate to modify the terms of what is being requested. The Respondent can also request a trial on the allegations set forth in your family offense petition. If there is a request for trial, the case will be adjourned for a trial date. A Temporary Order of Protection will be issued that will be in effect in the interim.