In popular culture—- okay, in Law & Order—-domestic violence cases tend to follow a familiar script: Man threatens woman and possibly children. Woman fights back in court.

In Erik P. Christian‘s courtroom today, the boilerplate plot is reversed for two men. Reginald and Brian both want to make sure that their ex-girlfriends stay 100 feet away from them at all times. The women, however, are no-shows for the courtroom drama. That’s another thing they don’t tell you on Law & Order: The hardest battle is getting the defendant to show up.

Reginald filed a civil protection order against the mother of his child after she tried to interfere with his new relationship, he says. “Two weeks ago, she showed up at my work, showed up with some girls and tried to attack my girlfriend,” Reginald tells the court. Today, however, Reginald’s perennial harasser is conspicuously absent from his life. The court informs Reginald that Prince George’s County police failed to locate her to serve the court papers. Reginald will have to come back in two weeks. If he wants to force her to stay away from him, he’ll have to find her first.

Brian, too, wants the mother of his child to stay away from him. He filed a protection order against her on July 14, and was hoping to secure his year-long protection in court today. The police tried to serve the woman the protection order three times. July 17: No answer. July 22: No answer. July 23: No answer. Now, it’s July 29, and she’s a no-show as well. Brian will also have to wait another two weeks while police try to get her to answer the door.

Meanwhile, shared interests may eventually bring the two together. “The last time I saw her was a week and a half ago, in the Upper Marlboro Court System,” says Brian. “I was going in to pick up court papers. She was going in to pick up court papers. We just happened to both be there.”