There are any number reasons why you may need a restraining order. Your spouse or partner may be abusing you or your child, or someone you once dated is stalking you. In cases like these and hundreds of others, a restraining order may be the key to your safety and peace of mind.
Once you've made the tough decision that you need one, it's time to act. Knowing how to get a restraining order and how it will be enforced is the only way to get the protection you need.
Getting a Restraining Order
The process for obtaining a restraining order varies from state to state, but the same general steps usually apply.
First, you need to get some paperwork. You can get the forms at your local courthouse, or they're often found online. Many shelters and domestic abuse prevention organizations also have the forms. Once you have the forms, the process goes like this:
- Complete the forms, describing the abusive or harassing behavior in as much detail as possible
- Take your forms, your ID and identifying information about the person you seek protection from to your local courthouse
- The court clerk takes your forms and information to a judge, who decides if a temporary restraining order is needed until a hearing on your application
- A hearing date for the permanent restraining order is set
- Arrange for service of process to the alleged abuser. It gives that person notice of the application and hearing details
- Hearing and decision. At the hearing, you must show the abuse or harassment, and your need for protection. The judge decides whether to issue the permanent restraining order, usually that same day
Enforcing a Restraining Order
Once a restraining order is granted, you should make several copies and keep one with you at all times. Also leave a copy of the order at work and your children's school or daycare. An abuser or harasser breaks the law when they don't follow the restraining order's terms.
But it's up to you to make sure the order is enforced. Call the police immediately if the person violates the order. The police should make a report of the incident, and if necessary, enforce the order by ordering the person to leave you alone or by arresting that person. In cases where the police refuse to act, usually you can:
- File a civil lawsuit for contempt
- Talk to your local prosecutor about pressing criminal charges
Either way, the person faces jail time, a fine or both for violating the restraining order.
No one actually tries to get into sticky situations where restraining orders are needed. It just happens. When it happens to you, stand up for your safety, property or a loved one by using the law to get the protection you need.
Questions for Your Attorney
- What are my options if a judge refuses to issue a restraining order?
- Can I use physical force to to stop someone from violating a restraining order?
- Are police officers legally liable if they refuse to enforce a restraining order and I'm later injured by the person named in the restraining order?