Restraining orders (sometimes known as orders of protection) provide legal recourse for people being victimized. Depending on state laws, you may file one against family, intimate partners, boyfriend/girlfriend relationships, or even strangers.
The process of obtaining a restraining order may seem intimidating. Still, help is available – from legal aid clinics to social workers who can guide you through each legal step of acquiring one.
Filing the Petition
Step one in obtaining a restraining order is filing a petition with the court. Your petition should include specific remedies (what you’re requesting) and allegations of abuse; try writing out three main points about how often and severely this occurred, along with how you feared for your safety in future interactions.
Once a petition is filed, a judge or referee will review it and decide whether an emergency protective order should be issued. If they agree, he or she will order that your respondent stay away from you.
If the Judge determines that a temporary order should be granted, they will arrange for a hearing where you and the respondent can present evidence supporting your petition. You and the respondent must attend this hearing; otherwise, a letter explaining your circumstances to the judge should suffice. In many instances, they will allow one of you to be represented by legal counsel during this proceeding.
Restraining orders can prevent an individual from approaching within a set distance and create barriers to communication and access to property. While restraining orders may help, you must still take measures to increase your safety – this might mean moving to a safer home, finding temporary lodgings, or finding employment opportunities.
Court-appointed lawyers may provide petitioners and respondents in family offense cases with legal assistance if they cannot afford private legal counsel. For help determining eligibility, contact your legal services office.
Attending the Court Hearing
Once a temporary restraining order (TRO) has been issued, the next step should be attending court to get a final restraining order (FRO). Your TRO will provide instructions on where and when the court hearing should occur; if unable to attend on its designated date and time listed, it may be possible to arrange for adjournments by contacting them immediately to inquire as such alterations might be possible.
At your hearing, you will present evidence to support why a restraining order is necessary, such as medical or police records, photographs, or written statements from witnesses. A judge or hearing officer will decide if the FRO should be granted.
If a judge grants a FRO, it will remain in place for at least ten days and outline specific restrictions regarding distance from you and the children of the alleged offender; additionally, custody, parenting time, or visitation provisions may also be included as necessary for your situation.
At a hearing, an alleged offender can present their side of the story and present evidence supporting why an order should be granted. To prepare, practice with someone before attending your hearing for guidance.
It would be best to remain alert and aware of your surroundings, even with a restraining order. There may be instances in which the individual who violated your restraining order tries to harm you further; to protect yourself and your loved ones from this happening again, it would be prudent to find a safe space before your hearing, such as staying at a friend’s home or shelter for victims of domestic violence.
Undergoing the process of filing for a restraining order can be complex, especially if this is your first time doing it. Consulting an attorney will ensure all necessary documents are filed correctly, and relevant evidence is provided to support your claim.
Serving the Order
An Order of Protection or Restraining Order keeps abusers or stalkers at bay. Judges can issue various kinds of protective orders ranging from temporary (which only last a few days), long-term, and other-than-temporary rankings – brief being only days long) up to permanent ones lasting years and measuring meters or miles, depending on your case. An Order of Protection also prevents abusers from possessing weapons and other harmful objects that could endanger their recipient; police officers will serve such orders upon hearing court approval, filling them directly on or handing over their subject person.
Your attorney can assist in filing a petition for an Order of Protection with the appropriate court, providing all relevant information for a judge to decide quickly and fairly. A judge could grant or deny restraining orders on the same day they are filed; alternatively, they might review it and wait for additional evidence. Once approved by a judge, any restraining orders must be served on abusive individuals immediately to ensure they understand their legal responsibilities and are aware of them.
If you feel threatened immediately, a judge can issue what’s known as an emergency protective order (EPO). Law enforcement will typically obtain this type of order on your behalf, and it typically lasts no more than several days. Furthermore, she may issue a temporary restraining order (TRO), even before your case has even gone to trial if she believes you to be at immediate risk.
At a hearing, both you and the abusive individual can share their accounts of what transpired with a judge, who will decide on terms for any final order that includes no-contact provisions such as prohibiting them from contacting you directly – in person, via telephone call, email or any other digital means; they could even require them to leave your home altogether.
If someone under a protection order violates it in any way, their victim should report this immediately to the police. They will listen carefully to what has been said and may arrest or file criminal charges against the individual who broke it.
Violations of protective orders are serious offenses and may lead to contempt charges or criminal prosecution for violations that constitute felonies. While initially treated as misdemeanor violations, subsequent crimes within seven years can result in conviction and potential jail time.
Protective order holders should always keep a copy of the protective order with them and present it when law enforcement officers request it. Furthermore, having someone available who can quickly notify law enforcement in case a violation occurs is beneficial in helping ensure law enforcement responds promptly and appropriately to such incidents.
Restraining orders prohibit people subject to them from making contact, intimidating, or threatening the victim in any way, as well as entering shared workplaces and schools where the two may work together. Unfortunately, this can pose difficulties for some professions requiring travel or classes together. These restraining orders often contain provisions allowing a judge to order that person restrained to continue paying mortgages, utilities, and bills from previous homes, as well as child support payments owed to other parties involved.
When seeking a restraining order, individuals should always have legal assistance to defend against any allegations of abuse or threats. A skilled legal professional familiar with state laws will significantly increase the odds that the judge will favor them.