What is a restraining order?
A Restraining Order is a court order intended to protect you from further harm from someone who has hurt you; to keep the abuser away from you, or to stop harassing you, or keep the abuser from the scene of the violence, which may include your home, place of work, or apartment. It is a civil order and it does not give the abuser a criminal record.
Who can get a restraining order?
A victim of domestic violence can obtain a Restraining Order. A victim of domestic abuse means a person protected by the law and shall include any person who has been subjected to domestic abuse by a spouse, or any other person who is a present or former household member and where the victim is 18 years of age or older or who is an emancipated minor. A victim, of any age, who has been subjected to domestic violence by a person who she/he says will be the father/mother of the child when the pregnancy is carried to term is also covered by this law. A victim, of any age, also includes any person who has been subjected to domestic violence by a person with whom the victim has had a dating relationship.
Domestic violence means the occurrence of one or more of the following acts committed against a victim by an adult or an emancipated minor:
Criminal sexual contact
What does a Restraining Order do?
If you are a victim of domestic violence, a judge can sign an Order of Protection that requires the abuser to obey the law. The order is very specific in as far as what the abuser can and can’t do.
The abuser can be ordered not to have any contact with you, in person or by phone, at home, work, or almost anywhere you ask the court to put in the order. The order against contact may also protect other people in your family.
The court can order the abuser to leave the house or apartment that you and the abuser share; even if it is in the abuser’s name.
Except in unusual situations, the court will grant you custody of your minor children. In some states the court can also order the abuser to pay child support and support for you. The abuser may also be granted visitation with the child/children under certain conditions. If the children are in danger of abuse, you should let the judge know why you think so.
In some states the court may also order the abuser to pay for costs that resulted from the abuse, for example; household bills that are due right away, medical/dental treatment, moving expenses, loss of earnings. The judge can also make the abuser pay your attorney’s fees,and can make the abuser pay damages to you or other people that helped you or got hurt by the abuser.
The judge may order the abuser to receive professional domestic violence counseling, or tell the abuser to get evaluated, or to go to AA or NA. You can agree to go to counseling if you want to (or to a free program like AA, AlAnon, or a domestic violence program), but the judge should only make it an order for the abuser.
The judge can order the police to escort the abuser to remove personal items from the residence, or shared place of business, so that you are protected by the police during any necessary contact.
The judge has the power under the law to order anything else that will help to protect you, as long as you agree to it.
How long does the restraining order last?
When you first get protection under the law, it is only temporary. The order is called a T.R.O. for Temporary Restraining Order. You must return to court on the date indicated in the T.R.O., which will be about 10 days later in most states. Both you and the abuser will be asked to appear in court on that date. During the 10-day period, the police or Sheriff’s Office will serve the abuser with a copy of the order so the abuser will know when the hearing is scheduled. Keep a copy of the order with you and give a copy to the police in any town where you think the abuser might bother you.