Has someone harassed or stalked you? Are you in an abusive relationship? It might be time to file a restraining order. Check out this guide to learn if you should.
Domestic violence is a huge problem in the U.S. Between 2 and 3 million temporary restraining orders are served each year, with 70 percent of them issued by women against men.
Anyone who experiences abuse from a partner, ex-partner or close relative can file a restraining order with the court. Physical abuse doesn’t need to happen. Restraining orders also can be filed for harassment, stalking and verbal threats.
What Is a Restraining Order?
A restraining order, also known as a protective or protection order, is court-issued to protect victims against domestic violence, harassment, stalking or assault.
The court issued the order to keep the alleged abuser away from the victim.
A restraining order prohibits the abuser is from any contact with the victim, including by phone, text or email.
The abuser can be ordered to vacate premises shared with the victim, even if it’s legally the abuser’s. The court can also order police to escort the abuser to collect any belongings to assure there is no contact.
When children are involved, the victim is granted sole custody. Any visitation rights are determined by negotiation in court.
In most cases, restraining orders require the abuser to turn over any firearms or weapons. They also prevent them from buying new ones. The court may also require mandatory drug tests and counseling.
Types of Restraining Orders
The four most common types of restraining orders are:
- Domestic Violence
The police can issue an emergency restraining order if they think the victim is in immediate danger. This type can also be issued if the victim has no way to file for an official order at the courthouse.
Emergency orders only last for a few days. They’re intended as a “placeholder” until the victim can file a more permanent order.
Temporary restraining orders are the first step and are intended to protect the victim during the time it takes for the court to hear case. Temporary orders usually last two weeks.
No-contact orders can be issued once the case is heard and there’s proof a crime was committed. They can be short- or long-term, depending on the facts presented.
Domestic violence restraining orders are issued after the judge deems the abuser is potentially a continued danger to the victim. This type of order can last for several years.
Who Can Get a Restraining Order?
For a domestic violence restraining order, the victim must be closely linked to the abuser.
They can be married or common-law partners, divorced, separated, ex-partners, cohabitants or ex-cohabitants, parents of a child together or a close relative – parent, child, sibling, grandparent or in-law.
No physical abuse needs to take place for a victim to file a restraining order. It’s enough the victim feels threatened or scared for their safety or that of their children.
Domestic violence restraining orders can be filed against an abuser who commits one or more of the following acts:
- Verbal threats
- Terrorist threats
- Sexual assault
- Criminal restraint
- Criminal trespassing
Studies show more than 50% of female homicide victims are murdered by an intimate partner or ex-partner.
If you feel unsafe in your relationship, the first step is to leave. Support is available to help you safely leave an abusive relationship.
How to Get a Restraining Order
One deterrent to you filing a restraining order is it can be a long and complicated process. But there is help available for victims to navigate through the paperwork.
First, read this checklist that covers all the required forms and procedures. Then fill them out. Find out if you need child custody or local court forms.
Next, have your forms reviewed for completeness and accuracy by a family lawyer or self-help center. Any mistakes or errors will only delay the process. Once they’re reviewed, file them with the court.
Keep at least five copies of every form and keep one with you at all times. Once copies are made and forms are filed, the order is served to the abuser.
This is done by a court official, police officer or deputy marshal in person before the deadline. Once the order is officially served, a court date is set.
Prepare yourself for your court date. Be honest and bring any evidence or witnesses along if you can.
Ask the court to provide an interpreter if English isn’t your first language. Get more detailed information about how to file a restraining order.
Although a restraining order is a civil order and won’t appear on the abuser’s criminal record, it can still have a huge impact on the abuser’s life.
It can affect their ability to get a job, find housing, limit gun ownership rights and damage their reputation. Make sure you have a good reason to file a restraining order.
Courts generally side with the victim in domestic violence cases, but some states penalize you for false allegations.
The Bottom Line
Domestic violence is no joke. Anyone who feels threatened by the actions or words of a partner, ex-partner or close relative should consider filing a restraining order.
Do not wait until your life or your children’s lives are in danger. Call us at (402) 415-2525 for more advice and information on laws about domestic violence, child custody and how to file a restraining order.