How to File an Relief From Abuse (RFA) Order in Vermont

In Vermont, a Relief From Abuse Order, or “RFA,” is an order from the court which is used to stop violent, harassing and threatening behavior. First, determine if an RFA is right for you. If it is, follow our tips for filing a Relief from Abuse.

Do you Qualify for an RFA?

scales of justice
scales of justice

Any family or household member may seek relief from abuse by another family or household member on behalf of himself or herself or his or her children by filing a complaint with the court in the Vermont county that the abuse occurred. 15 V.S.A. § 1103(a)

Who qualifies for an RFA? 

  • Are you a “family” or “household member”?
    • A family member
    • A current or former sexual parter
    • Someone you date or used to date
    • Someone who lives with you or used to live with you
  • Have you suffered “abuse” from this family or household member?
    • Attempting to cause or causing physical harm
    • Placing another in fear of imminent serious physical harm
    • Abuse to children, as defined in the statutes (33 V.S.A. § 4912)
    • Stalking, as defined in the statute (2 V.S.A. § 5131)
    • Sexual assualt, as defined in the statute (12 V.S.A. § 5131)
  • AND, Is there a danger of further abuse if an RFA is not issued? 

If you answered yes to each of these questions, you likely qualify for an RFA and should contact Burke Law to speak with an attorney who can assist you in filing for an RFA with the court in the county where the abuse occurred.

I Qualify for an RFA - Now What?

black gavil
black gavil

1. Filing for an RFA - Paperwork!

The person who is requesting an RFA is known as the plaintiff. The person against whom the order is issued is known as the defendant. 

If you qualify, below are the 5 Steps for filing for an RFA:

  1. Fill out a Complaint for Relief from Abuse 
  2. Fill out an Affidavit in Support of the Complaint.
  3. Fill out a confidential notification, which the court will use to contact you
  4. Fill out an RFA service information, which the police will use to locate and identify the Defendant in order to serve him/her with the RFA.
  5. File all 4 of these documents with the family division of the superior court (family court) in the Vermont county where the abuse occurred. You can find a court near you here.

While the process of filing for and obtaining an RFA can be done without representation, you may want to get a lawyer to represent you in the process. Call or email Burke Law to assist you with this process!

2. Temporary RFA

Once you have filed the request for an RFA paperwork, a judge will review your complaint and affidavit. The judge will then decide whether to:

  1. Dismiss the petition OR
    1. If the Judge dismisses the petition, that means that the judge does not believe that the facts alleged in the petition meet the criteria for a Relief From Abuse order. 
  2. Issue a “temporary order.”
    1. A “temporary order” is an order put in place temporarily with conditions on the defendant until a hearing can take place. After a hearing occurs, the judge decides whether or not to issue a final order. The hearing will take place within 14 days of filing your complaint.

3. The Hearing

If the judge grants you a temporary RFA, you will be given a court date for a hearing on your petition. The hearing will be in front of a judge who will decide whether or not to grant you a final RFA.

At the hearing, you will have the chance to testify in court and present evidence and witnesses to prove the abuse and harassment that occured. The Defendant, if present, will also be permitted to present evidence and testify at the hearing. 

When deciding whether to grant your RFA request, a judge must find that the Defendant has abused you and/or your children AND either:

  • There is a danger of further abuse; OR
  • The Defendant is currently incarcerated and has been convicted of one of the following:
    • Murder
    • Attempted murder
    • Kidnapping
    • Domestic assault
    • Aggravated domestic assault
    • Sexual assault
    • Aggravated sexual assault
    • Stalking
    • Aggravated stalking
    • Lewd or lascivious conduct with a child
    • Use of a child in a sexual performance, or consenting to a sexual performance

15 V.S.A. § 1103(c)(1)(B)

You can represent yourself at these hearings. If you choose to do so, you will want to watch this video that helps you understand your Relief from Abuse Hearing

However, you may want to get an attorney to represent you at this hearing, especially if you think the Defendant will have one. Call or email Burke Law to speak with an attorney further about this process and your rights.

What Relief Can I Get?

Burke Law team consulting with one another in their office
Burke Law team consulting with one another in their office

Depending on your situation and what you request, a judge could issue an RFA that orders the Defendant for a fixed period of time, to:

  • Not contact you in person,in writing, by phone, online or through a third person
  • Not abuse or harass you
  • Stay away from you, your children, pets home and workplace
  • Leave your home
  • Temporarily give you custody of your children
  • Temporarily order parent-child contact
  • Temporarily give you possession of your pets
  • Temporarily pay you for living expenses or child support for a fixed period of time not to exceed 3 months 
  • Return and personal possession or documentation in his or her possession, and 
  • Turn over their firearms

15 V.S.A. § 1103(c)(2)(A-H)

Contact us today if you have any questions or want to discuss your options.

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